Oxford — The dean of the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration recently won a professional award that he says will give him a larger sense of responsibility to serve others. Dr. Brian Reithel was chosen as the Mississippian of the Year by the Jackson Chapter of the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP), a national organization.
“I don’t know why I won. I was really surprised,” he said. “I look up to the people who’ve won previously as sources of inspiration. It was very humbling and speaks to a broader responsibility to live up to what the other winners have done.”
Among the previous 22 winners are State Auditor Phil Bryant, Dr. Arthur Guyton, former Gov. William Winter, State Sen. Robert Crook, Dr. Olin Ray, Dr. Donald Zacharias and John Palmer.
Cindy Todd Niemeyer, president of the AITP Jackson Chapter, said Reithel was recognized because he makes a significant contribution to the information technology industry through the university. “His reputation for excellence is recognized throughout our industry,” she said.
“The high number of MIS and business school graduates who practice his high standards in their successful professional and personal lives is a tribute to his mentorship. He continually challenges them to stretch their abilities.”
Also, she said Reithel leads in promoting economic development in the state and by urging productive implementation of technology.
Reithel, also a professor of management information systems, says Ole Miss takes its role in state business seriously. “We have over 3,000 students in the School of Business and 44% of our alumni remain in the state,” he said. “For Mississippi business to be competitive, our school has to be competitive.”
He feels the school must prepare students for the business world and show a vision of the way things can be. The business school makes an impact through the lives of its graduates who go out and lead and the network of nine small business centers located throughout the state.
“We spend a lot of time counseling them and take that role very seriously too,” he said. “Small businesses are the backbone of our state.”
Reithel says the School of Business is asking alumni and friends to help the faculty redefine the core business curriculum. There is a task force working on this challenge.
“We are grappling to ensure our answers are correct,” he said. “We want to know what every business person should know at the outset of their career. What are the basics? It’s a big, vitally important question to our state’s future. We must be competitive in a global economy.”
Reithel says information technology is important because it provides decision makers with better information that enables them to make business decisions at management, strategic or operational levels. “They can make those decisions with a set of real information in front of them or they can make them on hunches,” he said. “It also enables new forms of commerce that would be impossible to have without the ability to communicate and exchange information.”
He says it’s exciting to be a part of this fundamental transformation of the capabilities of the free enterprise system. He agrees with Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who attributes the U.S. rate of growth and productivity in recent years to information technology and to societies that are able to use it well.
Reithel, 42, earned degrees at Eastern New Mexico University and Texas Tech. He came to Ole Miss in 1991 and has served in numerous leadership positions there. He was co-director of the successful $525-million Commitment to Excellence Campaign, first director of the Trent Lott Leadership Institute and co-chair of the Sesquicentennial Celebration.
He began the Ole Miss student chapter of AITP that set a record for being Student Outstanding Chapter of the Year for 13 years. Also, he was the first recipient of the AITP Faculty Advisor of the Year Award from among 200 student chapter advisors nationwide.
He has received teaching awards and authored 70 articles and award-winning papers that have appeared in leading journals and conference proceedings. He has been a commentator on business and technology issues for National Public Radio and Mississippi Public Broadcasting.
Spending his early years in Los Alamos, N.M., where his dad was a physicist at the national laboratory, Reithel says he was the kid who always had a lemonade stand and a newspaper route. “It’s scary to think about it now, but you could get a motorcycle license at 13 back then, and I had a big paper route,” he said. “It grew so much that when I gave it up, they divided it into three routes.”
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.