After 10 years of service leading MTSU’s Jennings A. Jones College of Business, Dean David Urban is stepping down and returning to a faculty position in August. Enterprise magazine sat down with Dean Urban to reflect on his tenure.
How has the college improved during your time here?
Our student retention and graduation rates have improved, mainly due to the efforts of our outstanding academic advisors. We have eliminated stagnant programs and replaced them with ones that have high demand, such as Supply Chain Management, Professional Selling, Business Intelligence and Analytics, Digital Marketing, and Human Resource Management. Our requirement that all undergraduate business students complete the Dale Carnegie® Course is still unique among the nation’s collegiate business schools and has transformed the lives of over 5,600 students.
We completely reengineered our MBA program, tripled its enrollment, and added Industry Supported Learning Experience (ISLE) projects, giving our students a chance to solve real-world business problems. We’ve also expanded our professional development offerings via our IGNITE program and several career fairs each year.
We have a more versatile faculty. Jones College has always had a tradition of outstanding teaching, but the quantity and quality of our faculty’s research contributions have dramatically increased. The Business and Economic Research Center, Office of Consumer Research, and Political Economy Research Institute lead the way.
Our faculty also are impacting business practice, evidenced by the popularity of our content hub on the Nashville Business Journal website. The faculty have embraced a culture of assessment and assurance of learning that the review team in our most recent accreditation evaluation touted as a “best practice.”
Our comprehensive marketing thrust, including many new internal and community events, has resulted in a more prominent brand image, engaged us with the external community, and helped us achieve new heights in fundraising. We have upgraded the Business and Aerospace Building and added an excellent Executive Education Center.
We have had three accreditation review teams and another group of accreditation consultants conduct thorough examinations of our college at various times during the past 10 years. The common conclusion is that the college has made notable and commendable progress. I’m proud of that assessment.
How has the higher education landscape evolved?
Two critical trends are the growing skepticism about the value of a traditional undergraduate college education and the anticipated 2026 downturn in the number of prime college-age students entering the higher education market. These trends will make it more difficult for regional, enrollment-driven state universities like MTSU to attract students. At Jones College, we have tried to counteract these threats through an “inside-out” strategy — better program development, enrollment management, and high-impact marketing. These efforts must continue.
Where do you hope to see Jones College go in the future?
When I arrived at MTSU in 2013, I noted that our goals were “national prominence and regional dominance.” We have made significant headway on both fronts, but there is always more to do. When I arrived, we had no national rankings for our programs, but we have been accumulating them regularly. Looking forward, we have the potential for more ranking breakthroughs that touch more of our programs.
We also must remember that although Jones College is the largest collegiate business school in middle Tennessee, and MTSU is the largest university, we have local and regional competitors constantly improving their programs and students’ experiences. We cannot afford to be reactive or even adaptive. We must be proactive in searching for new opportunities and ways to improve. We have to be willing to raise the bar for ourselves. If we do that, Jones College will climb to even greater heights.
Dean Joyce Heames has the background and experience to lead us on a continued positive trajectory, and she has my full support. I am confident she will have the same effort and commitment I have experienced from our students, faculty, administration, alumni, and other supporters, for which I will always be grateful. Seeing the Jones College story evolve over the next several years will be exciting.