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by Jessica S. McDunn, University Relations

HPU’s incoming dean of the College of Business Administration means business.

Dr. Charles Steilen knows HPU’s vibrant downtown location is an ideal place to strengthen the connection between the business community and business education. He should know, since he’s already done it in Hong Kong.

Steilen recalls his own experience as a graduate student, when one of his professors handed out a case study that was five years old. That was when he vowed that if he ever became a professor, he would concentrate on current issues, problems, and opportunities that companies are facing today. What followed was a career developing ways to give students an insider’s view and to invite companies to the University to learn new ways to do business.

Steilen joins HPU after a distinguished career at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he helped lead a major expansion of the Chinese University’s MBA programs and served as executive director of its Asia-Pacific Institute of Business. But Steilen practices what he preaches. He not only knows the academic world, he knows the inner workings of real-world business as well. His consulting work in Asia, Australia, Canada, and the U.S. has included areas of marketing for multinational corporations, small-to-medium enterprises, and even governments. Early in his career he was also a sales representative for Kimberly Clark Corporation and was vice president of marketing services for Parie Davis & Associates, an Atlanta-based consulting firm. Since coming to Hawai‘i, Steilen has been appointed to the Hawai‘i Pacific Export Council, whose members are appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

At HPU, Steilen plans to strengthen the connections between the business community and business education, something that has always been part of HPU’s business program ever since President Chatt G. Wright was its founding dean.

“ I see three issues where HPU can help the local business community at the same time as it’s training future business leaders,” Steilen said. “We can help Hawai‘i-based companies learn more about exporting, we can help Hawai‘i’s employers groom the talent of their workforce, and we can help our students understand the realities of business by bringing more local companies into our classrooms.”

Business: Three issues for the future

Learning more about exporting. Steilen has already helped the Hawai‘i Pacific Export Council in its mission to assist Hawai‘i companies to become export-minded and successful in overseas markets. He recently led two workshops in Honolulu, presenting 50 local companies with the “Steilen Approach” to exporting. Steilen says he takes business people through a five-step process. “What’s different about my approach,” he said, “is that most workshops on exporting end with a discussion of how to connect with a foreign distributor. I take it one step further and show companies how to manage the relationship with their distributor.”

Grooming the workforce. Steilen has paid attention to what he hears from senior managers around town. “I see HPU’s business programs helping to take some of the burden off the shoulders of HR managers, because we can do the management development work for them,” he said. “The more we understand the needs of the business community, the more we can tailor our degree programs to some of these specific needs. These management development programs need to be as relevant as possible.”

One way HPU is doing that is through its Executive MBA program, which provides participants with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will help them move their organization forward–right after the very first class, not just at the end of the 18-month program. Steilen points out that an Executive MBA graduate from HPU can bring back to a company something much more tangible. “It’s about the bottom line,” he said. “Our graduates will know how to increase revenue, better manage costs, and increase productivity. That’s invaluable.”

Creating the real-world classroom: Students learn about the inside of businesses when CEOs and entrepreneurs come into classrooms as guest lecturers. But Steilen says much more is possible.

“ Two students in my International Marketing course at Hawai‘i Pacific took on the assignment to develop an international marketing strategy to give Oils of Aloha, a Hawai‘i-based manufacturer of skin care products, an opportunity to consider entering the German market. It wasn’t an easy project. The students had to research everything related to the German market and then develop a comprehensive marketing strategy and a budget.”

“ The critical issue,” Steilen said, “is that students are learning in an environment that offers them the chance to identify a realistic opportunity for a local company, create a realistic plan for maximizing that opportunity, and finally receive feedback from their professor and, more importantly, the company CEO.”

Steilen sums it all up this way: “Hawai‘i Pacific’s approach is a win-win situation for all involved: the students, the teachers, the companies – and even the dean.



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