Business dean’s top priorities: Online programs, outreach, student success

Sandy Wayne
Sandy J. Wayne, newly appointed dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Sandy J. Wayne learned about the challenges of managing a small business from watching her parents run their small trucking company in rural Illinois.

As the newly appointed dean of the College of Business Administration, Wayne aims to use that experience along with her own extensive expertise to prepare students for the business world.

Wayne received her PhD in human resource management and organizational behavior from the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University and her MBA from Illinois State University. She joined UIC in 1987 as an assistant professor of management, became a full professor in 2003 and was named associate dean for faculty affairs in the College of Business Administration in 2014. She served as interim dean this past year.

An accomplished and award-winning scholar whose research focuses on leadership effectiveness in the workplace, Wayne was a 2020-2023 University Scholar recipient and has had her work published in a wide array of publications, including the Journal of Applied Psychology as well as the Journal of Management, among many others.

Wayne recently spoke with UIC today:

What are your goals as the new dean of the College of Business Administration?

I have three main goals. One is to develop and launch some new online master’s degree programs. Thus far, we have an online MBA program. We also have an online bachelor’s in administration undergrad degree program. But what is in demand are specialized master’s degree programs. For example, a master’s degree in business analytics, as well as a master’s degrees in finance, marketing, accounting and management. So, in all the areas of business, we would like to have online master’s degree programs for working professionals, such that they can take courses from home after hours.

At the same time, we’re still going to offer our master’s degrees on campus as well because there are some students who prefer face-to-face interaction with their peers as well as with the faculty. The online programs at the master’s degree level will enable a different group of students to have access to these advanced degrees and be able to fit it into their working lives as well as their personal lives. We’re very excited that we’re going to be working with UIC Extended Campus on this important initiative, and we plan to launch the first Master of Science degree programs hopefully in the fall of 2024. This is a major priority for us.

The second major goal that I have as a dean is to have the College of Business Administration better engage with the business community and our alumni, as well as the broader community in which we live, and to have those groups connected to UIC Business. We want to establish and have more collaboration between our students and our faculty with the Chicago business community, as well as have more collaboration with our alumni. This means bringing our alumni to campus more frequently to interact with our students, to serve as speakers in our classes, and we’re even reaching out to alumni to serve as instructors for specialized courses.

Outreach is a big initiative for the college. I’m establishing a unit called Business, Alumni and Community Engagement. This is going to be a unit within the college that will help facilitate this collaboration. We want to build new relationships with businesses and community organizations and strengthen the relationships we currently have.

Number three is continuing our focus on student success. That is all about ensuring that our students are gaining the skills that are desired by employers and making sure our students succeed. We’re very focused on ensuring that our business students graduate and that they’re well prepared for their future careers and that employers see them having the skill set that the employers know is needed in today’s work environment. We also want to continue to focus on their experiences when they’re here at UIC. We’re doing a lot to increase the support that students receive throughout their time here at the College of Business Administration. We’re adding more academic advisors, and we are also building up our business career center, which is focused on preparing students for internships, the job search process, as well as linking them to alumni who can provide them with guidance with the job search.

Another part of student success is their first year in the College of Business Administration. We recently established a course that every incoming freshman student takes freshman year, it’s called Business Administration 101. It’s a course to introduce them to the college and to inform them of the different majors and minors. We’ll bring faculty as well as professionals in the field to talk about different career options.

Share a little bit about your background and how it might influence and guide your new position as dean.

I was born and raised in Illinois. I’m from a small farming community 50 miles west of Chicago, and I’m a first-generation college student. I can relate to being a first-gen college student because I had no idea what to expect from the college experience. It seemed so especially daunting to me that I decided to go to a junior college my first year and that helped me. I needed that one year at a junior college to help with that transition.

And even so, going to a major university in Illinois was still a difficult transition. That background made me, as an administrator, really want to focus on helping our students, especially first-generation college students, with that transition process.  My parents had their own small business and had not gone to college so it made the whole college experience more challenging.  

What attracted you to research leadership effectiveness in the workplace, and have technology and the pandemic affected your thinking?

I think I was always interested in leadership because as my father was running his small business, his biggest challenge was his employees and how best to lead and manage them. So, that struck me as something that I found very fascinating. Then when I went to grad school, it continued to be something that when I talked to people who were managers, that was one of the first things they’d bring up as a challenge: how to deal with people who are very different, how to manage people effectively and how to manage teams well. So, I wanted to study that area. Plus, I do think there are differences as a woman leader that people need to be aware of and the research in that area is important to understand.

I think related to the question of technology and what’s the big challenge these days has to do with the work-from-home phenomenon and employee engagement when you’re no longer seeing people interacting face to face. The question is, ‘How do you build a team and a culture when you’re maybe getting together at most once a week?’ So, I see that as an interesting and fascinating area. And we’re just going to have to do research and study what works.

Within the college, this is an important issue for me because the culture that exists from interacting face to face is important and can tie people to the vision of the college and the university. What we’re going to institute this coming semester is a once-a-month anchor day where we will have meetings where people can share what’s going on in their units, have a fun lunch and get-together and talk informally with each other. I think activities and events like that are important to have employees feel a sense of community and that is what is going to keep them engaged, motivated and wanting to stay at the College of Business Administration.

As a longtime faculty member, how have you seen the College of Business Administration grow and improve for students?

The university has grown so rapidly, especially in the last 10 years. We have grown from a mid-size public university to a major university and that encompasses many advantages. We have grown more diverse, which is a huge strength of our college. We also offer a lot more support than we did when we were a smaller size.

One great example is the number of student organizations we have that are business-discipline related. So, not only do we have a club in accounting, but we also have a club on improvisation that’s in the college. We have over 20 student clubs within the College of Business. We have a lot of student engagement in these clubs, which is outstanding because they are focused on creating friendships and they’re also very focused on helping their fellow students with developing their careers and preparing them for their future careers.

How do you see UIC’s role in the business community?

I see the UIC College of Business Administration as a partner in the business community. The business community is essential to the college. In many ways, we are here to provide top talent to the business community. And it’s important that we collaborate with the business community so we understand the skill set that they’re looking for, including the expertise and competencies that they want in the employees they are hiring. The aim is to develop those skills in our students. We want our students to be successful in their careers, and we also want them to be highly engaged in their careers. So that means the career must fit the student, and the student must be well prepared to succeed in their selected career. I want to do a whole lot more connecting with businesses in the Chicago area. I’m doing more outreach and getting involved in a lot of the professional organizations.

What are some things most people might not know about you?

I commute to UIC on bicycle. It’s about 2 miles to get here. I am a lifelong Cubs fan. I love downhill skiing. I love walking, and I love Chicago. My father had a trucking business, and when I was in junior high, on Sundays sometimes I could ride in the truck with him taking the farmers’ livestock to the Chicago stockyards. I still have vivid memories of that because we would stop at a truck stop on the way home, and I could get a hamburger, French fries and a Coke, and that was very special.

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