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The University of Texas at Tyler Magazine, Spring 2010

Focus on Faculty
Making a Difference in Business Decisions
Dr. Marilyn Young Promotes Success Through Management Development

Dr. Marilyn Young

When Tom Mullins set out to establish the Tyler Economic Development Council, one of his initial steps was to tap into business development resources in the community, including those available through institutions of higher education.

At The University of Texas at Tyler, he met Dr. Marilyn Young, a professor of management in the College of Business and Technology.

Dr. Young with Dr. Mabry and studentWith her expertise and dedication not only in preparing students for successful careers in leadership but also in helping businesses and organizations succeed, Dr. Marilyn Young serves as a guiding light at UT Tyler and in the East Texas region.

When TEDC was formed in 1989, the professor already was well connected in the community, serving businesses and organizations as a consultant and researcher. And she directed the UT Tyler Small Business Institute, where students worked with faculty to gain hands-on experience while providing management assistance, counseling and marketing research for the community.

As with other organizations, Dr. Young became an important ally to TEDC, which works to move the local economy forward by promoting the development, recruitment and retention of businesses.

Dr. Young has consistently brought the university into the community, said Mullins, president and chief executive officer of TEDC and the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce.  “She has been actively engaged in the community and, in doing so, has provided a bridge between higher education and the business sector,’’ he said.

“From the day the development corporation started more than 20 years ago, she has been a strong partner with us in economic development and in supporting growth in the business sector. She has done market research and other types of analysis to help companies make decisions,’’ said Mullins.

“And every two or three years, she does our Labor Market Survey and our Wage and Benefit Survey – top level research and very useful information for existing and new employers considering investing and expanding in the Tyler-Smith County area. We send that information to prospects on a continuous basis, because they will inevitably ask who is available in our labor market, what are their skills and what wages and benefits are the norm in our area.’’

Serving the University and Community

Dr. Young with Tom MullinsAt UT Tyler, Dr. Young has taught numerous courses in business administration. Management of organizations, business consulting, entrepreneurship and marketing research are just few of the subjects she has taught. She currently teaches one of her favorite subjects, organizational behavior, on the undergraduate and graduate level.

UT Tyler administrators have looked to her to conduct graduate follow-up surveys and other studies for use in university decision-making. And she has been heavily involved in university service, from chairing a department to involvement on committees to serving as macebearer during commencement.

“One of the things Dr. Young brings to UT Tyler and surrounding communities is a strong historical knowledge of the Tyler area and the university,’’ said Dr. Barbara Wooldridge, UT Tyler associate professor of marketing. “With her continuity of service to the university and the community, she possesses an enormous amount of insight and has provided a lot of value to the marketplace and the community at large.’’

The businesses and organizations Dr. Young assists are many and varied. In addition to working with economic development agencies in East and Central Texas, she has consulted with companies in television, banking, retailing and manufacturing; city governments; schools; and nonprofit organizations.

UT Tyler graduate Jeff Austin III, vice chairman of Austin Bank, is Dr. Young’s former student – and a current business client.

Austin remembers being motivated, challenged and inspired in Dr. Young’s classes while working toward his M.B.A. She does the same for the leadership of Austin Bank, which serves the region with 28 locations in 18 cities and was selected as one of the Best Companies to Work for in Texas. 

In addition to conducting focus groups and research for the bank, she provides training to members of the management team in the annual Austin Bank Leadership Institute. It’s a series of classes designed to enhance leadership skills and service delivery. Participants also examine ongoing changes in the financial industry.

“Dr. Young’s abilities as a teacher and communicator are absolutely outstanding,’’ Austin said. “It amazes me what she does for our leadership development. She has a curriculum for the program and gives assignments to help them to be better at what they do. It helps them professionally and personally.’’

He added, “I took her classes years ago, and some things are always relevant regardless of the time; but Dr. Young has the unique ability to stay on top of the industry and current trends.’’

Pursuing an Early Interest

Growing up in Arkansas, Dr. Young recalls being studious and enjoying “every course in all grades.’’ Taking an interest in business early on, she began studying the subject at North Little Rock High School.

Her parents instilled in her the values of hard work, self-reliance – and getting a college education. “They didn’t realize I would become a professional student,’’ quipped the professor, who earned a B.S. in business administration, an M.B.A. and a Ph.D., all from the Sam Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

Dr. Young with business studentAs an undergraduate she planned to major in Spanish or business “but I was inspired by professors in the College of Business Administration and knew I could either work for a corporation or teach business. So I chose the latter but also took as much Spanish as possible to become certified in the subject,’’ said the professor, who spent two years in Spain after high school.

From economics and the free enterprise system to the management of organizations, Dr. Young found the subject of business fascinating.

“Early on, I had an economics professor who inspired me as I became intrigued with our economic system. While taking management courses, I realized the importance of the organizations that make our economic system work,’’ she recalled.

“Understanding the free enterprise system, the profit motive, freedom of choice and the achievement motive has been important in my teaching,’’ she added. “I enjoy sharing with my students the great companies and characteristics of their success. ‘In Search of Excellence’ is still one of my favorite books.’’ Authored by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr., the book delves into effective management practiced by some of America’s most successful companies.

Dr. Young also was inspired by a management professor, Dr. Paul Hersey. “He taught the importance of people in organizations who want more than money and benefits. They want recognition, respect, feedback and interesting work, but many managers may not be aware of this,’’ she said.

Dr. Hersey is best known for developing with Dr. Ken Blanchard situational leadership theory. According to the theory, one’s leadership style should be adapted to a worker’s developmental level.

“You may have staff members who are unable or unwilling, who will perform better under a directing style of leadership, but there may be others who can be left alone. A delegating style of leadership works better for them. Therefore, leadership is a function of the maturity level of the workers,’’ Dr. Young said. “I was intrigued with the theory and teach it in every management class, every semester at UT Tyler.’’

During college, Dr. Young worked for businesses including financial institutions and insurance agencies. After completing her M.B.A., she was recommended by a professor for a position at the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas and was offered a marketing position in Houston with the Sanger Harris department store chain. She decided to pursue her Ph.D. instead.

Dr. Young admits the doctorate program was difficult in that she chose a program with a wide background including management, marketing, finance and economics with tools in accounting, statistics and Spanish.

“I am happy that I chose those options as I can appreciate all areas of an organization or business curriculum as being important and have an understanding of advising the student according to his or her interests,’’ said the professor, who taught business at the University of Arkansas and operations management at Little Rock Air Base and Memphis Naval Station while working on her Ph.D.

As a researcher, Dr. Young has been deeply involved in assessing what organizations need for success. Her research, which often relates to her work as a business consultant, particularly focuses on entrepreneurship, small business needs and businesses owned by minorities and women.

Transnational entrepreneurship, hidden unemployment and international teams are among current research topics for the professor, who has published in numerous professional journals and presented at conferences across the nation. She also has served on editorial review boards for the “Journal of Business & Entrepreneurship’’ and the “Journal of Small Business Management.’’

It’s All About People

Dr. Young with students during group activity in class.
While she enjoys doing research and professional work in her field, Dr. Young is a teacher at heart.

The management of people is among her favorite subjects to explore with students. In fact, the name of her undergraduate and graduate organizational behavior courses will soon be changed to “management of people in organizations’’ to better reflect the content.

“I like the subject of managing people because I believe people are the most important resource in an organization,’’ she said.

Through class discussions, simulations, tapes and other activities, her students gain insight into leadership and behavioral management concepts such as team building, motivation, interpersonal communication and problem solving.

The students apply concepts in social psychology and other behavioral sciences to appraise current organizational practices and analyze management practices of some of the most successful companies.

What are some key practices for organizational success?

“I believe there are two practices that are very important: Take care of your customers and your employees,’’ Dr. Young said. “First of all, focus on employees, treat them well and then they will take care of the customers. The employee-customer-profit chain illustrates the concept,’’ she said.

Her classes examine the practices of organizations such as The Walt Disney Co., which is considered among the nation’s best-run companies.

“Some of the most successful companies put people first,’’ said Dr. Young, who recently attended the Disney Institute for a closer look at the company’s culture and
strategies.

“The Disney way focuses on details and people development. A couple of the other companies we discuss in class are Southwest Airlines, which achieves high performance through motivation, teamwork and coordination among employees, and Starbucks, the first company to begin offering benefits to part-time employees.’’

For Dr. Young, the most rewarding aspect of teaching is “when my students apply what they learn. If they can take what they learn in the classroom and actually use it in their business situation, that’s the most important thing,’’ said the professor, who organized UT Tyler’s Beta Gamma Sigma, an honor society for top business juniors, seniors and graduate students.

Lessons in Leadership

Dr. YoungSue Saxenmeyer, former senior vice president of marketing at Cox Communications, entered the M.B.A. program at UT Tyler in 2001. Encouraging its management employees to continue their education, the company financed her return to school. She graduated in 2003.

The Tyler resident took Dr. Young’s organizational behavior and leadership courses. She said the professor also helped her navigate the master’s program.

 “Marilyn Young was one of the important individuals in my M.B.A. experience at UT Tyler,’’ the Tyler resident said.

“She helped me realize my own work and interaction styles as well as how to recognize my strengths and weaknesses. Her lectures led me to a better understanding of my colleagues at the office and in other organizations, how best to communicate with them and how to be more productive,’’ said Saxenmeyer, who is vice president of communications for EveryCarListed.com, a national automotive sales Web site connecting buyers with sellers.

“I do volunteer work, and the lessons learned in her classes have been just as important there,’’ she added.

Carroll Rogé, corporate director of marketing with the East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System, took Dr. Young’s organizational behavior class when he returned to school for his M.B.A. He graduated in 2000 and is now an adjunct business instructor at the university. 

“Dr. Young is one of those professors that it seems just about every business student at UT Tyler knows and remembers fondly,’’ Rogé said.

“She is a standout for several reasons. First and foremost, she has enthusiasm for the subject matter and clearly enjoys teaching. Dr. Young connects with her students as a result,’’ he said. “Of course, she is very knowledgeable about her subject and works hard to stay abreast of the changing developments in her field. I learned so much in her class.’’

As a corporate director, Rogé said he continues to practice situational leadership and theories of motivation Dr. Young presented. “Her instruction in group dynamics and team building helped lay the foundation for much of what I do with the marketing staff at ETMC and in my broader role as trainer here,’’ he noted.

Dr. Young has many students outside the business major.

Preparing for a career as a land surveyor, senior industrial technology major John Pouncy said the lessons he learned in Dr. Young’s organizational behavior class “far transcend the classroom or office environment. What I learned will remain with me in my daily interactions with everyone I come into contact with.’’

Dr. Young’s class assignments are not “the typical,’’ said Pouncy, who commutes to UT Tyler from Dallas.

“What she gives students is the opportunity for self-actualization, to learn about the type of person we are and what type of opportunities we create for ourselves. In short, we were able to define our locus of control and tap into it,’’ the student said. “Dr. Young affects her students in an exemplary manner on a daily basis.’’

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