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HUNTINGTON - After teaching at universities around the world, Avinandan Mukherjee, the new dean of the Marshall University Lewis College of Business, is ready to bring the world to his students in Huntington.

Originally from Kolkata, India, Mukherjee has taught business and marketing at universities in England, Paris, Singapore and India, as well as New Jersey and Atlanta.

He said while he always knew about Marshall, it was university president Jerome Gilbert's vision that attracted him here.

"His whole idea of economic development and external engagement as the primary focus of Marshall is a huge draw," he said. "That's what really hooked me on. I could see that the college of business is a central player in that mission because it is our job to connect with the external community and prepareour students to contribute to that community."

Starting in July, Mukherjee has hit the ground running, creating a five-year strategic plan to elevate the business college to a higher level.

The first goal is to differentiate Marshall from other business schools.

Marshall is one of only two Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business accredited schools in the state. AACSB is regarded as the benchmark for business school quality among the academic community and accredits 740 of the world's best business schools across 50 countries and territories. Less than 5 percent of the world's business schools have earned accreditation by AACSB International. Less than 1 percent has earned both business and accounting accreditation. The Lewis College of Business holds accreditation in both business and accounting, placing it among the best in the world.

"It makes us extremely exclusive," he said. "What it also does is put demands on us to be different and excellent because it creates the need for excellence on a continuous basis to keep accreditation."

But Mukherjee also wants to differentiate his college by standing for something.

"I think our differentiation is external engagement experiential learning," he said. "We want the scholars to be connected to local business, and that's how a business school should be. But while it seems obvious, there is a big difference between the classroom and the world at large."

Part of what makes Marshall special, he said, is its connection to the Huntington community, and Mukherjee wants to take advantage of that for his students.

"We want to make a distinct impact on the southern part of West Virginia and on President Gilbert's mission of economic rejuvenation," he said.

To accomplish this, the college has several different strategies. First is ensuring a high-demand curriculum is offered.

The business college already offers health care management, entrepreneurship and energy management - three growing sectors across the country. Mukherjee hopes to add business analytics, supply chain, and tourism and hospitality to the curriculum as well.

Within the curriculum, Mukherjee also wants to ensure students are cultivating a desirable skill set, including being flexible, creative, ethical and socially responsible.

"All these goals are critical, and we don't always measure those, but we are trying now to put these in our strategic plan and actually measure how well we are training our students for these skill sets," he said.

Much of this learning will occur outside of the classroom.

A new program called "Herd Solutions" turns the business college into a real-life company. Businesses in the community can give the students real-life problems for them to solve for the business over the course of the semester.

Mukherjee is also working to bring in at least 10 speakers each semester, provide networking opportunities for students and send as many students to competitions as possible.

The curriculum will also utilize a concept called "design thinking."

"We are trying to develop a whole new way of delivering the business program here at Marshall, and it is going to make us very different from the other business schools in the region," he said.

It started with the school's work with Marshall alumnus and Intuit CEO Brad Smith. Smith brought the 2017 Innovating for Impact Design and Delight Innovation Challenge to Marshall last year to solve problems in West Virginia.

"Now we are using that philosophy of design thinking to enhance our entire curriculum," Mukherjee said. "What we are going to do is adopt a problem-solving, flexible approach where every course will have an element of creativity built into it. It will be things like a speaker coming in to talk, a case study of a company or a real-life problem to help us teach the connect instead of a typical lecture."

Finally, Mukherjee wants to ensure his school and its students leave a global footprint.

The college of business already has one of the most diverse faculty on Marshall's campus, and Mukherjee wants to use his faculty's connections to build international partnerships with countries like China, India, Nigeria, Thailand and Chile.

"We do have some good international presence through INTO," Mukherjee said. "We do recruit a lot of international students, but it's not just students coming, it's also doing various things for immersion. We are trying to develop a global orientation, a global mindset. It's similar to an entrepreneurial mindset. We need both in every student. They need to come out with an entrepreneurial, creative mindset, and they need to come out with a global mindset. They means understanding different cultures, of course, but also the fact that how someone's competencies and skills can be enhanced through people of different origins and experiences that they bring to the table."

Mukherjee said with the special, deep connection to the community and alumni coupled with the climate of West Virginia as a whole, the Lewis College of Business is poised to make a big impact on the world.

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