The new dean of Weber State University’s Goddard School of Business and Economics wants the school to choose a theme and be nationally recognized for it.

“We have a lot of good things going on here, but I don’t think anybody really knows about them, at least not outside the region,” said Jeff Steagall, dean of the School of Business and Economics. “I think we really have the kind of quality faculty and administrative support that we can be really well known for some area nationally and even internationally.”

After coming to WSU from the University of North Florida, where he spent 21 years as an economics professor, Steagall is leading a discussion on what that theme should be.

“The vision really is to identify what it is we want to be known for, and then to start working on it,” Steagall said. “We’re at the point where it’s time to define a theme or maybe a couple themes for the Goddard School of Business and Economics.”

Steagall and university administration have keyed in on three possible themes: international business, sustainability and entrepreneurship. Steagall’s credentials have a heavy international flavor, and he said that background was “explicitly” mentioned when the university hired him.

“Dr. Steagall’s experience in international business and economics will help the Goddard School continue to expand its global initiatives,” said Provost Michael Vaughan to University Communications.

Steagall set up about 25 exchange programs throughout the world as a professor at UNF. He said South American countries like Argentina and Chile might be hotspots for exchange programs with WSU. He also started a global MBA program in which 10 UNF students were selected annually to attend four semesters at four different universities in Europe. Each student finished with an MBA from UNF and a master’s degree from Europe.

“It’s an opportunity for us to do something special here, too,” Steagall said, adding that it’s an institutional priority to increase the number of international students.

The priority is manifest in a program started in fall 2009 that brings about 20 students from Shanghai Normal University each fall to study international economics at WSU for two years.

Whatever theme or themes emerge, it should happen quickly, Steagall said.

“We’re going to take some time and have a really in-depth conversation in the fall with students, with faculty, about what this initiative should be,” he said. “In the spring, we’d like to be developing a plan for moving forward on it and starting to execute that plan right away.”

Steagall noted the strong entrepreneurial spirit in Utah and the growing tourism industry spurred by the “beautiful” area as reasons for the other two considerations, entrepreneurship and sustainability.

“Utah has a very entrepreneurial culture — I think maybe more so than any other state in the country — and so it’s a really good fit that way as well,” Steagall said. “Entrepreneurship is certainly something we have to consider in the discussion.”

Touting the benefits of a keen entrepreneurial mind, Steagall said entrepreneurs keep their jobs because their ability to accurately assess risk is very valuable.

“Entrepreneurs are able to take risks and assess risks, figure out which ones make sense and which ones don’t,” Steagall said.

As Steagall seeks a focus for the School of Business and Economics, he recommends that students do likewise.

“Don’t wear too many hats,” Steagall said. “It’s really easy to get pulled in lots of different directions and then be spread a little bit too thin and not be able to do anything well. Pick things that are really important to you, and then make a real commitment to excellence in those areas.”

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