William Keep has a PhD in marketing from Michigan State University and a BA in social science and economics from James Madison College, a residential college at Michigan State. He comes to the College from Quinnipiac University, where he has held the positions of associate vice president for academic affairs and director of assessment for the institution’s School of Business. He was most recently a professor of marketing at the university, and said that when he told his students last spring about his new position, several said to him, “You’re going to love New Jersey, and you’re really going to love TCNJ.”
Keep’s CV shows an impressive record of scholarship and publication as well as a devotion to teaching. He has been published extensively and has authored or co-authored multiple texts. Additionally, he has taught a range of marketing, management, and business ethics courses. In the wake of recent business scandals, many people have questioned whether business schools do enough to educate their students about ethics. We asked Keep his thoughts on the subject.
Unlike some business schools that weave ethics into the larger curriculum, Keep noted that TCNJ offers a standalone course on the topic. “What I like about that approach is that it says to the students that [ethics] is important, it’s a topic unto itself,” he explained.
“That being said, [business ethics] is hard to teach—especially to an 18 or 19 year old,” Keep said. “They haven’t had enough exposure in the broader work environment to understand the types of situations they might be faced with. But I think we need to help students understand that the positive role that we see for business in society…carries with it a responsibility.”
In the short amount of time he has been at TCNJ, Keep has already noted the School of Business “has a very solid, experienced faculty that care greatly about their students. I think the students know that…and it’s important that we sustain that culture.”
Keep said one of his first orders of business will be increase student engagement by encouraging greater participation in business-student organizations and study abroad opportunities. “It’s important to get students excited about a few things while they’re here, so they’re not just thinking of their education as ‘checking off the boxes’ of required courses while they’re going through,” he said.
Another priority he mentioned—increasing alumni participation—will help with the student engagement issue. “Alumni have credibility with the students, and that can definitely help the student engagement issue,” Keep explained. “A faculty member can stand in front of class and say three or four times some relatively important concept, and the students will write it down. But if an alumnus comes in and says the same thing, it has so much more impact.”
Keep’s experience has been that students get excited to hear from alumni, whether that interaction pertains to what it is like working for a certain company, or simply what it was like being a business student at the College however many years ago. “An alumnus can come in and talk about a business situation with a kind of passion and experience that only they have, because they have been doing it day in and day out for years,” Keep said. “Those are the types of things that alumni bring to the table that are important for students.”
“I want alumni from TCNJ’s School of Business to feel a shared experience with our students,” Keep said, adding that he would specifically like to see more alumnae come forward to serve as role models for today’s female business students.
Keep feels TCNJ’s School of Business has done a good job of connecting with outside businesses, citing as examples relationships established through the Business Advisory Board and with companies that recruit TCNJ students. “I will take a lead role in helping build and sustain [more of] those types of relationships,” Keep said. “My job is to go out and make sure that I know why [these companies] are recruiting here, what they think of our students, and what they think of our programs.”
Another priority Keep mentioned was helping TCNJ’s business students realize how the school’s various disciplines tie together. Such an understanding becomes especially important as a person’s career in the business world advances, he noted. “Our job is to help students think about business in a convergent way, while at the same time helping them become an expert in their discipline.”
Keep, whose degrees are from a public institution and who started out teaching at one before leaving for a private university, said it is good to be back in the public arena. “People often think about public education as something that is big,” he said. “I like the fact that TCNJ has chosen to stay small. It’s hard to do in these times, but yet when you talk to people about it, everyone feels very positive about the experience,” Keep said.
“I think TCNJ has made some very good decisions about the kind of educational environment that it wants to create and sustain,” Keep continued. “I’m delighted to be here.”