Alabama Power Company Chairman, President and CEO Mark Crosswhite made his first visit to a UAB Collat School of Business class when he was the speaker at the combined undergraduate capstone and MBA class, “Strategic Leadership Through the Eyes of the C-Suite,” on October 6, 2015. Crosswhite was named CEO in 2013.
The parent company of Alabama Power, Southern Company, is the leading electric energy company serving the Southeast., with over 4.4 million customers. In addition to Alabama Power, Southern Company also owns Georgia Power, Gulf Power, and Mississippi Power. Southern Company operates three nuclear generating plans, and is building the first new nuclear units to be built in a generation of Americans. Alabama Power has 1.5 million customers. It recently announced that it was purchasing AGL Resources, parent of Atlanta Gas Light, which will make it the second largest utility in the country based on customer numbers.
Reflecting on his own career, Mr. Crosswhite gave students some career advice: (1) “have a major,” and (2)”be prepared to turn left.” Crosswhite’s “major” was electric utility regulation, and was earned in 17 years as a lawyer at a Birmingham-based law firm that represents Alabama Power and its affiliated companies. He joined Southern Company in his capacity as a lawyer, but after several different legal roles was asked by Alabama Power’s CEO to “make a left turn” and take over non-legal responsibilities as the head of external affairs for that company. There followed several other senior management positions including CEO of Gulf Power in Pensacola, Florida, and chief operating officer of Southern Company.
Crosswhite described for students the strategic decision facing Alabama Power as to how best to generate electricity for its customers. He acknowledged that the company has had to confront the “brutal fact” that it is increasingly difficult to use coal to generate electricity, even though it is in abundant supply in Alabama. He told students that the company expects that the company will use more natural gas and “renewables” such as wind and solar.
Mr. Crosswhite told students that as CEO he strives to keep Alabama Power focused on the following five goals: (1) safety; (2) customers; (3) employees; (4) economic development; and (5) community engagement.
A group of students who had studied the strategy of Southern Company and Alabama Power made a presentation to Mr. Crosswhite. The students told Mr. Crosswhite that based on their research, they agreed that the company should be using more natural gas to generate power, while at the same time using more renewable sources.
Also attending this week’s class was former Alabama Power Vice President of Human Resources and Ethics Donna D. Smith. Ms. Smith is Founder and President of a new organization called The Alabama Leadership Project, which is designed to educate aspiring business leaders in effective leadership.
Alabama Power employs many current students in the Collat School of Business, and has more alumni of the school’s MBA program than any other employer.
“Strategic Leadership Through the Eyes of the C-Suite” is taught by Collat School of Business professor Stephen Yoder, and features visits from members of the executive suites of public or other large complex organizations who discuss their organizations’ strategies and how they are developed and implemented.
Pictured left to right: Dean Eric Jack, Brandon Casebolt, Miriam Semaan, Trey Brown, Mr. Crosswhite, Kelly McAninch, Michael Sheppard, Jared Varden
Accounting Professor Frank Messina, UAB’s Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR) to the NCAA, has been appointed by the NCAA Board of Directors to its prestigious Division I Committee on Academics.
The NCAA stated that Dr. Messina’s passion, work ethic and leadership with them led to the decision to appoint him to this committee position. Only seven faculty athletics representatives nationwide were selected for the 20-member committee.
The Division I Committee on Academics supports the NCAA’s academic mission by managing Division I academics matters, including policy, eligibility standards, and the NCAA Division I Academic Performance Program. The Committee on Academics is chaired by a Division I president and consists of university presidents, a provost, faculty athletics representatives, directors of athletics, senior woman administrators, conference administrators and a student-athlete.
Dr. Messina will also serve on the NCAA data subcommittee, which deals specifically with Academic Progress Rate (APR) and Graduation Success Rate (GSR) as well. He has served as UAB’s faculty athletics representative for seven years.
Nancy Collat Goedecke, CEO and Chair of Mayer Electric Company, and Charles Collat, Sr., Chair Emeritus of the company, were the guests on September 29th in the Fall 2015 strategy course, “Strategic leadership through the eyes of the C-Suite.” The course is a combined undergraduate honors course and MBA course which is a “capstone” experience for students, designed to bring together a variety of business disciplines in the study of business strategy.
Ms. Goedecke described for students the evolution of Mayer Electric as a family-owned business, from its founding by her grandfather, Ben S. Weil in 1930, to the introduction of the “Generation 4” to the business today. It was Charles Collat, Sr., Ms. Goedecke’s father and a member of “Generation 2,” who recognized over 30 years ago that for a family business to survive it must actively seek outside advisors, and impose certain rules for how the family members will be part of the business. For example, Ms. Goedecke noted that in order for family members to join Mayer Electric as employees, they must first have obtained a four-year college degree and must have worked successfully for at least two years outside of the family business.
Simulation can be a vehicle for testing potentially revolutionary new ideas, points out Rubin Pillay, M.D., Ph.D., assistant dean for Global Health in the UAB School of Medicine and professor of healthcare innovation and entrepreneurship at the UAB Collat School of Business. “Medicine is an evidence-based profession,” he noted. “I can’t go into the ER and start tweaking things just to see what happens. But the way health care is going, you have to be innovative just to survive. And innovation, by its very nature, is all about doing something that’s never been done before.”
That’s why Pillay is developing a “design and simulation lab” as part of the proposed UAB Center for Healthcare Innovation, “a place where anybody can feel free to come in and try out new ideas,” he explained. The approach has been pioneered by the Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Permanente, Pillay says. A nurse could use computer simulations to model a new approach to scheduling surgeries in UAB’s operating rooms, for example. Engineers and entrepreneurs could come together to test smartphone-based monitoring systems for patients. Entire medical teams could practice a new workflow in a replica patient room, without interrupting standard care.
“Not everything will work,” Pillay said. “But it’s just like the tech industry — the idea is to fail fast, cheap and forward. That’s how you learn.”
With two Rhodes Scholars chosen from the previous six cohorts, there are high expectations for the 35-five students in the class of 2016 cohort of the Collat School of Business Honors Program. Participants in the Honors Program are selected on the basis of their academic performance in courses at the School of Business and in courses elsewhere at UAB, and on the basis of faculty and advisor recommendations.
Most of Collat School of Business disciplines are represented among the majors of the students. In addition, there are also some non-business disciplines represented from students who have majors outside of business, but who see business as a smart complement to their non-business studies. The majors of the 2016 cohort are:
Regions Financial Corporation Chairman, President and CEO Grayson Hall was the inaugural CEO guest in the combined undergraduate capstone and MBA class, “Strategic Leadership Through the Eyes of the C-Suite,” on September 22, 2015.
Regions Financial has adopted the concept of “shared value” in its business, in which everyone shares in the benefits of an organization’s strategy. Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter, who is generally regarded as the most influential voice today on strategic thinking for business, created this concept.
Collat and the School of Medicine partnered to develop a program aiming to provide MD/MBA graduates the best possible trajectory to expand their career options, and to create future physician-executives.
The new dual-degree program will give medical students the training and education to better understand the business side of health care, through providing courses in accounting and finance, economics, marketing, management, health care innovation, operations, and supply chain management with a focus on health care, as well as information technology and business strategy with a focus on health care.
Over 30 alumni of the Collat School of Business were in attendance on September 3, 2015 when Assistant Professor Stephen A. Yoder, J.D., spoke on “Negotiation and Persuasion Skills for Internal Auditors.” The IIA is the internal audit profession's global voice and principal educator.
The Birmingham chapter of IIA is composed of internal auditors at all sizes and types of organizations in the Birmingham area, with most employed at the largest organizations, such as Regions Financial, BBVA Compass, and Protective Life.