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Then and now: TCNJ’s School of Business turns 30

On July 1, 1981, the Division of Business and Economics became the School of Business. With the help of several long-tenured professors, we take a brief (and unapologetically incomplete) look at what’s changed and what’s stayed the same in the school these past 30 years.

“No heralding of trumpets or fanfare” accompanied the change, joked Professor Thomas Patrick. “If you didn’t work here, you wouldn’t have known it was changed.”

“It was virtually a non-event,” concurred Professor Lew Hofmann ’77.

What the change did, Professor Thomas Breslin explained, was level the playing field for attracting students and faculty.

Division is sort of an amorphous term. Nobody knows what it means,” said Breslin. “Most colleges had what’s called a school of business, and we wanted that same product design that our competition had.”

Although it had become a school, it would be a school without a proper home for the next 19 years. “We were nomads back then,” said Breslin.

In 1981, faculty offices were in Green Hall; the following year they moved to Bliss, a former dormitory that still looked and felt like one. Both Hofmann and Patrick recall that a former colleague, Professor Emeritus Neil Gaston ’60, had for an office the same room he’d lived in as an undergraduate student. There were still showers on some floors, which Hofmann said he’d often use after midday racquetball games in the Student Recreation Center. “It was more convenient,” he explained.

Back then, Earl H. Dean Field still stood across the parking lot from Bliss Hall. “I vividly recall coming out of Bliss one afternoon to get into my car and found a javelin sticking out of my car’s hood,” Hofmann said. The College was kind enough to cover the cost of repairs, he noted.

In the 1990s the school’s offices moved to the old Nursing Building. Whether that was an improvement over Bliss depended partly on where your office was located, recalled Professor Al Quinton.

“Some of the offices on the ground floor had no windows and didn’t get any natural light,” he said.

During the 1980s and 1990s, business classes were held all over campus. “I have taught classes in every building on campus, including the Student Center, Packer Hall, Armstrong Hall, the old library, and even one of the racquetball courts in the Student Recreational Center,” said Hofmann.

Then in 2000, the School of Business moved to its current location. The Business Building offered, among other things, classrooms that are “equipped for the age of electronics,” said Breslin, who was dean at the time of the move.

Computers have always been a part of the business administration curriculum. Undergraduate Bulletins from the early 1970s indicate that business students could take classes in Data Processing, Fortran IV, RPG, and COBOL. “Applications will be used by the student on the on-campus computer,” the bulletins note (emphasis added).

Hofmann said that in the early 1980, he and a colleague opened the school’s (and the College’s) first computer lab, in the basement of Bliss Hall. “I believe it was the first microcomputer lab in the country, or the world for that matter. Once the word got out about our lab, we had people from other colleges and universities contacting us about it,” said Hofmann. “In the subsequent 25-plus years, technology has gone from a facilitator of learning to playing an integral role,” Hofmann added.

These days, business students use computer simulations in class to “mimic real-world” business scenarios and get immediate feedback on the their decision making, said Quinton. The School of Business also has a Financial Learning Center, where a Bloomberg terminal gives students access to the same market data and news available to professionals.

Click here to read how students in Professor Herbert Mayo’s Student Investment Fund class use the Bloomberg to research and recommend which stocks to add or remove from the portfolio.

From the time of its inception, the school had offered degrees in business administration, business education, and a master’s in management. By the early 1990s the latter two programs were phased out, and that period also saw a marked changed in the school’s students. There had once been a large population of nontraditional students who all but disappeared when the school (and the College) intensified its focus on undergraduate education, Breslin said.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, “there was more emphasis and more opportunity for older, working adults to complete their education, and it could be done entirely at night,” recalled Hofmann, who himself had been a nontraditional business student at the College in the 1970s. “There has been a slow transition away from this, and now it is rare to see an older student in my class.” (His big complaint, he joked, “is that I keep getting older while my students stay the same age.”)

The rise of globalization in the mid-1980s brought an infusion of “international dimensions” into the curriculum, according to Undergraduate Bulletins from the period. Quinton said that, over the years, international offerings have been greatly expanded, and TCNJ business students now study all over the world, most recently in China.

The school received its initial accreditation from AACSB International in 1997 and was fully reaccredited in December 2008. It’s now one of only 50 accredited institutions worldwide that focuses exclusively on undergraduate business education. Today, students can choose from three degree programs: accountancy, economics, or business administration (with specializations in finance, interdisciplinary business, international business, management, and marketing).

Student internships have increased over the years, as have partnerships with outside companies. “Internships are much more popular now than back then,” said Patrick. Quinton concurred, adding that many industry partners also give guest lectures and mentor TCNJ business students. It’s a win-win situation, Quinton explained: Students get “meaningful, hands-on” experience, and companies get good entry-level employees.

And while each professor we spoke with said the years have also brought an increased emphasis on faculty scholarship and research, they all agreed one thing that hasn’t changed is the commitment to students.

“There still is a great fondness for the students on the part of the faculty, probably more so than at a lot of the other business schools around the country,” said Patrick.

Click here for a “Then and Now” look at business students at The College of New Jersey.

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