Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
For Brien N. Smith, his new job signaled as much of a new beginning for him as it did for his new office.
Smith began his role as the dean of the Scott College of Business at Indiana State University in July, after more than two decades in various positions in the Miller College of Business at Ball State University. He retired from Ball State, where he worked as associate dean of the business college, to join ISU. As his first school year in a position at a new university gets under way, his goals for the college can be defined by a simple message:
Something different, something more.
“I like to think that strategy, in order to be successful, should respond to changes in our environment, but also should reflect our uniqueness,” Smith said. “That is to say it should be difficult for our competitors to copy.”
The effort to achieve “something different” is multi-faceted, as it means finding ways to communicate “things that we’re doing great and finding a way to meet our customers where they are,” he added, explaining that customers include students, businesses that hire business college graduates, along with lawmakers, taxpayers and the Terre Haute community.
“All of our customers have needs,” Smith said, “and the challenge becomes how to either innovate to meet their needs or communicate better how we already have programs that meet their needs.”
Smith describes achieving “something more” as providing “world-class customer service.” Indiana State already provides this through hands-on learning opportunities for students, he said, along with counseling students and other programs that affect various groups with a vested interest in the university.
“I’ve always liked this concept of ‘and one,’ and to me what ‘and one’ means is meeting the direct needs of the customer and then one,” Smith said, referencing the basketball lingo that refers to a player scoring a basket while getting fouled, resulting in the player fouled shooting a free throw. “If someone is lost, meeting the needs of the customer is telling them how to get where they’re going, while ‘and one’ is taking them there.”
Many business colleges provide similar offerings to their students and alumni, yet people continue to differentiate between postsecondary institutions, which highlights the need for people to learn more about the Scott College.
“People really do view institutions differently,” he said, “and so part of the challenge of a dean is helping our stakeholders, our customers and our potential customers understand what makes us unique.”
The Scott College has gone through a number of changes in recent months. Earlier this summer, faculty and staff moved from the college’s previous home in one of the Statesman Towers to Federal Hall, the former Terre Haute federal building that has undergone a $20 million renovation to house the business college.
“The building is cleverly designed so that the technology supports innovation, and I think that’s the way that it has to be,” said Smith. “One of my challenges will be inviting the campus and our faculty to use these facilities to be innovative.
He also looks forward to working to inform people that Indiana State “is really a premier business school nationally.”
“When you look at the training of our faculty, the reputation of our programs and the quality of our facilities and eagerness of our students, I think that you’d be hard-pressed to find a better institution from which to get a business degree,” Smith added. “I take it upon myself to tell the story outside of Terre Haute so that people can find this gem.”
Since he started in his position in the middle of the summer, when only a limited number of courses were available, Smith is still meeting faculty, staff members, students and alumni.
“My interpersonal style is I want to be as inclusive as I can, and so I would like to work with great teams rather than direct people on what they should do,” he said. “I just invite students and the community to help me connect so that together we can build programs and relationships that we can all be proud of.”