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Clark Reflects: His Time At UNCW Business School

By Jenny Callison, posted May 23, 2014
Cameron School of Business dean Larry Clark says he'll continue his style of engagement and teamwork in his new post as chancellor of Louisiana State University-Shreveport. (Photo by Mark Steelman)
Larry Clark, dean of the Cameron School of Business at University of North Carolina Wilmington for the past 14 years, is leaving the university in June to become chancellor of Louisiana State University-Shreveport.

LSUS is familiar territory to Clark, who served there for 13 years, first as professor of business law and then dean of the LSUS business school, before leaving to become business school dean at California’s Sonoma State University in 1994. He is also well acquainted with the people and culture of the Shreveport-Bossier City region as well as the area’s economic climate, which has experienced cycles of boom and bust over the last few decades.

Clark sat down recently to talk about his years at UNCW and what awaits him in his new position.

“I was fortunate to make great choice in coming to the Cameron Business School. There was a great culture here; my job was not to screw it up,” he said.

Under Clark’s leadership, the Cameron Executive Network and Executive in Residence programs flourished, say his UNCW colleagues. He helped launch Business Week, which brings successful business leaders – including UNCW alumni – to campus for a concentrated few days of immersion learning for students.

Clark isn’t afraid of instituting change and got plenty of experience making things happen when he went to Sonoma State.

“I was hired in the role of a change agent to help the business school pursue professional business school accreditation through AACSB [Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business]. The faculty union was hostile to the pursuit of AACSB; they feared greater faculty accountability and change. However, the culture and commitment to AACSB changed once business faculty understood that AACSB accreditation is a pre-condition to becoming recognized as a very good school of business. The Sonoma State business school achieved AACSB accreditation after I came to UNCW,” Clark said.

Another major change Clark made at Sonoma State was launching a wine business program – a natural, given the school’s location. He got initial resistance there, too.

“The SSU faculty was composed of a number of faculty with impressive academic credentials from elite business schools. Some were skeptical of our business school focusing on the applied business needs of any industry, even the premium wine industries of Napa Valley and Sonoma County. However, this changed. It was great to watch faculty and vintners begin to work together for the benefit of our students and their wineries,” Clark said.

“By the time I left Sonoma State, our wine business program had become embraced by the faculty, supported by over 125 wineries and was beginning to have impact with the premium wine industry.”

Clark left Sonoma knowing he had helped change the culture. He says his level of satisfaction at what has been accomplished at UNCW is even greater.

“The culture here will continue even deeper,” he said. “Here, we have business people and faculty working together for the benefit of our students. I think we offer something pretty unique, as demonstrated through such things as our internship programs and our level of mentoring. These don’t go when the dean goes; they are fundamental attributes of the CSB [Cameron School of Business].”

The outgoing dean is sanguine about the business school’s transition to new leadership, saying that the strong culture and successful programs will “assure a process which will attract the best candidate possible for the position. The best candidate could be internal; there is some strong leadership within Cameron.”

UNCW provost Denise Battles has named Robert Burrus, a professor of economics at the Cameron School, interim dean, and said in a news release that she expects a national search for Clark’s permanent successor to begin in the fall.

Clark starts his new job July 1. Plenty of challenge awaits Clark at LSUS, which sought him out to apply for its chancellor post.

“The problems at LSUS are budget and enrollment,” he said. “The university fell within a few votes of being merged with Louisiana Tech two years ago. Local voices came out in favor of the merger because the university had become so challenged.

“On one of my recent visits I had a chance to see [Shreveport] mayor Glover, who had blogged that LSUS should have been merged. He and I need to work together to develop a shared vision for the university. I’m already beginning to do this in reaching out to civic and business leadership in Shreveport.”

Clark said he “could not be happier” with the support and willingness to collaborate he’s seeing in the community.

“It’s roll-up-your-sleeves time,” he said. “On my last visit [to LSUS], I spent three hours with students. When enrollment is an issue you’ve got to focus on students. I think the Cameron School does reflect that emphasis. If your emphasis is on students, you will attract and retain them, find them jobs or help them with graduate school when necessary.

“Budget problems we’ll work through.”

One development in the Shreveport-Bossier City area is the completion of a cyber innovation center. The newest tenant in the center’s National Cyber Research Park expects to create 800 new jobs over the next four years, Clark said.

“If I had the faculty and programs there that we have at the Cameron School, we would be an incredible match, but we’ll be building that,” he said.

Clark sees that his informal leadership style will be a change for many at LSUS, which he characterizes as a very formal campus.

“I’ve told my new secretary to call me Larry. She’s struggling with that,” he said with a smile. “In formal settings, I’ll be chancellor Clark. In team settings, call me Larry. That’s the way it is here at the Cameron School, and I will try to continue that.”

Because much has changed at LSUS since he left there in 1994, Clark said he might not know what he thinks he knows about the campus and the region.

“People need to tell me if I’m full of crap or missing something,” he said. “There’s no job for me after [the LSUS] job. I’m looking at what’s good long term for the university.”

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