|OGDEN, Utah – Jeff Steagall is the new dean for Weber State University’s John B. Goddard School of Business & Economics.
Steagall comes to WSU from the University of North Florida, where he spent 21 years as an economics professor. He played an instrumental role in building UNF’s International Business program in the Coggin College of Business from a start-up in 1996 to one of the institution’s four flagship programs today.
A Wisconsin native, Steagall and his family are settling into their new home and surroundings. Prior to his job interview on campus, Steagall had never been to Utah.
“I wanted a school where students mattered, a mid-sized regional university where teaching remained very important,” Steagall said. “When I came for the interview, I saw faculty and students talking after class, and it wasn’t always about an assignment that was due tomorrow. The faculty knew who the students were, and they cared about them. That really made a difference when it came time to make a decision.”
Steagall’s selection as dean concludes a search that attracted 25 candidates from across the country.
“Dr. Steagall’s experience in international business and economics will help the Goddard School continue to expand its global initiatives,” said Provost Michael Vaughan. “We are pleased to have him at Weber State University.”
Having spent three years as an associate dean at UNF, Steagall sees his role as providing vision and direction for the school, while also pursuing new resources as existing lines of funding change or disappear due to budget cuts and economic crises.
Steagall decided to get a head start by arriving on campus at the beginning of May, rather than wait until July 1. The early arrival has provided an opportunity to meet with faculty and staff one-on-one, talk with constituents and learn more about the Goddard School.
Steagall hopes the conversations will help the Goddard School identify what it wants to be known for, so the faculty can work toward that shared goal, whether it be internationalization, sustainability, entrepreneurship or something else.
As part of building UNF’s International Business program, Steagall had a chance to teach in Germany, Poland and China.
“There is no such thing as domestic business anymore,” Steagall said. “You can only teach how different international business is to a certain degree in the classroom. You actually have to get the students abroad.”
Steagall acknowledges that like UNF, WSU’s nontraditional student population may need creative approaches for offering overseas opportunities. “The traditional semester or year of study abroad doesn’t always work for them.”
He suggests using 10-day or monthlong visits, where students meet with foreign CEOs and hear how business practices in that country differ from the United States.
Faculty members in the Goddard School have already demonstrated a commitment to sustainability, another area the school may want to emphasize.
“When the whole green movement started, businesses jumped on it for PR and marketing,” Steagall said. “Now they realize there is some serious savings they could realize if they go green.”
Steagall also is impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit in Utah.
“I tell students that if they want to feel like they have some job security, then they had better figure out entrepreneurship, even if they go work for a big company,” Steagall said. “What is an entrepreneur? It’s somebody who is willing to look at and evaluate risks and take ones that make sense. That’s what a successful entrepreneur does, and that’s what a successful business needs, especially in the very competitive global marketplace.”
Whatever direction the Goddard School pursues, Steagall doesn’t want to lose sight of the strong foundation already in place.
“We have perspective that many business schools and universities lack – we really are an integral part of the place that we’re located,” Steagall said, citing the new Master of Taxation degree that was created in response to the prominence of the Internal Revenue Service in Ogden. “We’re going to provide the workforce, as well as continuing education courses for existing employees.”
Steagall earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. in economics from the University of Wisconsin.
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