|V. Carlos Slawson, chair of LSU's finance department, has pushed several initiatives that have increased the connectivity between students, alumni and the business community.|
Some people are inspired with innovative ideas every day, almost subconsciously.
But V. Carlos Slawson Jr., chair of LSU's finance department, says he's not one of them.
Slawson is far too modest to describe himself as a master of taking the innovative ideas of others and seeing them to fruition, noting rather that he doesn't know if he's had any original ideas.
Still, since taking over the department three years ago, he's pushed several initiatives that have increased enrollment, alumni involvement and graduate placement.
"If I find somebody who has an idea for improving our department, and they're passionate about it, I don't take that lightly," says Slawson, a New Orleans native who grew up in south Mississippi. "If it doesn't cost a lot of money and all I have to invest is my time, then we can definitely try to push it."
One example is the Finance Academy, which was created in August 2010. Slawson used an anonymous donation of $4,000 to create a collaborative group of 22 high-achieving seniors, juniors and sophomores.
He also formed the Finance Advisory Council, which is composed of 15 alumni who hold prominent positions in the Capital Region. They serve as guest speakers, provide input on coursework and mentor Finance Academy and graduate students.
Slawson, who was promoted to full professor earlier this year, says he literally had dreams of returning to south Louisiana and working at LSU after receiving his doctorate from the University of Georgia in 1995. He was hired in June of that year.
Since he became chair of the department in 2007, enrollment in the master's program has more than doubled to about 35 students, an accelerated master's program also has been established and stipends for Ph.D. students have increased by 40%.
Slawson is happy to report such successes, but he deflects credit to his predecessors, especially Bill Lane, immediate past department chair and professor emeritus. The Finance Academy, Finance Advisory Council and accelerated master's program were Lane's ideas, he says, and they couldn't have become a reality without him.
"A lot of what's happening now is due to the seeds [Lane] planted years ago," Slawson says. "I can't tell you how often I call him for advice. It's almost like we have two department chairs here."
THE SLAWSON FILE
Name: V. Carlos Slawson Jr.
Title: Chair, LSU Department of Finance; and Latter & Blum Distinguished Professorship in Real Estate
Hometown: New Orleans
Education: Bachelor's, University of Southern Mississippi ; master's, University of Georgia ; doctorate, University of Georgia .
Employment: Graduate assistant, University of Georgia [1992-95]; visiting assistant professor, Department of Finance, LSU [1995-96]; assistant professor, LSU [1996-2002]; associate professor, Department of Finance, LSU [2002-11]; interim chair, Department of Finance, LSU [2007-08]; chair, Department of Finance, LSU [2008-present].
Family: Wife, Sandy; four children, ages 9-18
SOURCE: LSU E.J. Ourso College of Business
Even so, Slawson doesn't feel his charge simply is to see his students receive their diplomas.
The first question he asks new students is, "What do want to do in life?" Depending on the response, he encourages them to seek out someone in their family or community who has achieved such success and spend time with that person.
He often calls alumni and asks them to serve as mentors. In most cases, the interactions lead to increased alumni involvement, as well as internships and jobs for the students.
"He's on the leading edge in terms of getting our students placed," says Eli Jones, dean of LSU's E.J. Ourso College of Business. "It takes people like Carlos working behind the scenes, talking to companies about the strengths of our students and the programs at LSU, to really make that happen."
Meagan Shields graduated with a master's in finance in 2010 and had a job waiting for her as an investment portfolio analyst with Louisiana Workers' Compensation Corporation.
Shields recalls an occasion in which she suggested to Slawson that students would benefit if a new course on fixed income were offered. He told her to circulate a petition among her fellow students. She did, and the course is now available.
Members of the Finance Advisory Council:
John Broussard, Assistant state treasurer/CIO, State of Louisiana
Maurice Coleman, Director of private markets, Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana
Tom Cook; Commercial, investment real estate appraiser; Cook, Moore and Associates
Rob Eddy Jr., Financial planner, Pinnacle Group Insurance and Financial Services
James O. Harp Jr., Executive vice president/CFO, Hornbeck Offshore
Rhett Humphreys, Partner, NEPC
Kevin Kelty, Former president, JPMorgan Chase, Baton Rouge
David L. Laxton III, Executive vice president/CFO, Edgen Murray II
Mike Manning, President/CEO, Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank
Walter Morales, President/CIO, Commonwealth Advisors
Dale Redman, CFO, Amedisys
John Selser, Senior equity analyst, Iberia Capital Partners
Milan Shah, Vice president of business strategies, Albemarle
David Singleton, Senior vice president/Treasurer/CIO, Adventist Health System Sunbelt Healthcare
Elizabeth "Boo" Thomas, President, Center for Planning Excellence
"Little things like that are really representative of just how open Dr. Slawson is to everyone's ideas," Shields says. "What's so great about him is he really wants the department to be modeled after what the students want it to be."
Another of the "little things" Slawson does that goes a long way, she says, is his weekly e-mail blast of good news in the finance department, highlighting the achievements of faculty, students and alumni.
Since leaving LSU, Shields has remained in close contact with Slawson. He recently encouraged her to move forward with an idea to create the LSU MS Finance Alumni Association. The group already has a dozen members, all of whom graduated in 2010 and have found employment in Louisiana. It's still taking shape, but members are already providing Slawson with even more ideas and mentoring incoming freshmen.
"Dr. Slawson is very creative, but he will also put things into your hands and let you run with them," Shields says. "He's helped the department grow so much, and I think he's really just getting started."
Slawson says his primary goals are to continue enhancing the department's research credentials and to push further collaboration between students, alumni and the business community. He's focused on rolling out a new JDMS program in the near future; the program will enable students to earn a law degree and a master's in finance at the same time.
Though he might not consider himself an idea man, Slawson certainly is a finance man. He doesn't have a direct phone line because he found he could shave his department's budget by $250 per year by doing away with it. When he proposed to his wife of 22 years, Sandy, he put together a spreadsheet to show her how it made financial sense.
The Slawsons have four children, ages nine to 18. Outside the finance department, Slawson spends much of his time in activities at his church, Riverdale Baptist, at which he serves as a deacon and teaches Bible school. In 2001, the Slawsons founded Riverdale Christian Academy, a K-12 school affiliated with the church.
"It's a huge part of our lives, and that's really where all our spare time goes," says Slawson, who begins each day with 45 minutes of prayer and meditation with his wife before opening any e-mails or taking calls from people who might have the next great idea to improve the finance department. "And, like my role here at LSU, I really see it as a servant position."
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