School of Business News http://business.gmu.edu/news Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:53:43 -0500 MYOB en-gb Passport to Success: Alumna Appointed Travel Channel CFO http://business.gmu.edu/news/968-passport-to-success-alumna-appointed-travel-channel-cfo http://business.gmu.edu/news/968-passport-to-success-alumna-appointed-travel-channel-cfo

We often don't realize until years later which experiences have made the biggest mark on our career, but behind every great executive—and every successful business person—there is a moment that defines the direction their career will take.

Goldstein-HongKong2For Kellie Goldstein, it was an international finance class during her masters in accounting program that would plant the seeds for her career. As she dove into assigned case studies of various international firms, she realized how important the global economy was to our future and actively started to seek out opportunities with multinational corporations to gain that broader experience.

Goldstein, a 1997 MS in Accounting graduate from George Mason's School of Business, is the chief financial officer and senior vice president of the Travel Channel, the world's leading travel media brand, available in nearly 96 million U.S. homes and more than 130 countries. In this role, she is the primary financial advisor and business partner responsible for finance, accounting, strategic partnerships, mobile programming, budgeting, and business planning.

"At Travel Channel we've been refocusing our brand to embody our passion for travel and our natural curiosity for exploring the world through making human connections," says Goldstein. "I've been involved with partnering with independent production companies around the world to develop compelling programs—and we have 20 new series premiering in 2015!"

When Goldstein decided to pursue a career in finance, she says she had little money and few connections. Instead, she relied on her personal drive and the strong foundation Mason's masters in accounting provided to advance her career.

"Mason is a top-rated state school in Virginia and rising. Mason's ties with the local business and government community bring unique and practical experiences to the students, providing a greater launch pad and boost into post college careers."

She also says Mason's willingness to adapt to changing times and needs by evolving programs and embracing technology is very important.

Goldstein is returning to Mason on March 16 to discuss her path to success as part of the School of Business's Brown & Brown Distinguished Speaker Series.

Prior to her role at the Travel Channel, Goldstein had a 13-year career at Thomson Reuters where her roles included serving as chief financial officer of emerging markets and chief financial officer of Asia, in New York and Hong Kong, respectively, and two of the highest growth divisions within the company.

Goldstein was recently honored as one of 20 Prominent Patriots who epitomize The Mason Graduate. Peer-nominated and peer-selected, the 20 Prominent Patriots represent School of Business alumni as the very best in demonstrating citizenship, scholarship, and leadership in their daily lives.

Her advice to students and young alumni, "Network with other people inside and outside of your field. Seek advice from people who can be your sponsors and who can help you find opportunities to stretch. Also, broaden your perspective; welcome opportunities for international assignments."

Hear more career tips straight from Kellie Goldstein at the upcoming School of Business Brown & Brown Speaker Series event on March 16 at 6 p.m. at the Mason Global Center (formerly the Mason Inn) on Mason's Fairfax Campus. Register Today.

Read Goldstein's bio.

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General Mon, 26 Jan 2015 07:43:25 -0500
Mason MBA Students Get the Ear of the ‘Oracle’ http://business.gmu.edu/news/967-mason-mba-students-get-the-ear-of-the-oracle http://business.gmu.edu/news/967-mason-mba-students-get-the-ear-of-the-oracle

When an oracle speaks, you tend to listen. When it's "The Oracle"—even more so.

That was the case on November when 20 George Mason University MBA students flew to Nebraska to spend a day meeting with the Oracle of Omaha, business magnate Warren Buffett.

"You can learn the theories in class or analyzing business cases, but when you hear it from someone of Mr. Buffett's stature, it really resonates," says Robert McAleer, who will complete his MBA this spring. "He was very candid with us, sharing insights from both his successes and failures over the years."

The Mason students met with Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway's corporate offices for a wide-ranging, two-hour discussion that covered topics including the global economy, U.S. politics and lessons in business strategy. This was the third time Mason has sent MBA students to meet with the legendary investor.

"He clearly conveyed that it is important to have a long-term vision to guide you through the chaos of tough times," says Mason MBA student Raymond Miles, who found Buffett's "value investing" insights particularly instructive. "His method of assessing the intrinsic value of stocks added a new dimension to the complex formulas we learn in finance classes."

The conversation continued over lunch at Buffett's favorite Omaha steak house, Piccolo Pete's. (Mason's School of Business covered the students' travel expenses. Buffett bought lunch.)

"Our students were tremendously engaged in the conversation, asking spontaneous and impressively insightful questions," says School of Business finance professor Alexander Philipov, who accompanied the students to Omaha.

In addition to meeting with Buffett—whose net worth is $72 billion—the students also visited two of his Omaha-based businesses: the Nebraska Furniture Mart—McAleer describes it as "IKEA on steroids"—and a Berkshire Hathaway-owned jewelry store.

"Mr. Buffett offered us the opportunity to take advantage of the Berkshire Hathaway company discount at the jewelry store," recounts McAleer. But ultimately, he says, the students decided that the $1.7 million ring they had their collective eye on wasn't in the cards—yet.

"It was really reassuring the way Mr. Buffett presented himself just like any other person trying to succeed in this world," says McAleer. "He gave us the impression that if he did it, we could do it too—with some really hard work."

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General Tue, 13 Jan 2015 09:21:16 -0500
U.S. News Ranks Online EMBA #36 Best Online MBA Program http://business.gmu.edu/news/966-u-s-news-ranks-online-emba-36-best-online-mba-program http://business.gmu.edu/news/966-u-s-news-ranks-online-emba-36-best-online-mba-program

George Mason University consistently ranks among the U.S. News & World Report top business programs, and 2015 is no exception. Mason's online Executive MBA program landed a top spot at #36 on the "Best Online MBA Programs" list. Tied at the #36 spot are notable universities including Northeastern University, Clarkson University, and Southern Illinois University–Carbondale. Mason now ranks as the top online EMBA program in the Washington, D.C., area–above George Washington University, which ranked at #44.

"This ranking is an indication of Mason's commitment to continuously improving its programs and offering what successful business leaders are seeking from graduate programs," says Paige Wolf, assistant dean of graduate programs. "For the online EMBA program, this means rigorous and relevant course work, program flexibility, and valuable real-world experience."

To this end, Mason recently added a new track in Critical Infrastructure Protection and Management as part of the EMBA program. This innovative new track is not found at any other accredited university in the country. Offered in partnership with Mason's Center for Critical Infrastructure Protection and Homeland Security, the curriculum answers an impassioned call to develop knowledgeable and visionary executives who can lead the effort to protect our vital resources.

In addition to this ranking, U.S. News & World Report ranks Mason as a top university in the following areas:

  • George Mason is ranked #10 on the "Up-and-Coming Schools" list
  • Mason's undergraduate business program is ranked #62 on the "Best Undergraduate Business Programs" list
  • Mason's MBA program is ranked #68 on the "Best Part-time MBA" list

To put these rankings in perspective, there are more than 13,000 schools worldwide that offer business programs. U.S. News & World Report considers nearly 500 AACSB-accredited business schools in the U.S. for these rankings.

View the full list of rankings from U.S. News & World Report.

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General Wed, 07 Jan 2015 08:27:17 -0500
Innovative Business Models May Lead to More Sustainable Operations http://business.gmu.edu/news/964-innovative-business-models-may-lead-to-more-sustainable-operations http://business.gmu.edu/news/964-innovative-business-models-may-lead-to-more-sustainable-operations

Companies often think "going green" means higher costs and less profit. But is it possible to have the best of both worlds in one business modelIoannis-Bellos according to research by Ioannis (Yannis) Bellos, assistant professor of information systems and operations management at the School of Business, and his coauthor, Vishal Agrawal of the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, it is possible—and "servicizing" may be just the model for the job—if done correctly.

Servicizing business models are receiving growing attention for their perceived environmental and economic benefits and are being implemented among a myriad of notable organizations, including IBM, Xerox, Caterpillar, and Daimler.

In servicizing business models, customer value is linked to the use rather than the ownership of a product. Bellos explains, "For example, rather than selling printers, Xerox offers 'document management' services and charges customers for each page they print. Similarly, Daimler AG through its Car2Go car-sharing program offers mobility solutions and charges only for the amount of time the car is reserved."

This innovative business model comes in various forms, ranging from a pure servicizing model to a hybrid of sales and servicizing. Whatever the case, these models have the potential to bring both environmental and economic benefits.

The most obvious environmental benefit of such business models relates to the firm's ability to pool customer needs. By pooling needs, the firm may not have to dedicate one product to each customer. Reducing the number of products manufactured would reduce the amount of materials and energy needed for production as well as the cost of the materials, energy and labor for the firm.

For instance, in a car-sharing program a single vehicle can be used to satisfy the transportation needs of several customers at different times. It has also been argued that since customers pay on a per-use basis (i.e., per hour reserved) they may be incentivized to cut back their consumption.

While servicizing models appear to be a win-win strategy that decreases the environmental burden without reducing company profits, Bellos argues that this may not always be the case.

His research found that even at maximum pooling, a pure servicizing model could actually be environmentally inferior because it may not only lead to higher use impact but also a larger quantity of products manufactured.

"Think of customers who normally use public transportation to cover their mobility needs but now switch to a car sharing model like Car2Go," Bellos explains. "This can make a pure servicizing business model environmentally inferior by increasing the environmental impact during both the production and use phases."

Finding a happy medium with servicizing seems to be the secret to gaining both environmental and economic benefits, and this appears to lie in the hybrid model.

While it's important to keep in mind that some of the benefits are dependent on the use and production costs, Bellos and his coauthor found that with the right structure hybrid models typically yield great benefits.

"A hybrid model can be environmentally superior by leading to lower use impact even when a firm's ability to pool customer needs is limited. Therefore, business models such as Xerox's document management services may actually be environmentally superior because printers have the majority of their impact in the use phase."

And in other circumstances, the model still brings benefits to all, "Under maximum pooling, a hybrid model can be both environmentally superior and more profitable for products with low production costs."

In their paper, "The Potential of Servicizing as a Green Business Model," Bellos and Agrawal share additional insights for firms and environmental agencies regarding how to know when servicizing may support the three pillars of sustainability: profit, people, and planet.

Bellos and Agrawal received the second place award for their paper in the 2014 INFORMS Energy, Natural Resources, and the Environment (ENRE) Young Researcher Prize. The paper can be read in its entirety here.

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General Mon, 05 Jan 2015 07:54:36 -0500
Mason Conference Gives Student Entrepreneurs Chance to Pitch Ideas http://business.gmu.edu/news/961-mason-conference-gives-student-entrepreneurs-chance-to-pitch-ideas http://business.gmu.edu/news/961-mason-conference-gives-student-entrepreneurs-chance-to-pitch-ideas

For six George Mason University would-be entrepreneurs, the Mason Enterprise Research Conference was an opportunity to dazzle a room of potential mentors and investors with their ideas and inventions.

chris-savage-merc2Held at the Arlington Campus' Founders Hall, this year's annual conference focused on innovation launchpads—co-working spaces, incubators and accelerators. Some 75 business leaders and entrepreneurial academics attended, taking in more than four hours of panel discussions about developing ideas and bringing them to market.

As a finale, six "seed level" teams of Mason-based innovators were afforded time on stage during the Mason Innovation Lab Patriot Demo Day session to showcase their labors of love, and to perhaps convince someone in the audience to help them, either with experienced advice or an open checkbook.

This was business administration major Faiza Alam's first chance to pitch her brainchild, an incipient company she's cofounded with musician Steve Pae called Create More Music Studios. Their company provides in-home music training for 15 clients, but Alam is convinced a wider, untapped market is available. For her, the pitching was important, but meeting business leaders was invaluable.

"The networking is where I gained the most," she said following her pitch. "I met so many people who could help me in the future."

It was also a first pitch for Pop! Wed Co cofounder, management major Steven Gaudaen, whose nimble startup provides "fun and creative weddings without the $35,000 average price," he told the crowd.

"I really wanted to hear feedback from outside of the wedding community," he said of his reason for pitching.

For relative veteran Jimmy Rogers, who has "about a half dozen pitches" to his credit, the session was about trying something different to get the word out about his device, the OnYou magnetic mobile phone case. "I changed it this time," he said of his pitch. Previous pitches were data-driven and analytical. This time Rogers tried a different approach that focused on the attributes of the product and not charts and bar graphs. Rogers founded OnYou with Mason social entrepreneurship graduate student Scott Bauer.

Others who pitched were applied information technology major Jade Garrett, demonstrating her plush-toy/computer controller for autistic children (and within hours she was contacted by a toy maker who offered to help); information systems and operations management student Wakar Khan, representing his idea-stage startup service that would allow automobile owners to compare prices and services of repair shops; and Chris Savage, BS Electrical Engineering '11, who is already selling his True Honey Teas K-cups in some Whole Foods stores.

More than half the audience came from the MIT Enterprise Forum, said Mason business professor and conference organizer Mahesh Joshi. That's important, he says, because the pitch session is supposed to provide a platform for students to pitch in front of non-Mason representatives. The relationship with MIT, he added, provides the decade-old conference with a fresh perspective.

"I realized it needed to have more than an academic outreach," he said, "and with this collaboration it is more practice-oriented." And that benefits the student entrepreneurs.

Mason's School of Business is also doing more than providing an academic platform.

"We're trying to create a physical workspace, a community and a process," Mason School of Business professor and Innovation Lab director David Miller told the audience. "We are trying to discover new business models."

The Mason Enterprise Research Conference was presented by Mason's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship of the School of Business and the MIT Enterprise Forum of Washington, D.C.

This article was written by Buzz McClain and originally appeared on the Mason News Desk.

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General Wed, 10 Dec 2014 08:22:34 -0500
New Study Gives Guidance on How to Pay ‘Overconfident’ CEOs http://business.gmu.edu/news/959-new-study-gives-guidance-on-how-to-pay-overconfident-ceos http://business.gmu.edu/news/959-new-study-gives-guidance-on-how-to-pay-overconfident-ceos

ling-lisicA new study by George Mason University accounting professor Ling Lei Lisic could help companies save valuable resources when it comes to compensating chief executive officers.

The study, called "Executive Overconfidence and Compensation Structure," looks at how CEOs behave with regard to how they are being paid. How the overconfident boss is paid is the tool for handling him or her, Lisic and her international team of researchers conclude.

Many CEOs are paid, in addition to salary, with compensation incentives such as stock options and performance bonuses. The yearlong study could help boardroom leaders and compensation committee members design optimal contracts for overconfident CEOs.

"Most people are risk-averse," Lisic says, and with a significant amount of compensation tied to the success of the company, it makes sense for a risk-averse CEO to convert deep-in-the-money options into stocks and sell them as soon as they become vested.

"If he's rational, when his options become vested he should exercise those options, get the stocks and sell the stocks," she says. "Thereby he diversifies his risk. His wealth isn't as closely tied to the company any longer."

If the CEO is not behaving that way, he or she is considered by widely accepted industry studies to be "overconfident," says Lisic, who teaches in George Mason's School of Business.

"It's assumed he's thinking that the future of the company is really bright, so it's worthwhile to hold on to those options," Lisic says.

Lisic said there's no conclusive data on whether executive overconfidence adds value or not.

"It depends on the scenarios," she says. "Some overconfident CEOs destroy value; however, some can be good, particularly in industries where innovation is needed, where you need to take risks."

"Overconfident CEOs value the options more than others, so it's cost effective for the firm to give them relatively more options as compensation," she says, pointing out that stock options make both the CEO and the company better-off.

"For the firm, it's $100, but to the CEO it's worth $200, for example," Lisic says. "It saves the company money and it makes the CEO happy."

This article was written by Buzz McClain and originally appeared on the Mason News Desk.

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General Mon, 08 Dec 2014 08:05:00 -0500
Finance Student Studies Abroad Down Under http://business.gmu.edu/news/958-finance-student-studies-abroad-down-under http://business.gmu.edu/news/958-finance-student-studies-abroad-down-under

lau-kangaroo-small"I've always wanted to explore the world," shares Chun "Justin" Lau, a finance student in George Mason's School of Business, when discussing his decision to study abroad. In July, Lau took another step toward achieving this goal when he arrived in Sydney, Australia, to study at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) for a semester.

Minoring in economics, Lau is intrigued by the business and economic relationships between countries. Part of what peaked his interest in studying in Australia was its close proximity to Asia—a region where several countries are experiencing rapid development.

"Australia has a close trading relationship with these countries and this seems to be the path that the United States is heading in, so I picked Sydney as it is a major city where I can observe trends applicable to my future career," Lau explains.

Lau's learnings during his time abroad have extended beyond the classroom as he often finds them reinforced by what he experiences in the Australian culture. In particular, he sees the importance of organizations sharing responsibility for a sustainable society.

"In two of my classes, we are discussing the cost of unsustainable business practices. In Australia, the schools and the public emphasize the importance of sustainability, and you see this carried out in various ways from water efficient restrooms to environmental regulations," Lau describes.

"Contrast this with China, where air pollution is a major issue and urbanization is destroying the land and homes of animals and people. Many of their business practices come with a great cost. As I enter the business world, I will always be mindful of the nature of my job and how the actions of my organization impact society as a whole."

lau-beach-smallOn top of his business studies, Lau's personal experiences abroad have brought new insights and perspectives that are equally meaningful.

"I have learned that I am the one who can take action to change the level of satisfaction with my life, and to that end my favorite part of this experience has been intentionally meeting students from all over the world. It is always fascinating to learn about different cultures. For instance, I learned that in Spain the Christmas tradition involves the three wise men giving children gifts instead of Santa Claus. Who knew? Even little things like this help expand my horizon and cultural understanding."

As Lau's study abroad experience comes to an end this month, he nostalgically encourages students to consider studying abroad, "Do it because it will be one of the best experiences you will ever have."

To learn more about study abroad opportunities at Mason, visit the Center for Global Education.

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General Thu, 04 Dec 2014 14:04:36 -0500
New Faculty Research Can Save Federal Government Millions http://business.gmu.edu/news/957-new-faculty-research-can-save-federal-government-millions http://business.gmu.edu/news/957-new-faculty-research-can-save-federal-government-millions

White House targets $30 Billion (72%) in high-risk IT programs (Federal Computer Week, 2010)

anant-mishra2George Mason University School of Business faculty have new research that could save the federal government (and contractors) millions of dollars.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that nearly 72 percent of federal IT projects, with a total budget of $27 billion, are poorly planned and face significant schedule and cost overruns. According to the federal government's IT Dashboard website, nearly 25 percent of federal IT projects (with a $10 billion+ budget) are facing moderate to severe problems in meeting their schedule and budgetary targets.

Anant Mishra, assistant professor of information systems and operations management, Sidhartha Das, associate professor of information systems and operations management, and James Murray, adjunct professor of information systems and operations management (formerly at Lockheed Martin and currently a member of the technical staff/SME at HHB Systems LLC), have focused their research on identifying and managing IT project risk in order to reduce costs.

While federal IT projects are generally funded by taxpayer money and therefore face greater scrutiny by the public, media, U.S. Congress, and watchdog groups, they often fail to meet schedule and budget targets. According to Das, "Federal IT projects face challenges and risks due to increased complexity, technological uncertainty, significant resource requirements, governmental rules and regulations, and the frequent involvement of multiple stakeholders with disparate and sometimes conflicting goals."

During the timeline of any project, there are potential risk areas to manage to increase savings or reduce extra expenditures. The George Mason University researchers identify three main areas for project risks in federal IT projects—complexity risk and contracting risk in the planning phase and execution risk in the execution phase.

it-risk

Complexity risk refers to risks arising from increased technological challenges and scope of a project, for example, the development of an altitude control system for a surface-to-air missile that includes a sub-component on the missile and a sub-component on the ground. Contracting risk refers to risks arising from various aspects of the contracting relationship when a project involves a large number of contractors and/or when a large proportion of the project work is carried out by contractors (as is typical of federal IT projects). Execution risk refers to risks arising from disruptions in the progress of the project due to unforeseen situations, for example, inadequate availability of resources (e.g., reduction in funding) during project execution.

As the Obama administration steps up oversight of high-risk IT projects, contracting organizations must take greater responsibility to provide a level of confidence in the services they offer. That is where one of the latest offerings from the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University (i.e., CMMI) can help (Federal Computer Week, 2010).

sidhartha das2In addition to identifying these sources of risk, the researchers examined the use of the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI)—a quality process improvement model in which processes are rated according to maturity levels—as a means of improving processes, reducing risk, and saving money. For example, at Level 1 (Initial), a company's processes are unpredictable, poorly controlled and reactive, compared to Level 5 (Optimizing) where the focus is only on process improvement. The government prefers that all companies they sign a technology contract with have a CMMI level 3 or higher.

"Our research shows that higher process maturity levels measured by CMMI process maturity framework, reduce the negative effect of project risks on project performance," says Mishra.

More importantly, the benefits of implementing higher CMMI levels (CMMI 4 or CMMI 5) in federal technology projects are greater at higher levels of project risk, compared to projects with lower risk levels. Implementing CMMI 4 or 5 with high risk projects translates to greater savings.

Using a database of technology projects from Lockheed Martin, Mishra, Das and Murray analyzed 82 federal IT projects that were completed between 2002 and 2012. Their research demonstrates how such projects can be accomplished successfully with significant cost savings, by managing the risks associated with a project by the appropriate CMMI process maturity level (i.e., level 3, 4 or 5).

The potential cost savings are significant.

Jim-MurrayUsing a sample budget of $35 million (based on the median project budget value in their sample), executing a high risk project at CMMI levels 4 or 5, will have a potential savings of $11.87 million or $8.56 million dollars respectively.

Murray says, "Contracting organizations can potentially avoid wasteful expenditure of tax payer contributions in federal technology projects by targeting higher CMMI certifications when they plan to pursue federal technology projects with higher levels of risk," says Murray.

"With significant pressure on the federal government to trim spending and become fiscally conservative, federal IT projects are being closely monitored by government agencies and vendor firms are facing increasing pressure to reduce schedule and cost overruns. Hence, in the current economic scenario, the importance of identifying project risks and managing their effect on project performance cannot be overstated," says Mishra.

Since IT projects represent a significant area of investment by the federal government, this research can have a direct impact on project savings in what could be hundreds of millions of dollars.

Mishra, Das and Murray's paper titled, "Managing Risks in Federal Government Information Technology Projects: Does Process Maturity Matter?" received the Finalist Award for outstanding work performed for the Applied Research Challenge from the Production &Operations Management Society this past May. The challenge involved a rigorous two-step review process with a review of submissions first by academic judges from prominent business schools across the following universities: UCLA, Stanford, Cornell, City University in London, and the Indian School of Business, followed by review carried out by top industry executives from several companies. This work is an achievement in conducting rigorous applied research that is relevant and innovative.

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General Mon, 01 Dec 2014 15:32:32 -0500
Alumnus Supports the Success of Hardworking Students http://business.gmu.edu/news/956-alumnus-supports-the-success-of-hardworking-students http://business.gmu.edu/news/956-alumnus-supports-the-success-of-hardworking-students

alumnusbriankearney2In the third grade, Brian Kearney began working for the family business making copies of tax returns. Seventeen years later, as he began his college search, Kearney sought a university that would enable him to continue working while getting a formal education. For Kearney, George Mason University's proximity to home and flexibility in scheduling made for a perfect fit.

True to his objectives, Kearney made it a point to continue working while earning his degree at George Mason. He served as the original manager of the university's Aquatics and Fitness Center, waited tables, and even coached local high school soccer and basketball teams.

Since graduating from Mason in 2002, Kearney has become chief operating officer at Kearney & Company, where community outreach is a priority. As an executive at the company, he found his Mason experience to be one of inspiration when seeking opportunities to enrich the community. Having done it himself, Kearney knew the challenges and sacrifice that come with the need to work through college. It was this awareness that influenced the Kearney & Company Scholarship at Mason's School of Business.

The scholarship seeks to support an exceptional junior or senior accounting student with academic merit and a passion for civic service who has maintained a job while pursuing a degree. In Kearney's mind, "Allow me to support you financially so you have the ability to focus on your studies."

Beyond contributing to student success while attending Mason, Kearney & Company is known to provide the very best "real-world experience" for students and recent alumni as a top intern and entry-level employer. Kearney himself takes great pride in the Mason students and alumni working at the firm. He notes that employees from Mason come with a level of confidence in the workplace that is often missing from those of other universities. He feels the combination of real-world applications in the classroom and a working culture sets Mason and its students apart.

A similar version of this article was written by Whitney Hanlin and originally appeared on the School of Business Alumni blog.

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General Mon, 24 Nov 2014 14:42:03 -0500
Is Teleworking Contagious? http://business.gmu.edu/news/955-is-teleworking-contagious http://business.gmu.edu/news/955-is-teleworking-contagious

Working offsite, whether it be from home, client location, or another work location, is more and more the norm among various organizations—from Fortune 100 companies to government agencies and higher education. The increase in teleworking can be attributed to a variety of reasons, from aiding in managing work and family demands to lowering administration costs for offices.

kevin rockmannWhile most managers think in terms of how teleworking will affect the person working offsite and the advantages it brings, many do not consider how offsite work may yield unintended costs as it changes the experience for those in the office. Kevin Rockmann, associate dean of students and associate professor of management, admittedly did not give much thought to this aspect in his original research on the subject of teleworking, which began as a study on the employee-organizational relationship and how teleworkers kept contact with others working at the office and to what degree they felt isolated from others.

Rockmann, along with Michael Pratt of Boston College, studied a large high-tech Fortune 100 company on the forefront of utilizing distributed work. As they began their study, they made a unique discovery that altered the course of their research. Although previous research on this topic suggests that offsite workers should feel more isolated than those onsite, Rockmann found that when distributed work becomes the norm, those in office feel a very similar level of social isolation—if not more.

"Our research changed when we realized that everyone in this organization felt isolated to some degree," explains Rockmann. "That is, so many individuals telework or work in other locations that the office itself became a very lonely place to be. Yes, there are people working there, but not necessarily the people you are teamed with."

It was this last piece that was key; this aspect of teamwork is more crucial to the office environment than most may realize. If everyone is working from home, there are fewer brainstorming conversations and occasions to socialize, such as lunch outings and birthday celebrations. While these occasions may seem inconsequential, they may play a major factor in motivation to work in the office or elsewhere.

Most assume that the reason for working offsite primarily stems from flexibility in when and where work is performed and to balance multiple demands, but the findings from Rockmann's research suggest that the most significant reason for not coming into the office may simply be because no one else is there. That is, while teleworkers actively seek the benefits of being onsite, they would be willing to come to the office if they knew their co-workers would be there.

One implication of this finding is that distributed work is contagious in that once it begins in an organization it tends to spread among the employees. Rockmann recommends that management give serious consideration to how flexible work policies affect those not only working offsite but also working onsite and whether or not this supports the goals of the organization.

For the Fortune 100 company studied, there are clear advantages to their culture of distributed work, one being that they are able to employ approximately 100,000 workers located in far-flung locations around the world. However, it is crucial for management to be aware that individuals are not only attentive but also responsive to what others are doing. So much so that knowing whether or not one's co-workers were going to be in the office was found to be the best predictor of one's work location choice in Rockmann's study.

"The hope is that managers begin to think about distributed work not as an attribute of one specific worker, but rather as an attribute of the entire unit," he says. "That is, letting one individual telework not only impacts that individual, but it impacts every individual that person works with. Let everyone do this and it changes the nature of the office itself. It's not necessarily universally good or bad for organizations, it could be either depending on what the organization is trying to accomplish."

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General Tue, 18 Nov 2014 12:09:58 -0500