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B&E professor in USA Today

Max Houck, director of forensic business development, was recently interviewed by USA Today for an article on what is being called the Christmas Day Bomber. 
Max Houck
Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab was indicted in early January after the failed Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. airliner. The charges include attempt to murder 289 people aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam, Netherlands, on Dec. 25, as it began its landing in Detroit.

The indictment said Abdul Mutallab boarded carrying a concealed bomb concealed in his clothing and designed to be detonated "at a time of his choosing."

The device failed to fully detonate, instead setting off a fire at the man's seat. He was subdued and restrained by the passengers and flight crew. The airplane landed shortly thereafter, and he was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.

Houck, who joined the College of Business and Economics in 2004, commented on how investigators were gathering evidence about the attempted bombing., including how DNA evidence might lead them to a location where the bomb was made.

“Even if investigators can't match DNA from the bomb to specific individuals, that evidence still can be valuable,” Houck, told the USA Today reporters, "if they can get profiles and if they think they might have a likely bomb making location based on other evidence, they can start testing items at that location to see if they find DNA that matches."
The entire article is at:

WVU’s Executive MBA goes online

Busy professionals seeking an MBA degree to advance their careers will have an accredited, flexible option this, fall as West Virginia University’s College of Business and Economics announced Thursday that it will offer the executive MBA online.

Student Speaking

WVU prominent in national magazine

When the 50,000 members of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners received their January/February issue of Fraud Magazine, they came face-to-face with Timothy Pearson, WVU professor of accounting.

Meet Patrick Geiger - WVU EMBA graduate

Patrick Geiger graduated with a WVU EMBA degree in December 2009, and he has every right to be relieved. For the past two and one-half years, he has worked hard for the advanced degree, all while helping to open the new Morgantown Fairfield Inn Hotel.

Geiger, the hotel’s general manager, was onboard before the building was opened at the University Town Centre, just off Interstate 79. 

“This has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done professionally,” he said. “We planned on getting open by July 6 this year—from construction to operation by July 6.  As the operational team came in, it was clear the construction team was nowhere close to being done. I actually lived here at the hotel during that time, working from 5:30 in the morning until about 1:30 the next morning every day for three weeks until we opened.”

Lewis County High, Wesleyan grad, gets EMBA and $1.3 million federal contract

Arria Whiston has a lot to celebrate.  After two and one-half years of study, she just received an Executive Master of Business Administration degree from WVU, and in July, her company was awarded its first federal contract —$1.3 million.

Whiston, who graduated from Lewis County High School and earned a degree in accounting from West Virginia Wesleyan College, is CEO of a small company called Allegheny Technology Corp., a management-engineering-technology firm in Weston, W.Va.  

“I wear all the hats right now,” Whiston said. “It’s a small, start-up company with only three employees. My main charge right now is growing the company.  I was elated to learn that we got the federal contract.  It is a program-management, knowledge-management contract, and it fits my area of expertise perfectly.  It’s a good fit, and I hope this will be the first of many such contracts.”

Her contract is for work with the NASA IV&V Facility in Fairmont, W.Va., which tests software for mission safety assurance.  Her company focuses on program management, software engineering and “the full-gamut of engineering services, e-learning and business intelligence.”

“For my company, the future looks great,” she commented. “We’re on the ground floor and the opportunities are endless. Right now it’s a matter of figuring out our marketing strategy and getting the company known.”  She started her sole proprietor, AW Consulting business in 1998 and formed the corporation early 2009.

To that end she attended the Small Business Innovative Research Conference early in December in Morgantown. “The conference was a great foundation for small businesses to team with universities,” she said. “I was there to, hopefully, find a researcher or a Ph.D. who has a great idea who needs help in bringing that idea into implementation.”

Whiston graduated on Dec. 12 with 21 other EMBA candidates who have studied in groups in Morgantown and Elkins, joined by distance-learning technology. More than 1,300 WVU students graduated in December. 

“I wanted to go back and get an EMBA for many years, and I waited for a point when my kids (ages 22, 20 and 13) were older and I knew it would give me a lot broader knowledge of business management than just a bachelor’s.”  

She said she has learned “broader skills,” especially in-depth analysis and entrepreneurship.  “I’ve learned a lot about business valuations and the broader aspects of management that you don’t really get into in your normal work environment,” she said. “The capstone simulation course–where you actually manage a company from beginning to end–that course was really valuable.”

Plans for the future?  “Grow the business while maintaining a balance in my life,” Whiston said. “I think any entrepreneur is a bit of a workaholic–and I tend to work all the time–or I’m thinking about what I need to do next. “

Robert Wentz, president of Information Research Corp. of Fairmont, W.Va., has known Whiston for years and said her success as a woman in the technology area is significant. 

“Arria is a very driven and motivated businesswoman and leader,” he said.  “With this first NASA contract win, the future of her new company looks extremely bright.  In a typically male-dominated industry, she brings a unique combination of management and technical skills to the company.  It is great to see all of her academic and industry skills coming together.  I expect to see great things out of Arria and Allegheny Technology Corp.”

Whiston said in tackling the EMBA, the most difficult challenge was “keeping all my plates spinning.”

“My analogy in life is the person who does the circus act, spinning plates on the ends of sticks.  For me, it was getting a business off the ground in the middle of the EMBA program.  I have a family, and I work full time, plus I’ve had my class work to maintain.  There are lots of plates to keep in the air.”  

Whiston spins them and doesn’t mind too much if sometimes they fall. “If you don’t break a few plates, you haven’t been challenging yourself,” she said. “So, it’s been worth it.  It’s been a big year, and I was elated to get my degree, walking on air.  It’s been a challenge, but definitely worth it.”

Marketing students get feel for today’s real world of advertising

In the hit television series Mad Men, advertising client presentations in the 1960s were made over scotch on the rocks in a smoke-filled office. Today, however, students at West Virginia University are finding that integrated marketing communications has changed.

“To a certain extent, student presentations aren’t unlike what you’d see on Mad Men. The goal is to creatively solve client’s marketing communication problems. The big difference is today there is  a different generation in advertising, and we’re not going to have bottles of scotch and the life of excess you see on TV,” said Dr. Michael Walsh, assistant professor of marketing.

 “The students who really get it realize that their presentations are all about salesmanship. They need to convince the client that their recommendations are the best. I can remember one team – they were so smart! As part of their recommendation, they proposed doing a  a special event. This event involved food, and they actually baked cakes that they suggested the client use. They pulled out these cakes for the clients to eat. That was so smart for not only were the cakes delicious but they helped the client to realize the full scope of their plan.”

It’s not just the quality of the ideas students have: It’s how they present the ideas, he said. A good presentation is more than a fancy PowerPoint production. Clients have to be able to get their arms around the students’ ideas. 

Walsh’s students read from a text, Essentials of Contemporary Advertising, study marketing cases and do an advertisement simulation game. But it’s the semester-long real-client team project that is the capstone. It’s a project inspired by the real world, Walsh said.  

Students in teams of four to five are assigned a client from agencies at West Virginia University and businesses in the Morgantown area. Early in the semester they meet face-to-face with these clients to learn about them and their marketing-communications needs. Then they begin to work toward presentations given to the clients just before finals week.

 The course, Marketing 380, is a “win-win.”  Students get experience working with real clients, and those clients get some good ideas that they can use. Ideas range from adjusting product prices, to Facebook pages, new logos and developing special relationships with customers. Clients leave the classroom with the presentation boards of ideas that they can implement.  And students can show prospective employers these ideas actually in use and say, “Hey, that was my idea!”

Student works toward dream business

Business plan competition winner Robbie Loehr has his new business all twisted up, but he’s hammering things out.

Fact is, twisting and hammering are the essential dynamisms for creating his product—jewelry made out of old bicycle parts.

WVU website provides 2010 census and state demographic info

In April, thousands of census takers will be combing the nation as part of the 2010 census, and in preparation, West Virginia University has established a web site to provide access to census information and much more.

The BBER Data website provides links to a sample census questionnaire, details from previous censuses—back 1790 when the every-10-year census began—and even a link to information on how to get a census job.