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Eli Jones Brings Fresh Approach as Dean of the E. J. Ourso College

The summer of 2008 was somewhat reminiscent of the summer of 2003 for the E. J. Ourso College of Business…yet very different.

Five years ago, the college was celebrating its 75th anniversary and a new dean was introduced. This year, the E. J. Ourso College turned 80 in June, and July 1st witnessed Eli Jones take office officially as the seventh dean in the college’s history. As anyone in the business world will attest, five years is a lifetime. Infinite changes can and do occur. That was definitely the case for the E. J. Ourso College.

In addition to an increase in the national rankings of many of the college’s programs; a bevy of awards for faculty members, student organizations, individual students, centers, and institutes; and all new initiatives such as Modern Chinese Business and Culture, the Louisiana Business & Technology Center’s Mobile Classroom, and the Business Residential College; there is the promise of a new home for the E. J. Ourso College. Since 2003, these components and others such as the ever increasing admission standards have combined to propel the college to a plane on which it has never been.

Reaching the next plane, and beyond, is Jones’ plan.

“Throughout my academic career, I have focused on bridging academe and business,” Jones said. “This can be seen in my teaching, research, and program building, and finding a unique blend of theory and practice is particularly important for today’s business schools to succeed. The E. J. Ourso College of Business is a great school and it is positioned for greater heights. Accomplishing our ambitious goals in support of LSU’s National Flagship Agenda will take teamwork and a fiery passion based on a common purpose that will transcend the college and affect the business community. I intend to fan the flames.”

A professor of marketing and the associate dean for Executive Education Programs in the University of Houston’s Bauer College of Business prior to coming to LSU, Jones has a strong background in sales and sales management in the corporate world forged prior to his foray into the academic arena. His ability to wear the different hats today’s deans must don from time to time was certainly one of his most appealing assets during the dean search process.

Jones understands fully that he will be working with students and trustees, supporting faculty members, wooing alumni, and dealing with business executives, recruiters, and other contingencies. His message to them is the same across the board.

“If you are not involved, get involved,” Jones said. “We have a great thing here, and we are poised to be even greater.”

Far from being simple rhetoric, Jones’ charge and statement stem from previous experience. Just eight years ago, Houstonian C.T. Bauer made a lead gift of $40 million, providing the means to acquire needed resources to completely transform the University of Houston’s College of Business.

“The funding enabled the school to hire more outstanding faculty, who built stronger programs that attracted more talented students, who joined world-class companies and became loyal alumni that supported the school and encouraged their companies to attend campus recruiting events to hire more of the school’s graduates,” Jones said. “This cycle begins by having enough resources. Our constant challenge will be to secure those resources that will enable continuous growth.”

Without question, the securing of funds for the new Business Education Complex that will house the E. J. Ourso College is just one of the major items on Jones’ agenda. Aside from reinforcing the concept of what a flagship business school should look like, he asserts the facility’s construction is absolutely vital for advancing every function of the E. J. Ourso College.

“We have a very dedicated LSU Business Building Oversight Committee (LBBOC), which consists of prominent business leaders who I had the privilege of meeting,” Jones said. “LSU’s senior administrators, the LBBOC , and I are committed to doing everything possible to secure the remaining funds needed for the new complex.”

Raising the remainder of the necessary funding, Jones notes, will be a collaborative effort. The team of faculty, staff, students, and alumni that established the University’s strong brand name attracted him to LSU, and the individuality of Louisiana is what Jones says will have to be capitalized upon to make projects like the Business Education Complex realities.

“Leveraging the brand to attain national prominence will be a priority for my administration,” Jones said. “Also, Louisiana’s distinctive and colorful culture is one that my wife, Fern, and I have always enjoyed. We are truly looking forward to becoming part of the fabric that makes Louisiana and LSU unique.”

Where the E. J. Ourso College fits into that fabric, according to Jones, is adhering to its moral obligation to help the state’s economy. As a land-, sea-, and space-grant, flagship institution, he says, working with community leaders to develop creative means of attracting businesses to Louisiana and retaining businesses which have obvious effects on the local and regional economies is a privilege that he and college faculty will participate in extensively.

Jones credits the leadership of the E. J. Ourso College and its individual programs for the rise in rankings experienced over the last five years and wants to ensure the trend continues by working with the faculty and staff to identify other areas of distinctiveness to build upon. These areas will include both the college’s undergraduate programs and Executive Education and will likely benefit from the design of hybrid learning modules that blend face-to-face classroom time and distance education.

Few could have envisioned the growth the last five years have brought with them to the E. J. Ourso College. But Jones already has his sights set on where he envisions the college being 10 years from now.

“I see us in our new state-of-the-art Business Education Complex, a place where our students will expand their knowledge and develop their skills as they learn from some of the top scholars in every discipline,” Jones said. “Also, I see us expanding our global footprint by developing additional study abroad programs. Perhaps looking south to Latin America would be the next logical place for a study abroad program. Such opportunities supplement and enrich the students’ in-class experience and further enable our graduates to become excellent global business leaders.”

During the previous five years, the aim of the E. J. Ourso College was to tell its story better. Now, with an even greater story to tell, Jones is poised to direct the writing of its next chapter.

Timothy E. Rodrigue | LSU Office of Public Affairs
Summer 2008

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