A Case for Business
Hear Dr. Greg Cant talk about:
In the past year, Dr. Greg Cant has logged countless miles in an effort to build and sell a vision. He has shaken the hands of alumni, met with business leaders and delivered dozens of presentations - all to gain input on and build support for Concordia College's School of Business, a vision he is turning into reality.
As founding dean of the school, Cant couldn't be more thrilled with the challenge. "The truth is, this is the best opportunity I've had in my life," Cant says.
An undergraduate School of Business is expected to help Concordia attract an even stronger pool of high school students, 25 percent of whom indicate an interest in majoring in business, according to national data. Right now, 9 percent of incoming Cobbers indicate the same interest.
By offering a business program that stresses an undergraduate liberal arts education combined with an MBA-like professional emphasis, Concordia also will distinguish itself from its competitors.
What the college needed was a dean to make it happen.
That Cant, an Australian native, even applied for the job was a long shot. He had no previous connections to private, liberal arts colleges. He isn't Lutheran and had never set foot in Minnesota outside the Minneapolis-
St. Paul International Airport.
Yet, Concordia provided him and his family with two necessary requirements: An interesting place to live and a challenging job.
"I was drawn here for the job," Cant says. "But Concordia and Moorhead also feel like home, like a place we've been to before."
Concordia was drawn to Cant's background and vision for the school, says Dr. Mark Krejci, provost of the college.
"He understands the strength we have with our liberal arts focus, but his approach is to teach business as business is done,'" Krejci says. "His vision of what the School of Business can become is exciting."
Cant most recently came from Central Washington University in Ellensburg where he was chair of the department of management. Before that, he taught and worked in human resources at a handful of Australian universities, taught in China and held various business positions.
Those broad experiences give Cant the expertise to lead the charge of preparing undergraduate students for business in a global economy. To do this, key components like ethics, global understanding and leadership development will be incorporated into all classes instead of being treated as separate courses. Students also will be required to prove their skills at an internship.
"It is about preparing our students to become professionals who integrate ethical and global perspectives in their business careers," Krejci says. "They need to understand that all decisions can have ethical or global implications."
The school will also tap the expertise of business leaders who will play valuable roles by overseeing internships, mentoring students and serving on various advisory boards.
For the 2009-10 academic year, Cant hired additional faculty in accounting, finance and marketing. He brought on board a director for the Business Research Center, a new program designed to create research opportunities for faculty and students. He also established an executive-in-residence program. This year a Cargill executive will spend a year on campus interacting with students and faculty.
The vision has caught the attention of alumni and leaders in the business community who say Concordia College's School of Business will fill a niche that few other colleges meet.
The school's blend of strong academics with real-world experiences is what Brent Teiken '92, CEO of Sundog in Fargo, N.D., believes will set the School of Business apart from its peers.
"There will be a wealth of experience and knowledge available between the faculty and business leaders. It blends strong academics with real-world experience," he says. "There will be a lot of demand for what's being offered."
Judy Green, president of United Way of Cass-Clay in Fargo, is particularly interested in the school's goal to intentionally prepare students for careers in the nonprofit world, whether it's working in an organization or a ministry setting.
"That would complement and add value to what's already existing in this region, while matching beautifully with the mission of Concordia," she says.
Teiken also knows that Cant's persistence and enthusiasm will go a long way in building the school. In the fall of 2008, Cant called Teiken and asked if he'd teach a course on entrepreneurship. Teiken declined, saying he had too many other commitments. Cant called a second time and got Teiken to say he would think about it. Cant called a third time.
"He asked if he could come to my office," Teiken recalls. "He's a persistent, relentless guy."
Teiken taught the class.
Cant recognizes that it will take energy and persistence to get the right people in place, the curriculum established and a renovated building ready to go, a process he estimates will take three to six years.
"Not long after that we won't remember not having a business school," Cant says. "It will be that important to Concordia."
Story: Erin Hemme Froslie / Photo: Sheldon Green