tampabay.com

New dean for FAMU's troubled business school

Administrators say one reason Lydia McKinley-Floyd was chosen is her experience in the accreditation process.

By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
Published July 20, 2006


Three years after its founding dean retired, the struggling business school at Florida A&M University has a new leader.

Her work won't be easy, but Lydia McKinley-Floyd, now associate dean of Savannah State University's College of Business, says she is ready.

"I am aware of the challenges, but I am up to the task," McKinley-Floyd said Wednesday. "I know that we can move (the business school) forward."

She is coming to the FAMU deanship as the business school undergoes controversial program changes aimed at securing accreditation for the first time.

FAMU administrators said McKinley-Floyd, former dean of Chicago State University's business college, was chosen in part for her experience with the difficult accreditation process.

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, an internationally recognized business school accreditation group, recently gave its stamp of approval to Savannah's business school.

FAMU's business school is seeking accreditation from the same group, an effort that recently led to the firing of 10 instructors - two of them this week.

The first eight professors got their termination letters last month but have since been put back on the payroll pending a review of their collective bargaining rights.

The eight taught in the professional development program, a hallmark of the business school since longtime dean Sybil Mobley founded it more than three decades ago.

FAMU administrators, including interim business school dean Patrick Liverpool, say they are changing the program because the use of nontenured instructors who lack doctorates and other academic qualifications will hurt the school's accreditation chances.

Under Mobley, the professional development program stressed "soft skills" like interview techniques, management strategies and public speaking. Students learned from former Fortune 500 leaders recruited by Mobley.

They had to complete three internships, one overseas, and learn a second language. They came to class dressed in suits and mingled with executives who visited campus.

The result: Fortune 500 companies recruited heavily from the business school, practically guaranteeing graduates well-paying jobs.

But enrollment at the school, known as SBI (School of Business and Industry), started declining after Mobley retired in 2003 at age 77. It dropped from more than 1,800 to 1,305 in fall 2005 and 1,272 this spring.

"I think a permanent dean, after three years of searching, will be a breath of fresh air to the program," said associate professor Booker T. Daniels, a former IBM executive who was one of the eight professors fired and then reinstated. "We're very optimistic, and we can't wait to meet her and see where she plans on taking the program."

McKinley, one of five candidates interviewed for the $180,000-a-year job, starts next month.

"I am very, very, excited," she said from her office in Savannah. "I mean, FAMU? SBI!"