UAB’s Leaders Talk Strategy in Higher Education

UAB GroupTwo members of UAB’s own “C-Suite” visited with students in the combined MBA and undergraduate capstone class “Strategic leadership through the eyes of the C-Suite” on October 9, 2012. Interim President Richard Marchase, Ph.D, and Vice Provost for Administration and Quality Improvement Harlan Sands, J.D., were the first senior executives of a tax-exempt organization to visit the class this semester.

Marchase said that UAB’s strategic focus is healthcare and health-related research funded by the federal government and other third parties, and that the university is striving to build on that focus in all parts of its curriculum. For example, UAB offers undergraduates the opportunity to participate in funded research, which other universities are not able to do.

Mr. Sands described several initiatives to improve service quality to students, who are similar to a for-profit business’s customers. For example, he noted that there is now a "one-stop shop" for student support and advising that centralizes key student services in the Hill University Center. Sands also revealed preliminary plans for a new student center to take the place of the Hill University Center as early as 2015.

UABBoth Dr. Marchase and Mr. Sands described UAB’s focus on improving student retention rates, but also noted that students are not counted as “retained” when they transfer to another college or university, even when doing so is often not an indicator of any problem at the students’ experience at UAB.

A group of students who had studied the strategy of UAB in depth made a presentation to Dr. Marchase and Mr. Sands and made several recommendations, one of which was expanding efforts even further to improve student services as a means of improving retention. The students also noted that by several financial metrics, UAB was relatively healthier than some other public universities in the Southeast.

Like most universities, UAB’s senior management includes both an academic side, led by a provost, as well as a “business” side. As interim president, Dr. Marchase is the chief executive officer for both functions. The academic side of UAB is led by Provost Linda Lucas, Ph.D., to whom Mr. Sands reports.

“Strategic leadership through the eyes of the C-Suite” is taught by School of Business professor Stephen Yoder and Mr. Sands, and features visits from CEOs of public or other large complex organizations who discuss their organizations’ strategies and how they are developed and implemented.

[Pictured left to right: Clinton Wilson, Katie Crawford, Destiny Hall, Dr. Marchase, Mr. Sands, Brandon Etheridge, Kristi Burrell, Amanda Horsely]