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  • Mikayla Alexander

Interview with Dr. Shu Schiller

By: Mikayla Alexander


Dr. Shu Schiller has recently been named the new dean of the College of Business Administration (COBA) at UMSL. The COBA faculty and staff site has a profile covering Schiller’s many qualifications such as the previous associate dean at Wright State’s College of Business and previous interim dean of Wright State’s College of Graduate Programs. Schiller has a master's degree in management science and a Ph.D. in management information systems, which makes her well-prepared for a tenured role.  


 Taking on the role of dean requires commitment. As Schiller explains her motivations for a leadership role, she recalls her first academic leadership opportunity as an academic program director of Temple University’s master's program.  


Schiller states that her time in that role was, “a great way for me to connect my passion with our student success, bring resources together, help them solve their challenges and solve their problems so they can be successful. That’s the most important part and where my passion is... student success.” Establishing Schiller’s genuine investment in student success throughout her traditional career trajectory, set the stage for an insightful interview.  


Shu Schiller courtesy of UMSL College of Business Administration 

Q: How was your first experience pursuing higher education and what did that experience teach you as you now lead other students or first-time students? 

 

A: “I am a first-generation [and] I’m also a minority student, a woman of color. My parents never attended college for many different reasons. So, when I look around, I can easily relate to many of our UMSL students who are first-generation, who are probably socio-economically supported and need a lift-up.” 


Schiller also states that her college experience was “extraordinary” and attests to her capabilities being strongly supported by her educators and “many people along the way helping me, guiding me, but also inspiring me.”  


Q: What did you assess about the potential of our College of Business Administration that attracted you to this position? 

 

A: “I want to be very specific about what attracts me. The way I say that is there are lots of other students at other institutions and those other institutions may serve different populations. We look at our students and I can tell UMSL's story. Our students work very hard, are humble, [and] love to learn, right? But, then there's also this huge character-building piece that is the grit and persistence that our students demonstrate. All these qualities are the best success factors.” 


Q: Aside from your academic education and preparation, what do you think has contributed to your previous successes in dean positions? 

 

A: “Leadership development. Everyone is a leader. To me, it has to be very intentional. Outside of your academic domain, you are being developed and you are growing, right? I don’t really believe when people say, ‘and such and such fell on my shoulders.’ Maybe it could happen but, it’s very intentional by creating these opportunities, and pursuing them.” 


Schiller encourages young students to seek out mentorship, coaching and leadership training to further create opportunities. She states, “If you are being strategic, if you’re being directional, saying ‘I want to achieve this,’ then be mindful about that so when opportunities happen, you can make the connection and say ‘yes’.”  


Q: This week will officially mark your first month with UMSL. I wanted to know what challenges have you faced so far and what would you like to see changed about UMSL in a year’s time?  

 

A: “There are lots of opportunities, and I always tell people opportunities and challenges coexist. At this moment, it’s not just the College of Business challenge, it’s a higher education challenge. Campus engagement has been a huge challenge for all institutions, not just UMSL. Covid years forced everybody back home and isolated, but now we’re already four years after that. We need to find a way to get our students to come back to campus, have this physical engagement. 


[When] Doing college by Zoom meetings in the bedroom, Zoom after Zoom, I don’t think you get the return on investment.” 


Schiller goes on to state that social connection is key in academics and “a huge success factor to your future career success. Students today who are joining the workforce cannot even communicate. How many students cannot carry a normal conversation? Cannot present adequately in the boardroom? Cannot negotiate effectively?” 


Schiller believes that the core of our college experience, success and subsequent social value lies within in-person interaction and engagement with our peers and professors. She encourages open office hours and would rather see her students in person even to just ask about their day. In terms of what we can look forward to in the future, Schiller mentions our campus renovations. 


She says, “[Students]want to have this meaningful engagement and you will see the campus transformation, the renovations in the library, the building of the Welcome Center. In the next year and a half, the campus experience will be really different with all these newly renovated spaces. These are going to contribute back to the campus engagement.” 


Q: As a leader, what would you say is your teaching or leadership philosophy?  

 

A: “When it comes to teaching... gosh, I love teaching. It’s very rewarding from my perspective because I get to see the development of my students and I get to see how they apply knowledge and make a change in the business world. I would say maybe that’s a core of my teaching philosophy is to not just develop my students’ knowledge and learning, but it’s more important about what we are going to do with that knowledge. 


With the leadership, I talked previously about being intentional, right? I feel it’s so crucial. When you see a need, you will be there and do it or try to make it. I think being a leader, it’s just really the mind of who we think we’re serving and the reason we do that. I'm a believer, I follow Christ. Everything I do is to glorify him. So, I may see the activities, right, at the surface level, behind everything, there's a grander purpose. And that's my purpose. That's why I do what I do, why I want to support students. So, for me, the leadership style is always tied with spiritual growth. And some people don't have that piece, I understand.  


A leader doesn't have to be in the professional setting, it can be in your own home, in your community. Every life you can touch, everybody can be a leader. Yeah, to influence others' lives by demonstrating what you can do first. And so that's kind of the very rough way to talk about the leadership philosophy.” 


It is an honor to have someone so motivated by future generations’ success as one of our leaders here at UMSL. Schiller is motivated by her religious beliefs and the general well-being of today’s young adults. She encourages us all to be intentional about our efforts including social interaction with our peers here on campus and resources outside of campus. With Schiller’s remarkable commitment toward student success, it is evident that the future of the College of Business Administration is in good hands. 


If you have more questions about our new dean of COBA, you can contact her by email @shu.schiller@umsl.edu  or call (314- 516- 5881). You can also visit her office in Anheuser-Busch Hall (ABH) on the second floor in 202G.  

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