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The University of Alabama

Business School Research Adds Value for Students, According to UA Co-Authored Article

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A four-person team that includes two faculty members at The University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce has had an article accepted for publication later this year that will shed light on the thorny issue of the relevance and value of the research activities of business school faculty.

The paper, “Does Business School Research add Economic Value for Students?” was accepted late last year by a top business journal, “Academy of Management Learning and Education,” published by the Academy of Management. AMLE’s Thomson Reuters Impact Factor is 2.889, ranking it eighth out of the 89 major management journals covered by Thomson Reuters.

The paper’s authors are Drs. Paul L. Drnevich, assistant professor of strategic management, and Craig E. Armstrong, assistant professor of entrepreneurship, both in the management and marketing department at The University of Alabama, and Jonathan P. O’Brien, Lally School of Management and Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and T. Russell Crook, College of Business Administration at the University of Tennessee.

The bottom line: Faculty research productivity means a larger post-graduate paycheck for graduate students, but teaching is important, too, and faculty shouldn’t be excessively pre-occupied with research.

“The scholarly research conducted by business school faculty has long been the subject of intense criticism for lacking relevance and value to practice,” the authors say in the article’s abstract. “In contrast, we theorize that such research is relevant and valuable in that it contributes to what is arguably the most critical metric of relevance for B-school students: the economic value they accrue from their education.

“We investigate this counter argument on a sample of 658 business schools over an eight-year period. We find that research adds significant value in that it can potentially enhance student salaries by an average of $24,000 per year. However, we also observe that ‘excessive’ research activity can lead to diminishing or even negative returns for students, and a research focus solely on elite journals might rob students of the benefits of exposure to a broader array of new ideas.”

Misconceptions over the lack of relevance and value to practice of business school research have become a thorny enough issue to prompt some universities to de-emphasize or discontinue the research focused tenure process and/or create faculty tracks that focus solely on teaching.

These “clinical” professors are hired based on their professional experience and promoted primarily on their teaching and service performance, with a minimum focus on research and/or a touch of grant-raising. Such dual tracks allow “research” faculty to focus on their areas of expertise while non-research faculty spend more time in the classroom, but can shortchange the student if they take research faculty out of the classroom.

Consistent with the study, students benefit the most from faculty who actively create new knowledge (through research and/or practice) and make it available to students in the classroom.

The study focused on 658 major business schools world-wide with a graduate (MBA) program, including several universities in the state of Alabama. The study covered an eight-year time span, using advanced statistical techniques to rule out alternative explanations for the impact of faculty research productivity on student salaries.

“One of our main goals at The Culverhouse College of Commerce is to combine research and teaching to provide the best education experience possible,” said Dr. J. Barry Mason, dean of the business school. “We are constantly striving to recruit and retain top researchers, but we are also always looking for top teachers as well. Sometimes the answer can be found though adjunct faculty and people who bring several years of real world experience to the classroom.”

The paper notes that “faculty who are actively engaged in research can likely provide value for their students by transferring to them new knowledge gleaned from their own research.  In addition, even if an individual faculty member’s own research has little relevance to practice, being actively engaged in research helps faculty keep abreast of, and involved with, ‘cutting edge’ knowledge developments in the field.”

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.