‘We have an opportunity to come together as a community’

Sudhir Singh

Sudhir Singh, new dean of Frostburg State University’s College of Business, talks about what he sees as the successes, challenges at the school.

Sudhir Singh, recently named dean of Frostburg State University’s College of Business by Provost Elizabeth Throop, seeks insights from leaders as diverse as Churchill, Lincoln, Gandhi and Nehru.

Singh joined FSU in 1992, with a teaching focus on finance. He was associate dean from 2010 to 2015 and has served as interim dean since 2015. He has also served as director of the College of Business Center for Leadership Development since 2011.

“Dr. Singh has wide expertise in finance and global business, he has revitalized the College of Business Advisory Board, and he has been an integral part of rebuilding the provost’s academic leadership team,” Throop said in making the announcement. “In addition to his clear pedagogical vision, Dr. Singh is a genuinely kind person who advocates for students, faculty, staff and alumni. He plays a significant role in the community and represents Frostburg State University very well.”

FSU President Ronald Nowaczyk praised Singh’s “unique insights” into the college, the university and the region.

Singh holds a master’s degree from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in India, a master’s degree of business administration in finance and accounting from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, and a doctorate in finance from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va.

He recently answered some questions through an email correspondence with Mike Lewis of the Crossroads Business Journal. The exchange has been edited for length.

What changes have you seen in students through the years?

One change I see in students today is that they are becoming more impressively perceptive, even, what I would call self-efficacious, in using technology to participate in and owning their learning processes. Access and flexibility are now the prime criteria students are using in selecting programs and institutions. Over the years, the view of students as passive consumers of knowledge has been debunked quite decisively, and astute educators are very intentionally utilizing students as co-creators and owners of their academic experience. To that end, the payoffs to being an engaged student have never been greater. I also see a demographic shift where the proportion of non-traditional students has risen significantly, with many students returning to take the few courses remaining in order to earn the bachelor’s degree. On a more sobering note, I also find that the stressors from both personal and work circumstances appear to be causing elevated levels of anxiety among students, thus requiring increased commitment of institutional resources devoted to supporting students in the areas of time- and stress-management, wellness and self-care.

What are some of the biggest financial and economic issues in this region?

The biggest financial and economic issues in the region, in my mind, have to do with the reality — and, just as importantly, the perception — of the regional economy and the employment prospects this economy can generate for its citizens. We have an opportunity to come together as a community and marshal our collective energies to concertedly defeat the scourge of the opioid addiction, meet the health care challenges of the local population and, importantly, address the skill-gaps in a new, knowledge economy leaving so many high-skill jobs unfilled, as well as the consequently rampant dependency on government support.

What are we ignoring that needs our attention?

We are seeing the coming together of a set of business, community and civic leaders who are more decisively seeking to address the economic and cultural needs of the region. The laser-like focus, however, needs to continue to be (on) what infrastructural and environmental ingredients … we need so that new businesses seek to locate to the region. Is the stock of housing, for example, appropriate to attracting technology-skilled professionals and entrepreneurs?

What will be your priorities?

My priorities in moving to the dean position will include working with the office of admissions and the faculty to recruit not just the traditional, undergraduate student population but to seek out new demographic groups that will include nontraditional, veteran and Hispanic populations. This will entail the continued sharpening of the value proposition of a Frostburg education that is distinctive, marketable, rigorous and relevant to today’s employment market.

What other challenges and opportunities will the Frostburg business school face in the next few years?

It is paramount that the college continue to safeguard the credibility and reputation of the quality of its academic programs assiduously via continued accreditation by AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) International, the universally acknowledged “gold standard” within the realm of business education accreditation. It is also incumbent that the college lead the university in the strategic implementation of experiential learning in all its varied forms. Research on the efficacy of experiential education in shaping good post-graduation outcomes is virtually unassailable.

How does the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown fit into the school’s plans?

The University System of Maryland at Hagerstown has represented approximately 20 percent of the business administration major. The student body at USMH, quite distinctly, fits more of the working-adult profile that is straddling across work, family and education in order to meet professional growth and personal fulfillment needs. It is my intention to engage with students more deeply and to consider how class scheduling, delivery modality (face-to-face versus blended or online) and the mix and frequency of class offerings at that campus might meet their needs more closely. We are considering some shorter-term, lower cost, certificate options as well for students whose educational needs may not extend to the full bachelor’s degree experience. The USMH campus offers the college a wonderful opportunity to explore curricular and programmatic innovations.

Aside from your role at the university, what are your aspirations for the next few years?

To seek a deeper connection with the community, continue to nurture friendships … become more intentional about finding a higher level of work-life balance and undertake more travel that offers opportunity for both restoration and personal contemplation. And to find time to read the biographies of Churchill (kudos to Gary Oldman for making Churchill come alive in such a mesmerizing way in “The Darkest Hour”), Lincoln, Gandhi and Nehru, hopefully, to uncover greater insights into the diverse underpinnings of transformative leadership. Finally, watch (or, in some cases, re-watch) all Alfred Hitchcock films, all Chinese films starring Gong Li, and my Indian favorite, “Guide,” a timeless cinematic ode to love and human frailty, personal disappointment, accidental leadership, irrevocable commitment and, ultimately, personal salvation.