By Bailey Harris, The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi’s College of Business and Economic Development and School of Accountancy have once again earned a five-year reaccreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Southern Miss is among 48 schools whose accreditation in business was extended this year, and one of 17 who extended their accreditation in both business and accounting.
This accreditation is considered the highest standard of achievement for business schools worldwide. The accreditation is received by meeting or exceeding the AACSB’s rigorous standards for excellence in degree programs, faculty research, teaching and community service, along with a commitment to continuous advancement and development.
“The extension of AACSB accreditation is a tremendous accomplishment for Southern Miss Business and evidence of a culture of continuous improvement. AACSB accreditation in both business and accounting places Southern Miss Business in an exclusive group of institutions. Our faculty and staff should be commended for their efforts to ensure our curricula and programming are high quality, relevant, and impactful,” said Bret Becton, Dean of the College of Business and Economic Development.
According to AACSB International, currently 926 institutions across 60 countries and territories have earned AACSB accreditation in business and 189 institutions maintain supplemental AACSB accreditation for their accounting programs. The USM College of Business and Economic Development has been accredited by AACSB since 1976, while the USM School of Accountancy has been accredited by AACSB since 1982.
“I am extremely proud that our accounting programs have received an extension of AACSB accreditation. The School of Accountancy at USM has a long history of providing an outstanding accounting educational experience and this is evidence that this history endures today,” said Marvin Bouillon, Director of the School of Accountancy.
After an extensive site visit in October 2021 by the AACSB International Peer Review Team, the college received noteworthy best practices or initiatives as part of their feedback. The team’s comments included praise for the development of programs that provide opportunities for our unique student population, who are often first-generation students with financial challenges. In the report, the team recognized the college for helping students succeed in the professional business world through mentoring and support from faculty and staff. Additionally, the accreditation team noted the college’s focus on economic development.
“The focus on economic development is an interesting and potentially impactful area of engagement for the College. Economic development provides an explicit focus that many business schools only touch on indirectly.”
In addition to the notes mentioned by the review team, the college takes pride in its work with local organizations to ensure that curriculum remains relevant with current industry needs and provides opportunities for students to gain real-world experience through course projects and internships.
Achieving this level of accreditation is a process of rigorous internal focus, engagement with an AACSB-assigned mentor, and peer-reviewed evaluation. During this multiyear path, schools focus on developing and implementing a plan to align with AACSB’s accreditation standards. These standards require excellence in areas relating to strategic management and innovation; student, faculty, and staff as active participants; learning and teaching; and academic and professional engagement.
To achieve accounting accreditation, an institution must first earn AACSB business accreditation. Then, in additional to developing and implementing a mission-driven plan to satisfy the business accreditation quality standards, accounting accreditation requires the satisfaction of a supplement set of standards specific to the discipline and profession of accounting. Once accreditation is achieved, each institution participates in a five-year continuous improvement peer review to maintain high quality and extend its accreditation.
Southern Miss offers the only AACSB-accredited business programs in South Mississippi with classes offered at the Hattiesburg and Gulf Park campuses as well as online. In 2022, U.S. News and World Report ranked Southern Miss #51 for Best Online Bachelor’s in Business and #121 for Best Online MBA programs.