30 Years Accredited
Thursday, March 29, 2007
On May 28, 1976, Dean James Marmas opened the letter informing him the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) had unanimously approved adding the St. Cloud State University College of Business to its prestigious – and very short – list of nationally accredited business programs. It was a landmark achievement for a school that just one year earlier was known as St. Cloud State College.
SCSU’s road to accreditation – a distinction shared in 1976 by only about 125 four-year business programs in the country – was paved with vision, teamwork and a bit of audacity. Only about four percent of the nation’s colleges and universities had earned AACSB accreditation, and the vast majority of those were large research institutions. The University of Minnesota (U of M) was the only other AACSB-accredited university in the state.
“It was a heady effort,” said Ken Schneider, professor of marketing and business law who came to SCSU in 1974 to teach and finish his dissertation for the doctorate he would earn from the U of M. “Professionally I was just a baby, and I intended to move on,” Schneider said. “I didn’t have a clue anyone here was dreaming such big dreams as AACSB accreditation. I would have thought it unrealistic that we would presuppose we could play ball with the big boys.”
That heady effort paid off, according to Schneider. “I certainly wouldn’t have stayed if we’d remained that sleepy little university.”
In the years leading up to accreditation, hurdles included getting the right mix of faculty with doctorates or other terminal degrees, revising the curriculum and raising the quality of students through tougher admissions standards to the business programs, said Marmas, who led the process of surmounting those hurdles. “There were numerous challenges to going for accreditation.”
“My objective was to turn ours into a top-notch business program,” Marmas said. Accreditation, first at the bachelor’s level and then the master’s level, was a major part of accomplishing that objective.
Accounting Professor Ron Carlson had been at SCSU three years when the AACSB granted approval for what he calls the “mark of quality” for business schools. He believes many in the program had considerable confidence in that quality throughout the process. “We probably thought we were that good,” he said.
Loren Viere ’76, who earned a degree in accounting and is now managing partner of Kern Dewenter Viere, St. Cloud, said when he decided to go to SCSU the accounting program already had a great reputation. “But the accreditation seemed like a big deal when I was applying for jobs,” he said. “It came up a lot in the interview process.”
Students in business programs knew the AACSB stamp of approval was important. “It was pretty exciting, as it brought another level of quality to the campus,” said management major Betty Kimbrough ’76, who went on to be a vice president of human resources for Target stores. “We could see that St. Cloud State was growing in prestige.”
“This was an important time for the college,” said Kevin Kopischke ’76, now president of Alexandria Technical College. “Standards were set high for AACSB accreditation. It helped build the school’s national reputation as one of the places in the Midwest where you can get a premier education.”
Even though the accrediting body expanded globally in the past decade, just 540 programs worldwide – 450 in the United States – are AACSB accredited. There are 1,400 four-year business programs in the United States.
St. Cloud State University’s college of business remains the flagship in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, Lawson said. The tradition of opportunity through affordable tuition and excellence is a global draw for the college. Fifteen percent of the graduate students are from other countries.
“We help fill the need for more applied master’s degrees that keep our state’s economy competitive and growing,” Lawson said. “The Maple Grove program is a good example of meeting this need.”
“Thirty years of accreditation gives us the experience to develop more innovative and quality programs,” Lawson said. “It puts us in a position where we can grow and develop programs to meet the needs of our graduates and the needs of business in the state