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Taking Flight — July 2022

Message from the Dean

As we look forward to the new academic year, I want to talk a bit about strategy. Long before I returned to Georgia Southern to be dean of the Parker College, I was a strategic management professor. I earned my Ph.D. in 1993 and spent the next 20 years conducting research, teaching courses, leading seminars, and consulting with companies, all over the world, focusing on various facets of strategic management. It’s fair to say, then, that I think about the topic often.

So, over the course of the coming year, I will use this commentary to discuss my strategic philosophy along with some of the ways we are applying that philosophy and the principles of strategic management to move the College forward. To get started, I’m going to offer an unorthodox premise. Specifically, if the Parker College were a publicly traded corporation, its “stockholders” would be its alumni. Now, we are not a public corporation, nor do we truly have stockholders; our assets and liabilities are owned by the state of Georgia. So, I don’t want to push the metaphor too far. Still, it makes sense strategically, to think about our alumni as stockholders and our degrees as units of shared ownership. Why is it useful to think this way? I can offer at least three reasons, all of which are fundamental to our success. First, viewing our alumni as stockholders keeps us aligned with the interests of the marketplace. We are in the business of researching important questions and then applying our answers to equip students for future success. If we do that well, then our graduates will be sought after, our quality will be recognized, and students will choose Georgia Southern because of the potential we offer them. So, by focusing on the value of our degrees, we remain in step with the market. Second, this perspective keeps our focus on the long term. Students are on campus for a season, but alumni hold their degrees for a lifetime. And every day that our degrees increase in quality, attractiveness, and marketability, that value is compounded, across time and all of our alumni. Just like a share of stock that you buy and hold, the compounded growth in value is worth many times the original price. Seeing our alumni as stockholders and our degrees as shares keeps us focused on the long term. Finally, it’s important to remember that we have more than 27,000 alumni, working in and leading companies across Georgia and around the world. And those numbers grow every year. Enrollments will ebb and flow; programs and majors will grow and decline in popularity. Whole industries will rise and fall over the course of a long career. Trying to predict and time these changes is like chasing the wind, but focusing on underlying value and on the degrees or the ownership shares that our alumni hold, keeps us focused on the magnetic north of our true value proposition.

And, so, as we talk in the coming months about strategy and the Parker College, remember that we are here to create and serve a growing alumni base whose careers and lives are changed and empowered by the value of their degrees. As we do that, along with the things that enable it, we best serve all of our various constituents across our state, region, and world.

Alumna Hits the Ground Running

by Katie Boyle (MGMT, 2020)
Event Coordinator, The Hunt Institute

Katie Boyle with the World’s Largest Cow Statue

I started my new job at The Hunt Institute in March, and it’s been a whirlwind! My third week on the job, I was flown to North Dakota for a State Legislative Retreat, where I got to sit in on some discussions about how to make remote learning more accessible, identifying the social and emotional needs of students, how to support those needs, and how to improve teacher preparation programs.  As an added perk on that trip, I also got to see the world’s largest cow statue and touch a dinosaur. Not a bad third week! Since then, I’ve been to Wilmington, NC, for a Higher Education conference that I planned and got to spend a weekend at the beach! 

At the beginning of this July, I was sent to Park City, Utah, home of the Sundance Film Festival, 2002 Winter Olympics, and the most luxurious food I have ever eaten. There, we hosted the Governors’ Education Symposium at which a bipartisan group of former governors and legislators got together to talk about the successes and challenges each state has encountered, as well as to speak with resource experts to gain insight into the best approaches to critical challenges in education. 

Last week, my team planned an event for the White House. A representative came to visit the NC10 (the ten Historically Black Colleges and Universities in NC) and The Hunt Institute arranged sessions to talk to representatives from each of the organizations. The executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCU’s came to visit, and I had the opportunity to sit in on a dinner session with her. It was an amazing experience, especially this soon after graduating college.

The institute is planning on sending my team to Asheville, Wilmington, San Diego, Phoenix, and Richmond in the next few months. It is amazing that I get to do what I love while traveling!

I’m mostly working with the Higher Education and Kindergarten–12th grade teams. That means I plan events that focus on literacy programs in early childhood and equal access to postsecondary education. Right now, I am putting together a literacy summit that will bring legislators, educators, and resource experts together to talk about the science of reading and improve literacy instruction.

Here are some links to things I’ve been doing at work!

None of this would have been possible for me without Parker College of Business Internship Program, as well as Debbie Hilton’s guidance and mentorship. Thank you, Debbie, for everything you taught me while I was your intern, as well as for your continued support and guidance post graduation.

Finance Professor Spends Long Weekend Evaluating CFA Exam

Image courtesy of Tyson’s Corner Center

by Carol Lott Waller

Rongrong Zhang, Ph.D., CFA, professor of finance, spent the weekend of July 1–3 as a volunteer for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Level 3 Standard Setting Workshop in Tyson’s Corner, VA. Along with a diverse group of other CFA charterholders from academia and financial services industries, she evaluated the level of difficulty of the May 2022 CFA Level 3 examination to provide a recommendation to the CFA’s board of governors to consider when setting the minimum passing score for its exams. 

The CFA program is a three-part exam that tests the fundamentals of investment tools, portfolio management, and wealth planning. It is typically completed by those with backgrounds in finance, accounting, economics, or business. CFA charterholders earn the right to use the CFA designation after program completion, application, and acceptance by CFA Institute. CFA charterholders are qualified to work in senior and executive positions in investment management, risk management, asset management, and more.

Cairney Retires After 19 Years

from the School of Accountancy

Tim Cairney

Tim Cairney, Ph.D., ended his distinguished career with Georgia Southern in June 2022. His career in public accounting started in chilly Halifax, Nova Scotia. He later went into industry. Bitten by the academia bug in the 1980s, Tim headed south to Virginia Tech for doctoral studies. He eventually joined the faculty at Florida Atlantic University. Georgia Southern was fortunate to entice him to move to the Coastal Empire in 2003, and more fortunate to keep him for nearly two decades. 

In his 19-year career at Georgia Southern, Tim has been an active researcher and won several awards, including the Olivia Suggs Flanagan Award, the Rutherford Award, and the Charles R. Gibbs Faculty Award. He was a key member of professional societies, including on the board of directors of the Savannah Chapter of the Institute of Management Accountants, and president of the Georgia Association of Accounting Educators. 

If you asked the faculty where Tim is the hardest to replace, the consensus would likely be assessment. He spearheaded such efforts for more than a decade. The word “assessment” elicits shudders from academics, but Tim was never afraid to tread where others feared to go. He saw the SOA through several cycles of assessment and accreditation. He was the behind-the-scenes person who, in his unassuming way, made the whole organization work. In retirement, Tim plans to restore an old sailboat to pristine condition and sail the oceans. We hate to see him go, but we wish him smooth sailing and the wind always at his back.

Faculty/Staff News

Kristen Ruhland, lecturer of marketing, was featured in a recent WalletHub story about the most popular credit cards. Go to to learn more.

Rand W. Ressler, associate dean and professor of economics, was interviewed about the main factors that are influencing the high turnover rates in the labor market for WalletHub’s recent study, “States Where Employers Are Struggling the Most in Hiring.” Go to to read the interview.

Joe Ruhland, chair and professor of finance, was recently recognized by the League of Southeastern Credit Unions (LSCU) which includes Alabama, Florida and Georgia director of the year for the State of Georgia one of highest awards presented by the organization. CORE Credit Union CEO and LSCU Board Secretary Bob Clampett presented the award to Joe during the credit union’s annual meeting. To learn more, go to

John Wiley & Sons, Inc. has announced that Arda Yenipazarli’s, Ph.D., professor of operations management, paper “The Marketplace Dilemma: Selling to the Marketplace vs. Selling on the Marketplace” published in Naval Research Logistics is one of its top 10 most downloaded papers among work published between January 2019–December 2021.

Last updated: 7/28/2022