Mike Cottrell College of Business fuels economic development

Support from the Cottrells has helped the college lead in the region’s economic development

In 2006, when Mike Cottrell committed a transformative gift of $10 million to the university in support of the College of Business, he championed a vision to build strong graduates and strong communities in support of regional economic development. Since then, the Mike Cottrell College of Business (MCCB) has grown in size and stature.

The college now serves more than 4,300 students — about 23% of UNG’s nearly 20,000 students — in an array of undergraduate and graduate programs. Also, it is among the less than 5% of the world’s business schools to have earned accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International, a hallmark of excellence.


A New Dean & A New Facility

The college moves into 2019 with a new dean at the helm—Dr. Mary A. Gowan, who previously served as a dean and professor at James Madison University, dean of Elon University’s Martha and Spencer Love School of Business, and as an associate dean at George Washington University’s School of Business. Gowan, who began her new role in February, noted UNG’s leadership in accounting, cybersecurity, entrepreneurship, and supply chain logistics, and she is excited to help build on the strong foundation in those and other areas.

“A lot of good seeds have been planted,” Gowan said. “I get to come in and help them to flourish.”

Also on the horizon is a new MCCB building at UNG’s Dahlonega Campus. The building will include updated educational space, laboratories and equipment for cybersecurity and computer forensics programs.

“Currently, business courses and faculty are spread across multiple buildings, which diminishes the synergy that results from being in a common space,” Gowan said. “This facility will create a learning environment to ensure our students are well equipped to enter the high-demand workforce in a high-tech industry.”

The facility received $2.3 million in support from the state legislature this year for planning and design funding of the project and a new commitment of $10 million from Mike Cottrell to help fund construction.

Dr. Mary Gowan
Dean, Mike Cottrell College of Business


Innovate UNG

Cottrell’s transformational gift in 2006 helped create UNG’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to encourage business development. With support from the center, a UNG student team took its idea to the statewide stage and finished in the top five of the inaugural Georgia InVenture Prize competition held in April in Atlanta.

Business students Samuel Herrera and Caleb Hearn won the innovateUNG Pitch Challenge and its top prize of $2,000 in February and advanced to the state competition, where they pitched their Opus Affinity app. The app aims to help Georgia’s craft breweries tell their stories and build brand loyalty with videos delivered via custom QR codes on the bottles.

The team of Samuel Herrera, right, and Caleb Hearn was among the five teams in the finals in the statewide Georgia InVenture Prize competition.

Innovate UNG award winners received 3D printed trophies as well as cash prizes for first place ($2,000), second place ($1,000) and the people’s choice award ($500).
Six teams competed in the innovateUNG Pitch Challenge; their innovative concepts included a guitar stand, a restaurant proposal, a decoy for turkey hunting, and more. The quality of the students’ ideas impressed the center’s director, Dr. Ruben Boling, who noted that innovation and entrepreneurship is an impetus for job-creation.

“That’s the quality that we’re looking for all our entrepreneurship students. We want them to get to that point where they understand they can create not just their own job, but a valuable business,” Boling said. “When you have the ability to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem that enables entrepreneurs to create new businesses on a regular basis, it has a major impact on the economic condition of the community and region. These student startups add value and help create jobs.”

UNG President Bonita Jacobs echoed that excitement.

“UNG has encouraged entrepreneurship for years, among our students and in the region, and this competition is an opportunity to showcase how innovative and resourceful our students are,” Jacob said.

Supply Chain Logistics

A new degree concentration in supply chain management and a growing partnership with industry come at a perfect time to help prepare the region for the workforce needs associated with the Georgia Port Authority’s new inland terminal in Hall County. Former Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced the 104-acre facility in late 2018 and it is scheduled for completion in 2021.

MCCB leaders and Syfan Logistics, a Hall County, Georgia, firm that specializes in transportation logistics, formed a mutually beneficial partnership in 2017. Many UNG students intern at Syfan Logistics during its annual holiday shipping project and the summer break. Leadership from Syfan, in turn, helped UNG hone its curriculum for the Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a concentration in supply chain management and logistics.

“It was good collaboration for both sides,” Dr. Cesar Ayala, assistant professor of management, said. “It helps us improve our curriculum. We can teach students the skills employers like Syfan expect them to have. We also know what attributes and qualities industry officials are looking for in future employees.”

During regular visits to Ayala’s classes, Syfan officials explained how the logistics industry is not limited to truckers and dispatchers but provides multiple career opportunities. That message resonated with UNG senior Kondwani Kapembwa. The finance major from Lusaka, Zambia, interned at Syfan for 10 weeks—an experience that helped her land a job with a capital investment firm in Virginia months before her graduation.

“It was one of those unexpected things,” she said. “Not a lot of finance majors look at supply chain management as an option. But the internship opened my eyes to what I could do with my finance degree.”


Mike Cottrell: A visionary supporter of education and communities

President Bonita Jacobs, right, poses with Mike Cottrell, who has supported UNG through two gifts totaling $20 million as well as annual funds to support programs and scholarships in the Mike Cottrell College of Business.
In recognition of extraordinary and generous support of UNG, the University System of Georgia Foundation presented Mike Cottrell with one of its highest honors — the Regents’ Hall of Fame Alumni and Distinguished Friends Award — at its gala in February.

Cottrell and his wife, Lynn, have made two transformational gifts to UNG: $10 million in 2006 to kick off the university’s first-ever capital campaign and support the Mike Cottrell College of Business, and a second $10 million gift in 2018 to support a new business facility at UNG’s Dahlonega Campus. Additionally, the Cottrells provide significant support each year for business programs and scholarships.

“I am grateful to Mike and Lynn Cottrell for their exceptional generosity in having made the two largest contributions in UNG’s 145-year history,” UNG President Bonita Jacobs said. “In making these significant and highly visible gifts,

the Cottrells have supported our current and future students and helped our graduates compete in regional and global communities to obtain high-level employment and become the business leaders of the future.”

Cottrell is a leading entrepreneur in the north Georgia region, and Cottrell Inc. is the top manufacturer and marketer of over-the-road car haulers in the world. The Cottrells are longtime supporters of the university because of their belief in UNG and the education it provides students across the region.

With financial support from the Mike Cottrell Endowment Fund, the college has earned AACSB accreditation and is recognized as a “Best for Vets Business School” by Military Times. The Cottrell MBA was ranked as the fifth-best public, part-time MBA program in Georgia by U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Best Graduate Schools report.

REED Summit 2019

In September, the college will play a key role in UNG’s 2019 Regional Education and Economic Development (REED) Summit, which will feature the theme of “North Georgia Means Business.” The event, fashioned after a successful “2018 REED Summit: Not Everyone in Healthcare Wears Scrubs” that focused on careers in the region’s healthcare industry, will cover the business environment in the region and careers in business. For event details, visit ung.edu/REED.


10 Years of MBA

In its first decade, the Cottrell MBA program has awarded more than 200 degrees, expanded to two campuses, and added graduate-level certificates in cybersecurity, entrepreneurship and innovation, and technology leadership. A part-time program built for working professionals, the Cottrell MBA was recognized as one of the top five public, part-time MBA programs in Georgia in the U.S. News & World Report 2018 Best Graduate Schools rankings.

The program has grown quickly in 10 years, from 27 students in the first cohort to 73 students currently enrolled in the program. That growth is expected to continue as the need for business managers continues to outpace the supply across Georgia. According to the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL), the business management job sector is growing across the state, with 7,380 more managers needed just by 2019.

The Cottrell MBA’s affordability and convenience drew 50-year-old Bruce Wing, president of Strategic Wealth LLC in Alpharetta, Georgia, to return to school to seek an MBA and continue to a doctorate.

“The University of North Georgia is an excellent school with a very good reputation, and I personally know several of its excellent professors,” Wing said. “As the ‘old guy’ going back to school, it’s fun to talk with talented men and women a generation younger than me.

I like to think that my past experience as a senior officer for a Fortune 500 company and my current experience as an entrepreneur add a little color to the classroom discussions.”

The Cottrell MBA enrolls students from various academic backgrounds, not just those with bachelor’s degrees in business. That diversity adds value to the learning experience, said Steven Kronenberg, director of graduate programs for MCCB.

“Our students range from those with years of corporate experience to students who are just getting started,” Kronenberg said. “These students also come from a variety of industries, which further enhances the classroom experience.”