‘‘Other duties as assigned,” laughs Dr. Jane Wayland, Stephen Harrow Smith Dean of Business at UALR, as she heads to campus on a rainy morning in jeans and sneakers to box computer terminals to accommodate the latest data system available to students.
The unpredictability of her daily routine is what energizes Wayland. She is just as comfortable in her external role for UALR meeting with donors and local business leaders as she is in the classroom. A former marketing professor, Wayland admits to missing the intimate connection with students in the classroom but knows that the work she does as dean will leave a lasting impression as well.
“I know the decisions I make and the money I raise positively affect students and have a big impact,” says Wayland. “In the classroom you have an attachment to the students and you watch them grow, but as an administrator I can create programming that affects ALL students.”
A native of Ellisville, Mississippi, Wayland attended the University of Southern Mississippi for her undergraduate and master’s degrees and received a Ph.D. in marketing from the University of North Texas. She taught at Virginia Commonwealth University and Eastern Illinois University before coming to UALR in 2007.
“It felt like coming home,” Wayland says about her return to the South.
Only in her third year as dean, a path that involved her serving as an interim dean for two years before accepting the position after the latest dean left, Wayland has already changed the business school for the better. Responsible for creating a new advising center, funded by reallocating funds, Wayland has created a valuable resource for students aimed at teaching them the necessary skills needed to advance in the workplace.
“We admit them. We advise them. We prepare them, and we help them find a job,” says Wayland.
This straightforward approach and a management attitude where Wayland views herself as more of an advisor than manager has made the business school at UALR attractive to potential students and employees alike. Undaunted by the fact that she is the first female dean of the business school, Wayland believes her success comes from just doing her job.
“I never wanted to be the woman,” Wayland says. “I just wanted to be a colleague that does my job and does it well.”
Wayland feels right at home as a female in a leadership role at UALR where she has many female colleagues, including Provost Dr. Zulma Toro, but she does admit that it feels good to be the first in her role.
“It doesn’t feel funny being a female in a leadership role on UALR’s campus because there are many women in leadership roles,” says Wayland, “but it is fun to be the first in the business school.”
A strategic thinker who knows the business school has to be accommodating and able to adapt within the oscillating academic environment of online education and demand for flexible graduate degrees, Wayland has encouraged the college to increase online course availability and been instrumental in the implementation of a popular weekend M.B.A. program.
“Right now we are in the city and connect our students with businesses,” says Wayland. “That is what we do well. In the future, I need to find a unique position in the marketplace.”
Wayland is exploring several potential ideas as to what this position may look like and will be working with her advisory board over the summer to address these strategic goals.
Right now, Wayland sees skill preparation as what sets UALR business students apart from other graduates. Students are required to take specific skill instruction as part of their curriculum in the business school. The tools Wayland sees as most critical for business students are communication, writing and critical thinking skills.
“What will set them apart is their ability to speak well, think well and communicate,” says Wayland.
Learning these skills in the business school can take many different forms, from competing in national competitions to working with local businesses. The advising center hosts mixers and workshops as part of the Professional Edge Series designed to teach students communication, presentation and networking skills. Students can participate in mock interviews, speed “elevator pitch” mixers with local business professionals and resume writing workshops. The center also offers one-on-one advising. The teacher in Wayland still comes out in the way she views the graduation process: as a check mark system.
“With a professional advisor who understands the ‘check mark system’ of requirements needed to succeed, students can graduate faster and with better advice,” says Wayland.
Not one to slow down, Wayland will spend the summer working on programming and planning for the fall. She will also be celebrating her 26th anniversary to her husband, Bob, a labor arbitrator and an adjunct professor of management at UALR. They plan to travel to Santa Fe and then visit their children. Wayland’s son, Ryan, 32, lives in Richmond and is an Assistant Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Bob also has three sons, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
In their free time, Wayland and Bob can be found enjoying the downtown life. They downsized to a condo recently and love being able to walk to their favorite restaurants and coffee shops.
“We feel more active downtown,” says Wayland. “There are lots of empty nesters and we can walk to restaurants, church, The Rep and catch the trolley over to a baseball game.”
An early riser, Wayland wakes at 5 a.m. to watch the sun rise over the Main Street Bridge. It’s her time to read and reflect before starting her busy day. She jokes about retirement, Bob is semi-retired and she feigns jealousy, but you can tell that her passion is in what she does and the students she works with.
“Some of our students work full time or are parents,” she says. “Their stories and our students are amazing.”