From serving as a public school teacher in Ohio to teaching English in China and leading students and faculty at Crown College as university president, Dr. Rick Mann has demonstrated a life of leadership.

Mann, a Trevecca business professor and director of graduate business programs at the University, also serves as the program director of Trevecca’s MBA program. He’s also in the process of building Trevecca’s new Doctor of Business Administration program, set to launch this fall.

The Road to Trevecca

Mann’s passion is to shape business leaders, and it’s his expertise and attitude that make that possible, Trevecca leaders say.

"Dr. Mann is a gifted strategic thinker and leader who has served in high level leadership roles and consulted with dozens of organizations throughout the world,” said Dr. Tim Eades, Trevecca’s executive vice president of graduate and continuing studies.

After college, Mann received a master’s degree in Chinese studies, then completed a doctorate in language and culture, which allowed him to learn the Chinese language. Out of this, Mann developed an interest in traveling internationally. Soon, he and his wife, Cheri, packed up and moved to China, teaching English to Chinese students by day and teaching Chinese to American workers by night.

After a number of years in China, during which Mann became interested in leadership development, Mann and his family moved back to the states. Mann served as a pastor in the Denver area for a number of years, eventually moving to Minneapolis where he would begin his career as a college administrator.

It was while serving as the president of Crown College that Mann added another degree to his accolades: an MBA. Mann remembers well the thought process that led to the decision to pursue another graduate degree and become a better equipped leader.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’ve been a nonprofit leader for more than a decade,’” Mann remembers. “I realized that I didn’t understand finance enough to run a multimillion-dollar college.” 

So, while serving as president and all the responsibilities running a college entails, Mann completed his MBA at the University of Minnesota.

After 13 years as provost and president of the college, Mann felt the need to pivot into the business side of academics. This change led to Mann coming to Trevecca where he now serves as director of graduate and professional studies and professor of leadership and strategy.

Finding Success

Since arriving on the Hill in 2013, Mann says he’s seen Trevecca’s programs grow exponentially due to a collaborative relationship with great leaders.

"The first thing I noticed when I came to Trevecca was my appreciation of the leadership of Dr. Dan Boone, Dr. Steve Pusey (University provost) and my dean of the business school, Jim Hiatt,” Mann says. “Six years later, I still like working with them.”

After Mann’s first year at Trevecca, he approached Hiatt with an idea to move Trevecca’s MBA program in a new direction: online. Mann received approval to rollout the program which he says, “has continued to excel since its inception.”

During Mann’s second and third year at Trevecca, he partnered with Eades on admissions and Matt Toy in marketing in an effort to expand the MBA program.

“It has been delightful to work with Dr. Rick Mann and Dr. Hiatt in an effort to grow and strengthen the MBA,” Eades says. “Upon my arrival in 2014, I found a strong leadership team in place within the Skinner School of Business and a great foundation of more than a dozen years for Trevecca’s MBA.”

In recent years, Trevecca’s MBA program has experienced significant growth—in both online and face-to-face enrollment. Mann expects to expand the face-to-face program to Trevecca’s new Atlanta campus in the coming months.

Data compiled by Carol Smith for the Nashville Business Journal recently confirmed that growth, showing Trevecca’s graduate business programs in the state, bested only by the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business. Trevecca’s programs grew at a rate of 12.61 percent from fall 2017 to fall 2018, while UT grew 15.79 percent. Belmont University’s Jack C. Massey Graduate School of Business ranked a distant third, trailing Trevecca by 5 percentage points.

Mann, Eades and others in Trevecca’s School of Graduate and Continuing Studies and the Skinner School of Business and Technology are already developing plans to build on and sustain that momentum. Mann, along with Dr. Corliss McGee, professor of business at Trevecca, worked together to lay the groundwork for a new doctoral program in business administration (DBA).

The DBA program is expected to launch in fall 2019.

For Mann, the success of Trevecca’s graduate business programs is tied to the quality and competitiveness of the curriculum as well as the strength and industry know-how of the faculty.

But there’s something else, Mann says, that has helped spur that success: the fact that Trevecca has created a unique marketplace for its MBA program.

"I think we offer an industry-strength program that is the best value in the region,” Mann says, stressing that other Nashville institutions such as Vanderbilt University, Belmont University and Lipscomb University offer similar MBA programs with a significantly higher price tag. “Trevecca is booming because we provide a solid product at an affordable price."

The Focus of Leadership

When Mann isn’t in the classroom or thinking about the classroom, he runs his boutique consulting firm ClarionStrategy, where he works with clients like Hunt Brothers Pizza and a number of global groups. The firm offers strategy consulting and coaching designed to develop and grow strategic leaders and organizations.

Mann has also been working on his latest book, Strategic Leaders Are Made, Not Born, which is set to come out before the end of the year.

For Mann, leadership—whether in the classroom or a boardroom—is something he’s passionate about, but he’s quick to point out that his work and his leadership is firmly rooted in his faith. 

“My work out in the field is an extension of my mission and Trevecca’s Christian mission,” Mann says.

When Mann asks graduate students who are just starting the program about the purpose of business, he says their response is usually simple: to make money. Mann, on the other hand, has a different definition, one that shapes his own leadership and his teaching style.

“[The purpose is] to create greater value for our stakeholders and to bless more people every day.”

Professional growth in authentic community

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