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St. Thomas community excited about business accreditation

By , Assignment Editor  |  Sunday, January 23, 2011 10:05 PM

The St. Thomas community is excited about the business school’s Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International accreditation.

<p>An ice sculpture in front of Schulze Hall in Minneapolis announces the new AACSB accreditation. (Theresa Malloy/TommieMedia)</p>

An ice sculpture in front of Schulze Hall in Minneapolis announces the new AACSB accreditation. (Theresa Malloy/TommieMedia)

Sophomore business management major Natalie Thatcher said she thinks the accreditation “proves St. Thomas has a great business program.”

“As a student, I am very proud and excited to have the opportunity to participate in this program,” she said. “I will be proud to go out in the business world with a business degree of St. Thomas.

Georgia Fisher, assistant dean of the undergraduate school of business, said she was “almost dazed” when she heard St. Thomas had finally earned the accreditation.

“We’ve been working on it and living with it so long that you almost can’t comprehend it,” Fisher said. “And we all just kind of walked out and said, ‘We did it.’”

The accreditation process

The Opus College of Business earned the AACSB accreditation this past December.

AACSB accreditation is what Opus College of Business Dean Christopher Puto calls the “highest standard of quality” in business education. Only about five percent of business schools in the world have this accreditation.

St. Thomas is the first private college in Minnesota to earn this accreditation, and the University of Minnesota is the only other school in the Twin Cities with an AACSB accreditation.

For the past decade, St. Thomas has taken steps to earn this accreditation, and according to Puto, it happened two years ahead of schedule.

“We had until 2013 to get it or start over, and we did it in 2010, so we’re pretty happy about that,” he said

The decision to become an accredited university came in 2000, Puto said.

“The trustees decided we wanted to be able to be acknowledged by a broader audience, and that involves accreditation by AACSB international,”  Christopher Puto, Opus College of Business dean, said.

“This took a lot of work by faculty, staff, students and university administrators,” Puto said. “Everyone had to pull together, and it is a fabulous example of what makes St. Thomas a special place.”

To gain accreditation, the university adjusted core requirements, built McNeely Hall and added more faculty, Puto said. St. Thomas filed an application to AACSB in 2006, and the plan was accepted in 2008.

In November, a team of three deans from AACSB institutions came to observe St. Thomas’ classes, interview faculty and students, and evaluate the program.

Thatcher said professors talked in her classes about the accreditation process and what it meant for students.

Fisher said students were aware of the process from the beginning.

“In each of our undergraduate classes this fall, we talked about it,” she said. “We had focus groups with students for the last couple of years and talking about the program and changes that need to be made for AACSB, so at various times during the semester the faculty were bringing up talking points again.”

What does it mean for St. Thomas?

Puto said the accreditation strengthens the St. Thomas diploma for its students and alumni.

While St. Thomas is well-known in the Midwest, Fisher said more students are getting jobs nationally and internationally

She said the AACSB accreditation could cause more students to take a look at St. Thomas that might not have before.

“I think this will mean an increase in the international student population in business, because we have a lot of students whose countries want to send them, want to fund their application, but it has to be an AACSB-accredited school,” Fisher said.

St. Thomas will have to maintain its accreditation, and the university will be reviewed by the AACSB every five years.

Puto and Fisher do not think St. Thomas will have an issue with this.

“We’re keeping on doing what we’ve been doing for over 100 years,” Fisher said. “It’s the same type of excellence in business, attention to ethics, attention to personal responsibility to yourself and to your community. That’s what we’ve stressed all those years. Now, we’ve proven by the audit that the world agrees with us.”

Theresa Malloy can be reached at mall5754@stthomas.edu.

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