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The new dean scene

By ROBERT TRIGAUX, Times Business Editor
Published September 9, 2007

Deans from the three main business schools in the area, Robert Forsythe from USF's Tampa campus, Geralyn Franklin from USF's St. Petersburg campus and Frank Ghannadian from the University of Tampa, have a meeting of the minds.
[Melissa Lyttle | Times]

There's a new trio in town. This is the story of Tampa Bay and the Three (recently arrived) Business School Deans. Robert Forsythe arrived last summer to head USF's School of Business in Tampa with an eye on increasing the communications skills of his students while giving more of them real, hands-on tasks at area businesses. Geralyn Franklin relocated last summer to prep USF St. Petersburg's College of Business for its first accreditation process this fall as an independent school and pursue a site for the school's own building. Frank Ghannadian moved in July to run the University of Tampa's Sykes College of Business and build a better "brand" to distinguish the undergraduate business program. Combined, they promise fresh ideas and firepower. Here are highlights of recent interviews:

Frank Ghannadian

University of Tampa

Sykes College of Business

Students: 2,087

Newest of the three deans (71 days and counting), Ghannadian is a bit sheepish to be so delighted by the prospect of no state income tax in Florida that he neglected to inquire about hefty property taxes. It's a good business lesson. After all, this education stuff is all about learning from mistakes and avoiding them in the future, right?

Ghannadian, 49, is not here to stir the Sykes School of Business pot too vigorously. He pitched himself to UTampa as a dean eager to take the school "to the next level" by making incremental upgrades and reinvigorating what's worked before. He's reviving the business advisory board composed of area CEOs and presidents. He's creating a dean's student advisory board so he has a more direct pipeline into the student body. He wants the undergrad business program to pick a theme, giving the school a brand to help it better stand out from the national pack of 2,000-plus business schools.

The former business dean at Atlanta's Mercer University feels at home here for good reason. "It reminds me of Atlanta 25 years ago," he said.

Robert Forsythe

USF College of Business, Tampa

Students: 7,082

Bob Forsythe, 57, has so many hot buttons for the USF's business school in Tampa (he oversees Lakeland and Sarasota business campuses, too) that he should wear asbestos gloves. He disses "chalk and talk" styles of teaching undergrads and grad students and favors "improv" nights (guided by actors from the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center) to teach them how to think fast on their feet. He wants students to solve real problems at real businesses and - look out, techies - to learn better communications skills.

An ex-U of Iowa business dean, he's setting new rules for potential MBAers. Don't apply without work experience. The no-newbies rule may shrink the number of MBA applicants, but those who attend will be on more equal footing and group projects will become more balanced experiences for all students.

One challenge: State budget cuts and the eternal quest for funding. "I spent part of last year making calls in New York, Chicago, Charlotte and Atlanta," he said. "It's a bit of a challenge. Few companies have headquarters here."

Geralyn Franklin

USF St. Petersburg

College of Business

Students: 1,558

It's a good thing Franklin, 46, has an easy laugh. She's in the final cram session for the Big Test. Her business school next month faces its first accreditation process as a school separate and apart from the USF business school in Tampa. It's a declaration of independence, of sorts, long in coming.

After that, Franklin will refocus on getting her school its own building. The business school rents space in a private building next to the USF St. Pete campus, but the new site may very well be on or near the waterfront space that formerly housed the Salvador Dali museum.

Beyond those mega-hurdles, Franklin wants to push more international and entrepreneurial training, more involvement with St. Petersburg and Pinellas County businesses, and to re-emphasize the school's distinctive focus on social responsibility and corporate reporting.

Franklin, who moved here from the University of Texas in Odessa, cautions: "Just having a four-year degree does not mean you will be assured of a good job. Being globally connected will make the competition for jobs more fierce."

[Last modified September 7, 2007, 22:29:50]

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