Big changes are happening at Cogswell. Since last month, the “programs” at Cogswell have been re-established as “departments.” With this change, previous “Program Directors” now hold the title of “Department Director.” Cogswell’s Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) Program has also been refocused as the brand new Business, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation (BEI) Department. We sat down with BEI Department Director Bobbi Makani to discuss these changes.
Cogswell Chronicle: What was the decision process behind the change from “Program” to “Department” across the board?
Bobbi Makani: The new leadership at Cogswell College has a renewed intention to increase program offerings. Previously, the program names were used to designate what are now departments. However, “programs” technically refers to a particular area of study. It will make more sense to call the group “departments” rather than “programs”, as is done in other institutions. This will better describe what the academic departments are offering.
CC: So now the “programs” would be Digital Media Management (DMM) or Project Management (PM), whereas the department is referred to as BEI?
BM: Yes, all these programs are now under the new BEI Department. This is a more rational structure because this new department will give us more flexibility in creating new programs and concentrations under it. For example, if we have new programs such as a Bachelor’s Degree in Innovation or Entrepreneurship, or even a Masters Degree in Project Management, then these degrees can be housed within the new BEI department.
We could have stayed as BBA, but this will limit our growth. Currently, the BEI Department houses the Master’s Program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Bachelor of Business Administration. We have both the Graduate and Undergraduate Programs. The website is under renovation, but you will see what the different departments offer once it goes live.
CC: Aside from the Grad Program and move from “program” to “department,” are there any other factors that contributed to us moving on from the “BBA” title?
BM: The “BBA” isn’t logical as a name if there’s a Master’s program under it. With the new name, “BEI”, the “business” side of it is the undergrad programs, while the “entrepreneurship & innovation” is from the Master’s program. In the future, we hope to be able to add programs in the undergraduate and graduate levels.
CC: What are some exciting things you can talk about that are changing in this department?
BM: Part of the great change happening across all programs is that we’ve been very aggressive when it comes to inviting companies to set up partnerships with us for internships and possible career planning in the future. We are working to get a roster of corporations, companies, and even non-profit organizations to provide our students with hands-on projects they have. We are working closely with the Director of Career Services to make sure we have contacts from well-known companies such as Apple, Google, or even Cisco, which is down the street.
CC: Are we going to have more of a focus on entrepreneurship at the undergrad level? Are classes changing?
BM: Right now, the offerings we have for the BBA program are still there, but we have a lot of selections coming up for electives. An example is BUS299, Global Business. Those are the kinds of electives we want to put in.
We recently hired a Cogswell Alumni as an instructor. Kevin Richardson will be coming in to teach marketing for us. We are hoping to develop an elective on creating and managing actual stories or movies, the same way these are pitched to Netflix and Amazon. What’s great about this is that he is an alumnus. He wants to give back. He talked to us about possibly opening a 15-week course “lab class” similar to Project X or MediaWorks. At the end of the course, students can submit an animated feature to a conference or [studio]. We want it to be interdisciplinary. It’s a BEI class but we want to open it to all majors so students can come in together to hatch a project.
So how do business students fit in? They will help manage the projects and create social media buzz for them. After all, what good is a project if no one knows about them?
CC: It sounds like we're expanding and improving the existing business programs at Cogswell. The BBA program has one of, if not the fewest amount of students enrolled. Many of them have shared that they feel like they lack representation when it comes to projects that are “hands on.” So there seems to be a question of quality. There are certain classes where students have shared that they are not learning what they should be, especially for a program advertised to be teaching “business in Silicon Valley.” What do you think Cogswell has to offer to prospective business students compared to other business programs?
BM: One of the things I am proudest of here is that we try to attract faculty that has business experience. If you are in a class with Jason Loia, for example, you learn about digital marketing because he knows a lot about and has experience with social media. We want faculty who are have solid professional experience and know how to teach.
But even when I put rockstar faculty in front of the students, when they don’t maximize the experience, ask questions, participate, and engage with faculty, it won’t matter. We used to have faculty who were not that engaged with classroom material, but we’ve gotten feedback about them and we are trying to help them improve their teaching styles and their offerings a little bit. If we can’t, we put them through training.
In the Master’s program, we are actually having the entire faculty team run the program. The current business program has only adjunct faculty save for Robert Steinberg. A lot of them work full time, therefore we have a lot of late classes. We try to work around those. We want to inject real industry experience, but it’s up to the students to engage with them.
CC: Many upperclassmen BBA students have that tone set for them. As you said, many teachers had an obvious lack of engagement. This is especially true for students who start off with that experience. It sets a tone so that when they are upperclassmen, they expect to be in these classes that are unengaging, therefore they don’t show much enthusiasm.
There are professors who use YouTube videos to teach classes, but these videos are available online for free access to everyone. With your leadership, it appears that we are moving in from that to building something more advanced and developed with that Silicon-Valley attitude.
BM: That’s what we’re heading towards. Some students have told me that they’ve felt the difference in the quality. We’re trying to make changes slowly but surely. You’re right, sometimes when that’s the kind of environment you are exposed to as a freshman, it sets the tone. It’s unfortunate, but some students become unengaged. That’s where feedback comes in.
My door is always open. Students from other programs have come in and asked about a minor in the business program. That’s actually something we’re currently evaluating. Students who are major in Game Design can know more about the business side. This is Silicon Valley. Whatever industry you are in, the more the business skills you have, the more hireable you are to employers. If you are great at Computer Science, imagine how valuable you’ll be if you are also knowledgeable about the business of computers or software?
CC: What are you most passionate about when it comes to working at Cogswell?
BM: I love working at Cogswell. The students are great. I like the camaraderie and collegiality. Leadership is very supportive and open to ideas. I work with other universities as well, but the environment is very different. Cogswell is open to change and they want to make sure that we are moving forward, not backward. Just in BBA alone, in the past year, I’ve worked to make our offerings more geared towards Silicon Valley. We made small changes, but those matter a lot. The tone and language we use sets the expectation. I went through all the courses m with a fine-tooth comb to make sure the course objectives are set and are aligned with the needs of the industry. Once they are, I try to find the best faculty to teach them.
CC: If we were celebrating the successful year of the BEI Department one year from now, what would we be celebrating? What about in five years, or ten years?
BM: I want to celebrate growth. At the end of the day, we are a college because we want to make a difference. We want to make sure that from the time you come through our doors as a freshman to when you graduate in a few years, you can say that Cogswell has made a difference in my life. We want to see students excited and employed.
In five years, when students become professionals, we want to see them placed highly in organizations and or doing things that matter. We want to be able to tap into that alumni network. When you see an alum, they are relatable to students. They can see themselves in alumni’s shoes and be inspired.
Ten years from now, we want to see more programs in different tracks and alumni to be engaged. I want to see alumni becoming agents of change out there, influencing industries and creating companies and non-profits. I want to see a Cogswell that is very integrated. Where students would come in and learn animation, gaming, business and computer science or coding, among things.
One of my fears as an educator is not training students for jobs in the future. I don’t know what jobs will be available in ten years! Right now, there are jobs that didn’t exist five years ago that are hot. We want to make sure our education is relevant but also grounded in fundamentals.