The Providence College School of Business joined the elite rank of business schools in the nation today with its accreditation by AACSB International, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
The distinction is considered the “gold standard” for college business programs, achieved by 30 percent in the United States and only 5 percent worldwide.
Effective immediately, accreditation brings new stature to the PCSB and its programs — undergraduate majors in accountancy, finance, management, and marketing, and a graduate-level MBA Program. It also fulfills a promise contained in the College’s Strategic Plan to enhance academic excellence.
“We are pleased that our School of Business has received this international seal of approval and achieved the standards set forth by AACSB,” said College President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. ’80. “I expect the accreditation to serve as a catalyst that will propel us to a higher level of academic achievement and ensure that our students are equipped to compete in today’s global economy.”
The decision, announced Wednesday, July 25, by the AACSB Board of Directors, followed a peer review team visit to the PC campus in April.
“AACSB congratulates Providence College and Dean Patrick Kelly on earning accreditation, and we welcome them into the family of AACSB-accredited schools,” said John J. Fernandes, president and chief executive officer of AACSB International. “AACSB accreditation represents the highest achievement for an educational institution that awards business degrees. Dean Kelly and the faculty, directors, and staff of Providence College are to be commended for their role in earning accreditation.”
Considered the hallmark of excellence in business education, accreditation has been the top priority of the PC business faculty for more than a decade and involved a meticulous internal review and evaluation. Schools seeking AACSB accreditation must develop a mission-driven plan to meet 21 standards for the qualification of faculty, strategic management of resources, interaction of faculty and students, and a commitment to continuous improvement and achievement of learning goals.
AACSB International, founded in 1916, is the longest-serving global accrediting body for business schools that offer undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degrees in business and accounting. It has accredited 655 business schools in 44 counties.
The process officially began in 2004 with the creation of a Division of Business Administration directed by Dr. Francine Newth, associate professor of management. In 2007, when the PCSB was established, Newth served as acting dean until the arrival of the school’s first full-time dean, Dr. Sue Lehrman.
After Lehrman’s departure in 2011, Dr. MaryJane Lenon, associate professor of economics, shepherded the process for a year. Kelly, associate professor of accountancy and department chair, is the interim dean through August 1, when Dr. Sylvia Maxfield, a faculty member at the Simmons College School of Management, becomes the next full-time dean.
“Providence College’s liberal arts foundation provides our School of Business students with a values-based education, something that is increasingly sought by business and professional leaders around the world,” said Maxfield. “AACSB accreditation will help us continue to build and nurture this approach, which emphasizes ethics, integrative thinking, and a broad view of business in society.”
A strengthened program
“Accreditation is really important for our business program, and this is a significant achievement,” said Kelly. “PC’s program was always strong. The accreditation process made it better. It made us take a serious look at ourselves and make changes that benefit our students. And it’s consistent with our Strategic Plan on enhancing academic excellence.”
Among the benefits the accreditation process brought to the PCSB, according to Kelly:
• A common core curriculum. Whether majoring in accountancy, finance, management, or marketing, students graduate with backgrounds in each business discipline, with additional instruction in ethics.
• Better educational assessment. Faculty developed new procedures to track the progress of students and program effectiveness.
• A strengthened MBA Program. Formerly taught through the graduate school, the MBA Program became part of the PCSB and offers individual attention, with every candidate interviewed by two business faculty members before being admitted.
• More students studying business. Kelly said the number of students majoring in business has increased by 20 percent — from 864 in spring 2004 to 1,080 in spring 2012. The number of faculty increased from 35 to 45 during the same period.
• Formation of a Business Advisory Council. Fifty business leaders, many of them alumni, support the business school financially, speak on campus, and mentor and hire students.
Only the beginning
Having achieved initial accreditation for 10 years, the business school will be subject to a maintenance review every five years. More improvements are planned, including the eventual renovation of Dore Hall, now a residence hall, to serve as a home for the PCSB.
“The eight-year process of preparation for this recognition has already resulted in dramatic changes in the School of Business’ strategic planning process, curricular reform, faculty qualifications and sufficiency, and our assurance of learning practices,” said Dr. Hugh F. Lena, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.
“Achieving AACSB accreditation, however, is not an event in time but part of a continuous process of quality improvements that will ensure an excellent business education at PC and allow the College to attract and retain the best faculty,” Lena said.
Added Kelly: “We’re not done yet. This is a beginning. Now we know, thanks to this self-examination, and outside examination, where we will focus our efforts to improve. It’s an ongoing process.”
Fernandes said accreditation acknowledged the College’s commitment to “ongoing improvement.”
“It takes a great deal of self-evaluation and determination to earn AACSB accreditation, and I commend Providence College for its dedication to management education, as well as its leadership in the community,” said Fernandes. “Through accreditation, Providence College has not only met specific standards of excellence, but has also made a commitment to ongoing improvement to ensure that the institution will continue to deliver high quality education to its students.”
Faculty, student reaction
Carol A. Hartley, C.P.A., assistant professor of accountancy, said the news of accreditation was exciting.
“After working on the accreditation project for more than 10 years, from its earliest planning stages to its final successful outcome, we never had any doubt that we would achieve this benchmark,” said Hartley. “Our business programs have produced many successful graduates before accreditation, and we will continue that record going forward.
“What AACSB does for our students and alumni is provide added recognition from an external organization that we do, in fact, meet high-quality standards, something our graduates’ employers have known for years,” Hartley said.
Vincent A. Travelyn ’13 (North Scituate, R.I.), an accountancy major and member of the PC team that won the 2012 national xTREME Accounting (xACT) competition sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers, said accreditation will benefit business students.
“Providence College is on its way to becoming a very well-known and respected business school,” said Travelyn. “To be known as an elite business school, you must have this accreditation. When I go to interviews or employers look through my résumé, they will respect that I went to an accredited business school. Students will be rewarded when they graduate because not only did they go to an elite school, they also graduated from a well-respected, accredited business school, which will lead them to a successful future.”
Father Shanley said the College will celebrate the accreditation in the fall, when students and faculty return to campus.