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Convocation Address 2009
Jeff Steagall headshot

Jeffrey Steagall

Distinguished Professor

Professor Economics and Geography

Coggin College of Business

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 I’d like to thank my faculty colleagues for this incredible honor. Joining the ranks of UNF’s distinguished professors is certainly a highlight of my career. I’d also like to congratulate Chip Klostermeyer on his worthy candidacy this year.


I’d like to begin with a heartfelt thank-you to my family. My wife, Sue, and my children, Eric and Sierra, have put up with my sometimes too-long hours and extended trips. They have been so supportive, while always reminded me when I returned home of just how much I was missed. I also want to thank my parents, Al and Kathy, for raising me to enjoy working hard and to enjoy the rewards that accompany a job well done. I also owe thanks to so very many colleagues—more than I can name right now. However, I will mention a few by name:

  • Paul Mason and Jay Coleman, from whom I learned to be a good teacher, scholar and service provider
  • Steve Shapiro, from whom I learned the importance of university-level service
  • Tom Leonard, who taught me how to write grants and build programs
  • Steve Paulson, without whose persistent encouragement I doubt I would have had the courage to accept the IB directorship all those years ago

It is interesting how recognition like the distinguished professor award makes one reflect on the path one has taken. I doubt that I would have believed it, had anyone told me 19 years ago when I joined the UNF faculty that I’d be standing here today. Indeed, I’ve often heard awardees talk of how humbling it was to win an award of this caliber. I confess that I never truly understood what they meant until now.


I’m very aware that I would not be up here today without the guidance, assistance, patience, leadership, and mentorship of so many of you. I also know that, while I have always tried to be the so-called triple threat that my good friend and 2005 distinguished professor Jay Coleman talks about—excellent in teaching, scholarship and service, I am sure that the primary contribution that led me to be up here today is in fact my service. Within that category, Coggin’s international business, or IB, program is surely the particular achievement on which my reputation is based.


Although I don’t typically post inspirational quotes, there is one that I’ve always had in my office. Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever does.” I don’t suppose that we have changed the world in any large way—yet. But the IB program has broken new ground for UNF and opened the door to the world for so many of our students and faculty. And I’m not sure that we can call the group responsible for the program’s success small. In fact, what I’d like to do today is to tell you the story of the evolution of the IB program, given credit to all those without whom the program would be quite different.


I arrived at UNF in 1990 to find a small group of business school faculty who had been pushing for an international business major for some time. In 1996, that major came to be. Our new dean at that time, Earle Traynham, had a vision to develop a reputation for UNF in leading international business education. Amazingly, Earle put his trust into an untested, newly-promoted and -tenured associate professor. I’m still not quite sure why. Earle asked me to write a white paper on what the college needed to do to develop a national reputation in the IB field. Being a young, clever guy I was, the paper asked for the moon, knowing that Earle would certainly give me only a tiny fraction of what I requested. Imagine my surprise, then, when I met with him and he said only, “We can do all of this.” Earle then proceeded to provide the leadership and support for everything that the IB program accomplished. For example, when department chairs were reluctant to shift resources to a new program, Earle convinced them that it made sense. When we looked for new partners abroad, Earle was at the forefront. Indeed, I sometimes think that everything I’ve learned about leadership I learned from Earle.


Deans, of course, need outstanding associate deans, and Earle had his in Jeff Michelman. If Earle provided the political clout and helped to push the faculty along, Jeff was the one who ended up with all the headaches. My good friend and mentor Alek Nowak, dean of the School of Management at Warsaw University, often points to the way that Earle, Jeff and I functioned as a team as a model for what ought to happen at universities. A team we were—we shared a vision, trusted one another, and always sought to support each other. Our small group of three accomplished a lot.


And that’s the part of the story that many of you know. I’ll tell you now the rest of the story, and why UNF has been such a special place to be these past two decades.


One task we undertook early in the program was developing an international dual-degree program. It sounded exciting and, frankly, pretty cool. Little did we know how very hard it would be. We relied on strong foreign partners like the Cologne University of Applied Sciences’ Lothar Cerny and Harald Sander to put together an innovative curriculum. Then we came back and realized that the new curriculum created all kinds of problems, from not offering enough courses at UNF to qualify students for a UNF degree to accreditation issues driven by differences in faculty qualifications across schools. At many points during the program development, any number of UNF administrators could have said, “No.” But that never happened. The response was uniformly, “I’m not sure how to do this, but let’s find a way.” Who were some of these people?

  • Deb Kaye helped us with issues from admissions to records to financial aid. Without her, I have no doubt that we would have given up early. I still call Deb when I need help in thinking a problem through.
  • Mauricio Gonzalez has also been critical to our success. When it became clear that we needed a vice-presidential participant to seal our first partnership in China, Mauricio was there.
  • Paul Riel and his entire housing department have bent over backwards to help our exchange students time after time.
  • Floyd Hurst has been a godsend in ensuring that study abroad program reimbursements are streamlined.
  • Karen Stone and her crew of lawyers’ positive, proactive approach streamlined our ability to sign varied exchange agreements around the world
  • John Delaney’s support, both through the TLO program and the IB Flagship designation, has also allowed us to do so much more that we ever thought we could

My profound thanks to each of you and to the teams you lead here at UNF. Your work matters, though we faculty seldom take time to say so. I appreciate you.


What was the result of this university-wide effort? A GlobalMBA program that now has 10 students from each of the four universities (UNF, German, Polish & Chinese) spending 15 months together studying in four countries and earning two master’s degrees. The GlobalMBA won a Best Practices in International Education Award here in the US and was one of just two programs offered as models for the future of business education in Germany’s leading news weekly. In 2010, by the way, Coggin launches its second such program, the Ibero-American MBA, a bilingual double-degree program with Spain and Argentina.


As important as the proactive support of the upper administration has been to the IB program’s success, I tell you that there is one person without whom we would likely be years behind where we really are. She is Anne Sheridan Fugard. We hired Anne when it became clear that, although we had many programs available for students to study abroad, they were not taking advantage of them to the extent we had hoped. Anne came on board and immediately began streamlining processes, developing websites and informing advisors of what was available and why students should participate. As a faculty member, it was truly enlightening how Anne’s organizational skills led to a more than tripling of our study abroad numbers in a very short time. She is amazing. Perhaps you don’t know, but in a recent report, UNF ranked #4 in the country in the number of students participating in short-term study abroad program. Roughly half of these are Coggin students. Of course Anne had significant support from Cheryl Campbell, who directs Coggin’s advising office, and her staff, as well as Kate Mattingly, who now works directly with students on their study abroad programs. The role that these folks play at UNF is critical. My faculty colleagues, I encourage you to take the time to thank our various staff personnel for the contributions they are making to our students’ education.


All good things, as they say, come to an end. Thus it was that I turned over leadership of the IB program to Jeff Michelman and Andrés Gallo early this year. They have already done wonderful things with the program, including adding new partners, new summer study abroad options, and new double degree programs. The future is very bright for the International Business Flagship Program.


I’d like to close my remarks with words on opportunities at UNF. I’ve seen the university change significantly during my tenure here, and most of those changes have been quite positive. The scholarly environment has become much stronger, and that is a very good thing.


I do hope that the shift toward increased scholarship occurs in a way that allows us to retain our emphasis on high-quality, innovative programs. To me, programs need time and attention—we cannot just hope that having good teacher-scholars teaching classes will generate the correct educational outcomes. We have seen how such programmatic efforts can pay off at UNF with the four flagship programs and the nationally-recognized jazz program. I also point to Jorge Febles, chair of World Languages, who hired Wu Yongan last year. Wu has single-handedly quadrupled demand for his Chinese language courses in a year.


Programs are ultimately what the university is ultimately about. What does it take to ensure that programs remain at the forefront? It takes passion, certainly. I hope that our passion for programs grows as our passion for research does. But passion is not enough. I offer the following challenges to you, knowing as I indicated before that we have excellent administrators, staffers and faculty in place:

  • I challenge our administrators to continue in the tradition of Earle Traynham and Deb Kaye—to think big and to let “yes, we can” be the default response to new ideas. Be open to taking risks and doing things differently than we have done them in the past. Lead.
  • I challenge our staff people to follow in the tradition of Anne Sheridan Fugard—to know what opportunities exist for our students and to help the students (and the faculty) to find ways to help students take advantage of them. For Anne, students always come first.
  • I challenge my faculty colleagues to find one issue, whether it be a student club, a new or existing program—whatever fires you up—and to make a commitment to spend 2 - 5 hours per week moving its agenda forward. You will be amazed at how even two hours per week can continue UNF’s tradition of enhancing educational and scholarly quality. 
  • I challenge all of us to build that team of people with a common passion and commitment. Nothing truly special can happen without such a team.

If we all accept these challenges, then we can continue to be a member of that small group of people that truly makes a difference.


Thank you.