UNCP student team won honors at international conference


A paper co-written by four UNC Pembroke graduate students and Dr. Eric Dent, Dean of the School of Business, won top honors at the recent conference of the International Academy of Business and Public Administration Disciplines.

Eric Dent
Eric Dent

Robert Hughes
Robert Hughes

Entitled “Modeling U.S. Manufacturing Competitiveness,” the paper was a semester-long project in Dr. Dent’s graduate class, Organizational Theory and Behavior.

Students in the Master of Business Administration (MBA) class included Robert Hughes of Parkton, N.C. Suzanne Stevens of Pinehurst, N.C., Daryl Miller of Rowland, N.C., and Edwin Ingram of Rockingham, N.C.

A total of 251 papers were accepted into the conference, and the paper from UNCP was one of only 17 to win research awards. It will be considered for publication in the association’s journal.

MBA candidate Robert Hughes, who is also an academic computing specialist for UNCP, presented the paper at the conference in Dallas, Texas, May 23-26.

“Our paper proposes a conceptual model that synthesizes what successful manufacturers are doing to remain competitive,” Hughes said. “After extensive research, we offered a five-part hypothesis of what makes a successful organization.”

“With a flood of manufacturing jobs heading overseas from the U.S., the paper is particularly timely,” said Dr. Dent. “UNCP is committed to applying our expertise to provide valuable information to organizations in this region.

“Moreover, the award this paper received shows the quality of work UNCP students produce and the expertise they provide when they conduct projects in area organizations,” he said.
Hughes said the model was an original synthesis drawn from his group’s research.

“Our research never uncovered a big picture of successful manufacturing practices,” Hughes said. “We assembled our model from studies of many factors.”

Hughes said his presentation created a flurry of questions from the audience.

“There was a wide mix of disciplines represented at the conference, and our paper stimulated a lot of questions,” he said. “It piqued the interest of those in attendance.”

Hughes is pleased with the award and is hopeful for publication.

“For students to have a peer-reviewed article published would be a great honor,” he said. “To pass muster before a jury of experts would be a dream come true.”

The paper proposed five “primary differentiators” for manufacturing success: flow of information, the human factor (leadership, teamwork, etc.), cost and efficiency, integration of information technology and cooperative methodologies.

“A very interesting concept encountered in our research was “presenteeism,” Hughes said.

“Presenteeism refers to being present for work, but not operating at peak efficiency due to chronic or other health problems,” he said. “Employees want to do a good job, but are hampered by health issues.”

“There is no way to accurately calculate the costs of “presenteeism,” but the costs are high,” Hughes said. “It points to the need for wellness programs.”

An Army veteran who was called back into service for Desert Shield, Hughes has worked in the Office of University Computing and Information Systems for five years and started classes in the School of Business shortly after joining UNCP. It’s been a long haul, but he expects to graduate in May 2007 “if everything goes as planned.”

“I leave work in the evening mentally exhausted and go home to write papers and do homework,” Hughes said. “I have family responsibilities too.”

With an undergraduate degree in computer science, Hughes may seem out of place in an MBA program, but he is thriving.

“Accounting is a tough subject, but it’s OK,” he said. “The hardest course was quantitative methods, which is intermediate statistics. It involved a lot of calculus and linear programming, among other topics. It was a struggle all the way.”

Supporting faculty, staff, and students as they use approximately 1,400 computers on the UNCP campus, as well as remote sites is a demanding but rewarding job, Hughes said.

“Our office is a mix of hard work and family atmosphere,” he said. “I feel like I contribute, and I am appreciated for what I do.”

Sounds like a recipe for operational success.

To learn more about the MBA program or other programs at the School of Business, please call 910.521.6214 or email business@uncp.edu.