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April 2006
Framing Your Future Possibilities
By Casey Jacobus

When Al Minter, an account manager in financial services, decided that an MBA degree would add value to his portfolio of skills, he checked out what various Charlotte area schools had to offer. After attending an open house for the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Charlotte’s Belk School of Business MBA program at the City Club, he was sold.

“The open house pulled me in,” Minter says. “It validated that I was making the right decision.” He also found that the value/cost ratio at UNC Charlotte was very attractive. An in-state student can complete an MBA degree for under $20,000.

“The education you get seriously challenges the Ivy League universities at a much lower cost,” asserts Minter.

Minter, who graduated in May2005, is just one of approximately 2,000 students who have received their MBA degree from UNC Charlotte over the past 30 years. UNC Charlotte was the first university in the Charlotte region to offer an MBA program, the first to attain the prestigious AACSB accreditation, and the first to offer courses at an uptown facility to meet the needs of working professionals. The Belk College now offers graduate degrees in four business disciplines – accounting, business administration, economics and mathematical finance – and is on track to offer a Ph.D. program in business administration in 2006.

While the Belk College of Business has been educating future business leaders in Charlotte since the mid-1960s, today the program has dynamic new leadership. Ronald Veith assumed the role of director of the MBA program in June 2005. With 23 years of experience in business consulting, Veith brings a new energy and sense of direction to the Belk MBA program.

“I’m here to take this program to the next level,” says Veith confidently.

Veith, whose responsibilities include recruiting new students, scheduling classes, counseling students, planning career development sessions, and marketing the program, plans for 10 to 15 percent program growth while maintaining the same high level of quality in students and faculty.

He also hopes to see all of the MBA classes moved downtown when the state legislature approves funding for a new UNC Charlotte building in the business district. He plans to add an Executive MBA program to the curriculum and hopes to include more international academic experiences for students. According to Veith, the groundwork is already laid for these changes and the faculty supports them.

“I may have to be the orchestra leader and write a little music, but they’re already playing the melody,” says Veith.


Starting Again

Veith, at 49, is starting a second career at UNC Charlotte. He was a partner with Accenture, the global management and technology consulting firm. Starting there in 1981, he specialized in enterprise strategy and planning, and managed one of the firm’s global enterprise practices responding to 350 clients around the world. Tiring of taking 130 flights a year, Veith took early retirement in 2002. He made the transition to the academic world first as an adjunct instructor of management at UNC Charlotte, and most recently, as a full-time professor for business at Johnson & Wales University.

“Ron’s corporate experience will be invaluable in his new role as MBA director,” says Claude C. Lilly, dean of the Belk College. “By building strong relationships with Charlotte businesses, we will increase opportunities for our students and enhance their academic experiences.”

Veith earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and an MBA from the University of Notre Dame in 1981. He has been active in alumni and fund-raising activities for Georgia Tech and served on the board of the Arts & Science Council of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Veith lives in Charlotte with his wife, Lori, and their two children.

Minter is among the people enthusiastic about Veith’s assumption of leadership in the MBA program.

“Coming from one of the top four consulting firms in the country, he’ll bring a visibility to the UNC Charlotte program that has been lacking,” says Minter. “He brings a business marketing perspective to academia, which is extremely important these days.”

As MBA director, Veith will work with the Charlotte business community to promote the program and enhance its reputation. The Belk College of Business has a business advisory council of accomplished business and civic leaders with whom Veith will work to ensure the MBA program reflects current business trends and opportunities.


Building on the Assets

Veith wants to assure that the UNC Charlotte MBA program experiences dynamic growth, driven by strategic vision, hard work and partnerships. He cites the four particular qualities that distinguish the Belk MBA program from its competitors in the marketplace: a distinguished faculty, a flexible program, AACSB accreditation, and tuition cost.

“You can get an accredited degree from a world-class faculty while balancing your professional, home and academic lives without mortgaging your future,” asserts Veith.

The Belk College of Business received accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business in 1981. It is presently one of only two schools in the Charlotte market to have received AACSB accreditation (Wake Forest is the other.)

AACSB International accreditation represents the highest standard of achievement for business schools worldwide. Institutions that earn accreditation confirm their commitment to quality and continuous improvement through a rigorous and comprehensive peer review. In addition to being the highest accreditation a business school can get, the AACSB distinction can also serve students who relocate either to or from Charlotte while enrolled in the Belk program. It ensures that the student can easily transfer credit from one school to another.

“If someone gets relocated while doing his degree work, we can work with them,” says Veith. “If he transfers from or to another AACSB school, there is no problem.”

Veith calls the Belk College MBA faculty “its hidden gem.” One hundred percent of them have earned an advanced degree (Ph.D., J.D., or D.B.A.) and are academically or professionally qualified as defined by AACSB.

“They have an outstanding mix of business and academic experience,” says Veith. “They are often referenced in business publications and are active in community organizations.”

The faculty includes Alan. T. Shao, assistant dean for international programs and N.C. Ports Professor of Marketing, who is also president of the North Carolina World Trade Association; Gary Kohut, professor of management, who is a recipient of UNC Charlotte’s highest teaching honor, the Bank of America Teaching Award; Casper Wiggins, associate dean for graduate programs and Big Five Distinguished Professor of Accounting who is active in the American Accounting Association; and Ben Nunnally, professor of finance, a frequent consultant on valuing business.

“The faculty combines a passion for research with a commitment to their students’ success,” asserts Veith. “They teach using a mix of lectures, case studies and real life applications.”

Francis H. Fabian, assistant professor of management, whose research specializes in managerial cognition, is an example of the professors who have made significant contributions to business, government and the academic community through innovative applied research.

Minter agrees that the faculty is outstanding. “UNC Charlotte has made a name for itself by providing top quality professors,” he says. “Their staff is beyond capable.”

Like Minter, more than three-quarters of the Belk MBA students are working professionals. They range in age from 21 to 61 years of age. International students compromise 13 percent of the enrollment and represent more than 27 countries.

Recognizing the need for these students to balance their academic, professional and personal lives, the Belk program offers a lot of flexibility. Students can begin the program in January, May, July or August. Part-time students can complete their degree in 24 to 36 months. Full time students can complete the program in less than two years.

“Flexibility is a key asset of the Belk MBA,” says Veith. “It is a real challenge to add an MBA program to an already demanding life, but UNC Charlotte understands that challenge and is prepared to meet the students’ personal schedule.”

The Belk MBA is an evening program, with classes offered both on campus and at the UNC Charlotte Uptown Center. Students can take classes at either or both locations. Minter found the uptown location particularly convenient.

“I was working uptown and most of my clients were uptown,” he says. “It was extremely convenient to be able to take 85 percent of my courses there as well.”

In addition to flexibility in scheduling, the Belk MBA program offers flexibility in its curriculum. While the traditional MBA is a general management degree that prepares students for a broad range of careers, students in the Belk MBA have the flexibility to develop depth in a business discipline through one of several specialized academic concentrations. Beyond the essential coursework, these concentrations let students explore the business area of their choice. This might be Management or Marketing or International Business or Commercial Banking, among other choices.

This flexibility in the curriculum allows working students to bring in the challenges they face at work and solve them in the classroom. They can also take the knowledge and strategy they learn in class directly back to the workplace.

“It’s what you do with what you’ve learned and how you apply what you’ve learned to the marketplace that really counts,” emphasizes Minter.


Looking Ahead

An MBA degree is one of the most sought after postgraduate degrees in the world because of its value to people in business and administration. An MBA program offers students business knowledge and helps develop leadership abilities. It also provides the opportunity for networking with fellow students, program faculty, and business leaders in the community.

In Charlotte where companies have an ever-growing need for individuals with a high level of business skills and leadership abilities, earning an MBA is one way in which working professionals can invest in themselves and their careers.

“More and more companies are recognizing higher education or ‘knowledge capital’ as a need,” says Veith. “As Charlotte grows, there is a growing demand for what we can provide.”

Veith intends for the Belk MBA program to address all aspects of career development, adding personal development sessions to its academic elements. He envisions expanding orientation sessions, like a recent one on “Rebranding Yourself,” as well as workshops on business protocol, career coaching and how to work with nonprofit organizations.

Vintage Veith: “We want to graduate total professionals, not just people with MBA degrees.”

Casey Jacobus is a Lake Norman-based freelance writer.
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