Business Management, the Hesston way

Debbie McAlister and Vickie Andres

For Debbie McAlister, director of Hesston College’s new School of Management, her time on campus has been a journey from building a program like most other institutions had, to creating something no other school offers.

McAlister was hired to craft a program that delivered a bachelor’s degree in business management, the third such bachelor’s program at HC. She has done that. But she has also created a program that in its content and outcomes is uniquely Hesston College.

“What intrigued me about the position here at Hesston College is the opportunity to build a program, to get it off the ground,” said McAlister. “I was also attracted to the potential of a new program and the open-mindedness of Hesston to try something new, to be creative with it.”

But most other colleges and universities offer business degrees of some type. “We realized we needed to do something a little bit more creative, because we have a lot of competition out there,” McAlister said. “Almost every higher ed institution has a business program. So we wanted to make ours a little bit different, and recruit and draw in a specific quality of students.”

So what sets Hesston’s bachelor’s degree program apart from the offerings of other institutions?

“We had to be creative in what we offer the students,” McAlister continued. “One of the unique aspects of this BA program is the travel component, which allows students to engage in the people, plan and purpose of organizations and talk to working professionals. They get to see how these decisions play out, or how it doesn’t play out, and see the difference between the two. They’ll be able to see how you can be profitable and also focus on those values.”

Vickie Andres, professor of business at Hesston College since 1989, also identifies an emphasis on values as a differentiator for the School of Management. “Hesston alums have started businesses with a basis in Anabaptist values,” she said. “At Hesston, the sciences connect with the Bible, and those connect with business.”

“For me,” Andres said, “the focus is how to conduct business for the greater good.”

“We’ve discussed the unique aspects of Hesston’s business management bachelor’s degree with the School of Management’s advisory council,” McAlister added. “They’re amazed by the travel component, the opportunities for students to network, our intensive eight-week courses, a full-blown internship their senior year and the professional development component, which is different from other bachelor’s programs.”

The bachelor’s degree in business management was evaluated by the Higher Learning Commission during their accreditation of Hesston College in winter of 2020. The program was affirmed by the accrediting body, and McAlister immediately went on the road to recruit the first junior class cohort for the School of Management.

The goal was to start the 2021-22 school year with five students in the junior class. McAlister and Andres exceeded that goal, welcoming seven students into the program this fall.

“This cohort of seven are collaborators,” Andres said. “Some of them are more outspoken. Some are more driven. Some are quiet, contemplative. We want to develop all people. In the classroom, they find out what leadership is from other people in business. They do that independently, they do that as a group, they do that in teams. They get to explore their leadership skills. And they learn to understand themselves and how they can lead. Any individual leader’s personality doesn’t have to look like everybody else.”

And like this first cohort of business management students, the program itself promises to grow and change for the better over time.

“There’s so much potential,” McAlister said. “We’re just now getting started. We have two concentrations right now, but we can add more in the future. We may even add some certificate programs.

“There’s just so much we can do.”