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Dean Steve Tanzilli leads innovation in the Rowland School of Business

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The Point
Spring 2017

In his role as dean of the Rowland School of Business, Stephen Tanzilli, J.D., has broad oversight of all academic programs, including accounting, business management, economics and finance, HR management, information technology, organizational leadershippublic administrationM.B.A., M.A. leadership, and M.S. in health care administration as well as the sports, arts and entertainment management (SAEM) program, which includes such innovative learning efforts as a dedicated classroom at Stage AE on Pittsburgh’s North Shore and Pioneer Records. Specializing in sports management, Tanzilli is the co-founder of the SAEM program, in which he served as a professor and chair.

He also ran his own sports talent agency, Sports Legends Group, a full-service marketing, finance and law firm for professional athletes. He has worked with players from the Pittsburgh Steelers and other high profile clients. His background includes 12 years of experience with 141 Worldwide Sports and Entertainment where he worked closely with clients such as Coca-Cola, 84 Lumber, Sunoco, TOPPS, ESPN, and Kraft Foods. In addition, Tanzilli has worked with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Johnston Steel Baseball Club, International Sports Marketing and Communicator Sports Marketing. The Point talked with him about the Rowland School of Business:

"Our vision is to connect our students with the marketplace, and connect the marketplace with our students. We work very hard to provide quality opportunities for our students, in the classroom, and through internships and our new cooperative education (co-op) program … We are Pittsburgh’s Downtown business school."

-- Stephen Tanzilli, J.D., Dean


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What is the vision for the Rowland School of Business?

ST: Our vision is to connect our students with the marketplace, and connect the marketplace with our students. We work very hard to provide quality opportunities for our students, in the classroom, and through internships and our new cooperative education (co-op) program. We want to engage the Pittsburgh marketplace – to have industry professionals come into our classrooms, interact with students, and at the end of the day, provide students with the practical skills they need to be employable. We want our school to be seen as the innovative place for business. That is, anything that is new and emerging in the world of business [can be found at] the Rowland School, which is located in the heart of the city. We are Pittsburgh’s Downtown business school.

Tell us more about opportunities for students to gain practical experience.

ST: Practical experience is so important. We know that students who have internships, and gain work experience while in college, have an exponential greater chance of securing employment upon graduation. I want to leverage our Downtown Pittsburgh location, to go out and build bridges between the corporate community and our students, so that the curriculum that we provide is offering the up-to-date learning that students need.

What is the new cooperative education program?

ST: We are the first in the region to have a cooperative education (co-op) program that touches all disciplines in the Rowland School of Business. We have had a very robust internship program for a number of years. When we talked with business professionals, they said, ‘we love Point Park business students, but one of the challenges with an internship is the fact that it’s an inconsistent schedule. Is there a way that we can have students work for our company on a much more consistent basis, to provide more substance?’ So, we decided that now is the time to establish a co-op program. In the co-op program, a student works full-time, during which they are paid a reasonable wage, and they receive six academic credits for their work. It is crucial, for a student’s employability, that they be able to put on their resume that they have worked in business [while a student]. So, it’s a mutually beneficial program for students and for the Pittsburgh business community.

What are the benefits to businesses?

ST: Well, we have a terrific group of students, very eager and willing to work hard for companies. We also have incredible faculty who are working in [business] and bringing those skills into our classrooms. Another major factor is the adaptability of our curriculum, which is continually assessed. I look forward to getting out into the marketplace and sharing with [professionals] what our curriculum offers, and in turn making sure that what we are teaching is what is actually needed in the workplace. I tell students, ‘your curriculum when you walk in the door freshman year may not be exactly the same when you graduate.’ And that’s a good thing, because we are always assessing the curriculum, with our students and alumni, and we are constantly engaging with the business community to make sure what we are teaching in the classroom provides the skills that students need when they graduate.

Describe the faculty and staff of the Rowland School of Business.

ST: I’ve been affiliated with Point Park for more than 13 years, and one of the things that I am most proud of is our faculty, who are very industry-focused, as well as our incredible staff. They are there to support students, and to make sure that each student has the support that they need to get to graduation and into the workplace. Having industry-focused faculty really helps ensure that our curriculum, our students and our staff are all on the same page – that we are student-focused.

How has the curriculum been adapted to serve students? 

ST: One important academic initiative is a career preparation course that all students will be required to take. It covers such areas as the importance of resumes, cover letters, interviews and more. When we talk with business professionals, they’ve told us that college students, in general, need to develop basic skills for success in the job interview process. So, we have been working very hard to help students develop those skills. Another new class, to be added this fall, is a financial management course that will be required at the sophomore level. It will cover such topics as the importance of savings, credit and much more. Many of our students will go on to work in such areas as sales, or serve as a consultant, or start their own business. And understanding how to do that, from a legal and financial standpoint, is very important. We are listening to students and we are listening to industry, and as a result have added these types of classes to our curriculum.

Tell us about Pioneer Records.

ST: One example of our innovative programs is Pioneer Records. Over the years, our students have told us that they would love to have their own record label. In our sports, arts and entertainment management (SAEM) program, we focus on the business side of the industry. Our students said, ‘you talk about labels and about the importance of representing artists, and we’ve seen some contracts, but would really be great is if we could have our own label.’ They wanted to actually manage, promote and sell bands. So, three years ago, we started Pioneer Records. We have space at a recording studio, right across from PPG Paints Arena. Our students go out and sign a band, promote the band, put on a CD release party, and handle all of the intellectual property for that band. It’s been an incredible learning experience. This is the kind of innovative initiative that we plan to spread throughout the entire Rowland School of Business.

Interview by Cheryl Valyo
Photo and video by Chris Rolinson
The Point is the magazine of Point Park University