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New MBA director will expand the reach of the program


Business professor Nick Arena has been named director of UNC Pembroke’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. The announcement, from School of Business Dean Ramin Cooper Maysami, comes at an important stage in the program’s history.

With international accreditation recently accomplished, the School of Business is currently considering different approaches to expand its reach. Delivering the program fully online is one option as well as developing a hybrid format, where face-to-face instruction is augmented by online tools.

The move will require faculty support and training, Dr. Maysami said. At this date, 12 professors have already completed training and are redesigning the MBA program for online delivery course-by-course.

Dean Maysami is excited about the future of the MBA program. “We are ready to move the program to the next level, and Nick is the right person to lead the effort,” he said. “The first thing we plan to do is update the MBA curriculum to address the needs of the 21st century business.

“Nick brings years of management experience with him as well as familiarity with the current demand-driven market for MBA graduates,” Dr. Maysami continued.

After a career in manufacturing, Arena joined UNCP’s faculty in 2008 to teach management, marketing and international business. He is a self-professed fan of the university’s MBA program. Arena earned his MBA from UNCP, and was the 2002 MBA Student of the Year.

The MBA program started in 1995 as an evening program and currently serves approximately 50 students. “The program is in a good shape now, andwe will continue to serve our base through offering a strong face-to-face program,” Arena said.  “That said, there is potential for considerable growth even beyond the program’s North Carolina base.

“I can see the program growing considerably in the near future to well over 100 students,” he said. “I have some marketing ideas that I hope will help make it happen. The AACSB accreditation is so important to the entire School of Business; it’s time to capitalize on it.”

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is the leading worldwide accrediting agency for undergraduate and graduate schools of business. Only six percent of business schools globally are accredited, and UNCP gained its stamp of approval last spring.

“Accreditation is everything in attracting international students,” Arena said. “I believe the future is bright with this potential market.”

Arena said high quality teaching, small classes and close interaction with faculty are the standard of UNCP’s MBA program. That will not change, he said.

“We’re going to do it right and get it right,” Arena said. “The student experience will be the same high quality.

Dr. Maysami agreed: “The school’s strategic plan lists academic quality as our top goal, and we will make sure of that no matter where and how we deliver the program,” he said. “Our face-to-face evening programs on the main campus and in Pinehurst at Sandhills Community College are consistently praised for top-notch instruction by experienced professors bringing theory and practice together in small classes.

“When we go online or hybrid, we will make sure quality remains on par with the traditional program, and until then, we will remain on ground,” he said. “As a matter of fact, we will spare no effort to ensure the online and/or hybrid programs are designed and delivered based on the principals of ‘Quality Matters,’ the standard of excellence in online education.”

“I think a lot of this program because of my experience as a student here,” Arena said. “The best aspect of UNCP’s MBA program is small classes taught by full-time faculty with Ph.Ds. There is opportunity to engage with faculty, and I don’t believe we will lose that.”

Arena worked in both marketing and general management in the electrical and fluid power industries. He came to this region as vice president and general manager of Acme Electric Company’s Lumberton Division, a position he held for 12 years before joining UNCP’s faculty.

A suburban Philadelphia, Pa., native, Arena received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Villanova University. After 15 years, in sales, marketing and product management with Aeroquip Corp., he joined Acme Electric in Lumberton.

Arena also served as chief executive officer of COMtech, a business development incubator in Pembroke. He currently serves as vice chair of SCORE’s local small business development chapter in Robeson County.