In Conversation: Maryville’s John E. Simon School of Business Dean

Tammy Gocial, PhD, who was appointed dean for Maryville’s John E. Simon School of Business on June 1, 2021, is passionate about students expanding their career readiness skills.

She recently helped launch Maryville’s apprenticeship program for ambitious undergraduate students. The program prepares students to graduate not only with knowledge but also with connections and real-world experiences so they can hit the ground running in their careers.

“As we think about the future of work, especially as we come out of a pandemic, competition for good talent is going to be fierce,” Gocial said. “Maryville is a place that really does help students think about life after college and prepares them to be the best they can be in their chosen field.”

Gocial has been with Maryville for 12 years in a variety of roles. Most recently, she served as associate academic vice president. Her previous roles include director of the higher education leadership doctoral program.

In a recent conversation, Gocial discussed how the John E. Simon School of Business continues to evolve including the introduction of new curriculum and an enterprise program.

What will be your primary focus as dean?

My focus is to ensure that we provide more experiential learning opportunities for our School of Business students. I want to engage our colleagues located throughout Maryville Centre to find new opportunities for internships and networking. Having these opportunities near campus removes barriers, such as a lack of transportation, that traditionally prevent students from participating in internships.

We’re also working on an exciting, new idea to reframe our curriculum in a way that is experiential in nature. The curriculum will expect students to build knowledge and skills that integrate business and technology while also building interpersonal skills, such as critical thinking, resilience, openness to change and collaboration, that are especially needed to solve problems in the post-pandemic workplace. It’s fun to be creative with an incredibly talented group of faculty and staff who are eager to create these kinds of learning opportunities for our students.

Lastly, we are looking for new ways to further engage our School of Business alumni. We want to hear from them and learn if we can provide ongoing professional development for them. We also want to find ways to connect our alumni with our current students for internship and job shadowing opportunities.

What’s your elevator pitch to someone considering a career in business?

This is a great time for someone who is creative, forward-thinking and flexible to pursue a career in business! Students in Maryville’s John E. Simon School of Business are learning how to solve the business problems of the 21st century. We prepare students for career opportunities using knowledge gathered from our industry colleagues and our expert faculty. Our students are learning how to be resilient, how to navigate change, and are committed to building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive world. They enter the workforce ready to think outside the box, to integrate their technology skills with their business knowledge, and take divergent, nontraditional routes to identify and implement business solutions.

Your background is in applied-experimental psychology; how do you address that in the School of Business?

My undergraduate degree was in human development and social policy. Fundamental to my studies was building an understanding of people and how they grow and learn, the relationship among key institutions (education, government and family), and how policies influence this interaction. In many ways, business works in the same way. We are incredibly mindful about how we select and lead the people in our organizations, and we also count on people to buy the products and services we are selling; the more we know about what motivates them, the better we will be able to match their needs with our business goals. And of course, business influences, and is influenced by, external entities all the time. The take-away for me is the interrelatedness among these entities. Business does not occur in a vacuum, and the more we can help students see how the knowledge and skills they are learning can be used collectively to address problems, the more skilled they will be at choosing and employing the right tools in the right situations.

My doctoral degree in applied-experimental psychology also prepared me incredibly well to study and understand how and why people behave the way they do in different settings. I also conducted my own research on diversity in leadership — specifically, implicit bias in the selection of leaders — which serves me incredibly well as I prepare our students to work in a diverse, global environment.

Throughout my education and career, I have always favored applied learning. I love learning, but I mostly love knowing that what I have learned is useful in some way. For me, experiential learning gives students the opportunity to take what they learned in the classroom and apply it to the real world. Students can then reflect, “I wish I had known more about this” or “I wish I better understood this.” Applying what you already know helps you realize what you don’t know and what you still need to learn. I think there is value in that give and take. It really creates a lifelong learning cycle that helps everyone appreciate that we have to keep evolving as we keep living and working.

How is Maryville’s approach to teaching business professionals different from what other schools do?

We are introducing a new curriculum that integrates business acumen with technological acumen, and interpersonal skill development. Our business core courses will evolve to incorporate essential learning in these key areas such that every undergraduate student will be skilled in the technology most relevant in their field (e.g., Artificial Intelligence in Accounting, Data Analytics in Economics and Marketing) and will have the analytical, collaboration and communication skills needed to effectively address business problems. This curriculum will be augmented by an enterprise program designed to operate like a consulting group that works with small businesses and nonprofit organizations in the St. Louis area and nationally to bring their visions to life. Many entrepreneurs have great products, but don’t know how to run a business and need help with those details. While other institutions may offer enterprise programs on the graduate level, Maryville is creating the enterprise program for our undergraduate students to lead. This gives our students a different skillset, and a real-world mindset that makes them more attractive to future employers.

As dean, how will you judge success?

We are very proud that we have strong enrollment and that a superb 98% of our graduates are employed in their chosen career or attending graduate school six months post-graduation. We would like to increase our enrollment, strengthen our connections with alumni and create new partnerships with our industry colleagues. We want our graduates to be highly sought-after because our partners value how much they understand the business world, that they understand how to think creatively and that they are adept at using key technological tools to address the business problems our colleagues are experiencing. We are super excited to take the next steps in our journey!

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