The Messenger sat down with the new interim Dean of the Johnson School of Business, Dr. Pat LaPoint to talk about her career at McMurry, business, the pandemic, and her goals for the school of business.
Q. When did you start at McMurry?
I started in 1985 as a part time adjunct teaching out at the Dyess program. It was just one course at the noon hour. A full-time position became available in 1988, so I interviewed with Dr. Kim, the president at the time, and got the job. I’ve been here ever since! I actually just passed my 35th year here.
Q. Having been here 35 years, what has been the biggest change here at McMurry?
Oh, how much time do we have for that one? The biggest change might be the look of the campus. When I first came to campus, there was very little in the way of vegetation. We didn’t have all the sidewalks and benches and trees that we have now. Sometimes when I go out in the quad, I just stand there and look at how beautiful it really is now.
The other big change are the generations of students. When I first started teaching, I was teaching some baby boomers but mainly Gen X. Now we’re up to Gen Z. The students, by virtue of their generations, have changed how we approach teaching and learning.
Q. What do you like the most about McMurry?
This may be overused, but I do think this university is a family in the way that our culture and organization is oriented towards family dynamics. As opposed to large institutions, McMurry has a very strong and identifiable personality. And I’m glad that we aren’t large; I don’t think I would enjoy teaching at a large institution. There is so much connection here. Like any family, we’ll have disagreements, but that’s okay because we find ways through them and come out stronger.
Q. Over your career, what have been the biggest changes in business?
Technology is definitely the biggest change. When I worked in manufacturing and operations, you would walk in and see people creating tangible products. Now, you don’t see the same labor. There’s a room with people watching and managing the machines that create the products.
Q. How would you say the pandemic has changed business?
The pandemic forced organizations to think about management differently. There was a thought that you had to have all of your resources and people right in front of you. The pandemic showed that that wasn’t always the case. Workers especially saw what flexibility they could have when working remotely, so management has had to think differently about how to empower and engage employees. In many ways, it’s a great opportunity for organizations to really reflect on how they do things.
Q. How do you prepare students for the business world post-pandemic?
Over time, I look more at a skills and competencies approach as opposed to just content. If you teach skills, students can really get their hands around something real that will have a more lasting impact and be more impressive to an employer. We’re seeing a lot of employers wanting micro credentials, which are skills-based certificates. They want more than a degree. The project management field in particular is really growing so helping students join a professional organization, getting them connections and certificates can really help them be in a better position when they apply for these jobs.
Q. What would you like to accomplish during your time as interim dean?
I kind of see my role as keeping the trains running on time. But there is one issue I’d like to tackle which is the restructuring of the JSOB core courses. I’ve been having conversations with other faculty on how we can best structure those core discipline-based courses to better work with our students. There are also several new faculty and adjuncts coming in this year, so a lot of my time will be getting them acquainted with McMurry. I’m looking forward to it!