» CHARTING THE COURSE
A Q&A with Dean Lynda Y. de la Viña
Since being named dean of the UTSA College of Business in 2005, Dr. Lynda Y. de la Viña has led the college on a remarkable journey to achieving national recognition. A graduate of Rice University and a Rio Grande Valley native, de la Viña has charted a course of firsts throughout her career: first Mexican American woman to achieve a Ph.D. in economics in the United States; first Mexican American woman to serve at the secretarial level of the U.S. Treasury; and the first Hispanic female dean to lead the UTSA College of Business. Whether she is logging late nights in the office or making her rounds in the business community attending banquets and business meetings, she has remained true to her vision and steadfast on her path of achievement.
What do you see as your biggest accomplishment as dean?
My biggest accomplishment has been unifying the College of Business and awakening them to their true potential. When I came back to UTSA after working at the U.S. Treasury, Johns Hopkins and with other top East Coast business schools, I knew we had the quality of faculty, professional staff, students and academic programs to attain international recognition. But first they had to believe we could achieve these things. I needed to provide the leadership that would unite the college and bring the college together under one vision.
How did you unite the College of Business?
There were several different strategies that we employed. First, we needed to come to a consensus about our future. Following a comprehensive strategic planning session, we created five strategic themes that carried across the college. These thematics allowed us to focus on our similarities, not our differences within the disciplines. The thematics were key to the vision. Looking at the college with new eyes, we could now focus on the goal of obtaining national and international rankings for the college.
How did you so rapidly achieve your goal of national recognition?
First, the college was given valuable support and leadership from President Ricardo Romo, who gave me the imprimatur to move the College of Business to Tier One.
Our goal was to obtain national recognition in five years, we accomplished that goal in three. We’ve been named the No. 5 MBA program in the nation for Hispanics by Hispanic Business, BusinessWeek has ranked our MBA program No. 28 in the nation and No. 4 in the Southwest, and for the past five years The Princeton Review has named us one of the top 10 graduate business programs in the nation for minorities.
Beyond these collegewide rankings, we’ve also obtained national recognition based on the research of our faculty members and within individual disciplines such as marketing, real estate, finance and management. And, within academia, we have made a name for ourselves by establishing six academic journals within the college, developing new academic programs and graduating top doctoral students from six Ph.D. areas.
What challenges did you face in attaining your goals?
Internally, the challenge was to move the college on a steep trajectory toward externally recognized excellence. First I needed to build the college infrastructure and set faculty and student standards and milestones. We were the first college at UTSA to implement enrollment management by setting admissions and exit policies. Our faculty also voted to establish high standards with a six track workload system. We needed the people, programs and facilities to achieve our goal.
A tougher challenge was changing the perception of the community. As the seventh-largest city in the country, San Antonio deserves a first-class, nationally ranked business school. Much of our focus related to positioning and branding the college within the community, state and nation. We needed to earn the respect of the community and get them on board in order to be successful. I spent much of my first two years out in the community building those relationships.
What successes have you seen in your key thematics?
Globalization—We are now well respected in international academic circles. We were invited to be a full member of the European Foundation for Management Development and are currently pursuing international accreditation to match our AACSB accreditation.
We’ve reshaped our international programs to better meet the needs of our students and established 10-day immersion programs for our students to experience business abroad in countries such as Brazil, Morocco and Spain. We bring in international speakers to campus to expose all students to international perspectives.
And we’ve created a bilingual business certificate program and a Border Corridor program so our students can learn how to do business in Spanish and with our southern neighbors.
Security—We have become leaders in the area of information assurance and security (IAS), highly unique in a business school. We’ve opened the new Advanced Laboratories for Information Assurance and Security, hired a cybersecurity expert as our AT&T Distinguished Chair in IAS and have garnered designations as a Center of Excellence from the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security in conjunction with UTSA for both our educational and research efforts in this field.
Capital markets—Following the financial meltdown, we hosted community forums to help educate the public on the crisis. In addition, we built the Financial Studies Center to educate students to work in the complex world of high finance, and also to serve as the home for the college’s financial literacy programs spearheaded by our Latino Financial Issues program.
In less than three years, we’ve taken a boutique construction management program and turned it into a major force in the college as the newly revamped Real Estate Finance and Development BBA program. And, in the area of accounting, we have achieved separate AACSB accreditation through the doctoral level for our accounting programs. There are only 70 accounting programs in the world that have attained this accreditation.
Leadership/Entrepreneurship—While serving on the Governor’s Emerging Technology Fund advisory board, I developed the idea of partnering with engineering to create our highly successful Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship. The program has grown to include entrepreneurship education, a venture lab incubator and interactions within the community. The hallmark of that program is our 100K Student Technology Venture Competition.
Through our Center for Professional Excellence, we’ve also developed specialized leadership programs that have been conducted for top local companies while continuing to run a unique Executive MBA program that focuses on transformational leadership as well as an undergraduate Leadership Challenge program.
Health/Technology—With the support of the late Gov. Dolph Briscoe, we established the Janey S. Briscoe Endowed Chair in the Business of Health. We have built a new MBA concentration in the Business of Health and developed the university’s first dual degree MBA/MPH program with the Houston-based University of Texas School of Public Health’s San Antonio regional campus. We’ve also collaborated with the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio on our new Ph.D. program in applied statistics.
With our continued focus on technology, the college’s Management of Technology program has built a lasting partnership with the Canary Islands that has resulted in student exchanges and academic research partnerships. In addition, our first class of graduate students will complete their degree this fall as part of an on-site program in collaboration with Southwest Research Institute.
What brought you the most joy during this journey?
Everyone usually laughs when I tell this story, but for me, knocking down the walls on the second floor to create our Center for Student Professional Development has the most meaning. Knowing that we were building something that would impact all 5,600 of our students and their professional futures was powerful.
I’ve also enjoyed establishing traditions within the college that have brought together our faculty, staff and students such as the Briefcase Brigade, which has marched and won first place in the Battle of Flowers parade for the past three years, as well as our faculty/student softball game and alumni receptions.
Walking in the office every day I am thankful for all the people that I work with, whether it is the faculty, professional staff, administrators or advisory board members. I am astounded by the professionalism of my colleagues, and the great team that we have in the COB.
What do you see in the future for the College of Business?
We’re entering into the next phase of strategic planning for the college this fall. We will look at the future to see if any path corrections are needed and to explore opportunities to develop new pathways to excellence. It will be a time for faculty, staff, students, university leaders, alumni and community leaders to explore together and assess our strategy so that the college’s vision will remain bold and far reaching.