While growing up in Anderson, Indiana, Michael Busing’s teachers inspired him to pursue a career in education as early as age five. Unlike many young students, he thought his teachers were cool. He wanted to be like them, but there was another path being laid out for him.
Busing, dean of the College of Business, grew up around his family’s meat processing business, Emge Packing Company. As a high school student, before he was allowed to work in the plant, he waxed semis in the truck-servicing area. During his undergraduate years at Purdue University, he worked in the production facility during the summers before eventually becoming a sales representative for Emge. He was being groomed to go back into the family business after college.
After graduating from Purdue with a degree in management in 1988, he went to Ball State University to pursue a master’s in management science. It was there where his education career became more feasible.
“They didn’t have a doctoral program, so one of my professors who I was working with gave me the chance to actually teach a class,” Busing said. “I only taught a couple of class sessions, but I just remember thinking, ‘That sealed the deal for me and I really like doing this,’ and I think the reason I sort of gravitated toward business was because of my family’s business.”
In 1990, the same year Busing graduated from Ball State, Emge was at a crossroads. Busing was the fourth generation of the company, and by then, the organization was struggling to find strong leadership outside the family. At that point, his father told him, “I don’t want you to come back to this business. I want you to do something different.” His family sold the company to a larger organization and much of the family left the business.
“I got my chance to go do the first thing I loved and that was teach,” Busing said. “It was a happy day for me.”
After completing his doctorate at Clemson University in 1996, Busing took a job at JMU as an assistant professor in the College of Business and has remained at the school ever since.
“You don’t really realize how special JMU is until you go somewhere else and take a look around,” Busing said. “It’s the people. It’s the faculty … It’s the way we’re about relationships.”
Busing took over as dean of the CoB in January after serving on an interim basis since July 2018, after Mary Gowan announced she’d be moving to a faculty position in the School of Strategic Leadership Studies after a five-year term as dean. The search for a new dean began in August and the school announced Busing’s hire on Dec. 18.
Bob Kolvoord, dean of the College of Integrated Science and Engineering and chair of the search committee, said the college was looking for a strong leader, an effective fundraiser and someone who could support cross-campus initiatives in the CoB.
With the new CoB Learning Complex under construction, the school still needs to raise about $3 million in private support for the new building. Whoever took over as dean would need to be able to reach that goal, and Kolvoord said he’s confident that Busing can get there.
“Fundraising is really about relationships, and effective fundraisers are people that can build effective relationships,” Kolvoord said. “I’m convinced that Dr. Busing has that particular skill, and I think he connects well with alums and he’s able to tell the College of Business story in a really effective and compelling way.”
Aside from fundraising, Busing is looking for more ways to involve alumni in the future of the CoB. While the college currently conducts “career treks” for students to engage with the alumni base and their businesses, these treks only take about 20 students at a time to visit alumni businesses across the country. Busing said he plans to use virtual meetings to connect with alumni, as well as mentoring and coaching programs that would involve pairing a few students per semester with some of the college’s 30-plus members of the board of advisors.
Along with keeping students connected to alumni, Busing said he wants to start establishing a stronger long-term relationship between the college and its alumni base. According to Busing, the life cycle of technical skills in the industry is shrinking, and it’s becoming more important for professionals to “retool” and refresh their skills. By opening more master’s and certificate programs at the college, Busing hopes more alumni will choose JMU when they decide to further their education.
“His vision was not just about students or faculty, but staff members, alumni and external constituents — the community,” Interim Academic Unit Head for the Department of Marketing and member of the search committee Theresa Clarke said. “He seemed to have this ability to see all the different stakeholders that are involved in the College of Business.”
His background in business that started with washing trucks for his family company, his degrees in management and his passion for education led him to JMU. After nearly 23 years at the university, he now has the chance as dean of the CoB to lead educators such as his professor at Ball State who gave him his start in teaching.
“I’m so thankful for the faculty and staff in the CoB, the Hart School and the School of Strategic Leadership Studies for believing in me and allowing me to have this opportunity to lead them,” Busing said.
Contact Thomas Robertson at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.