New Dean of Business Hopes to Build Connections through Experiential Collaboration

Aug 25, 2020

by Greg Williams
Publications Editor

Dr. J. Michael Weber joined Florida Southern College in July 2020 as the new dean of the Barney Barnett School of Business and Free Enterprise, having previously served as a professor of marketing and the founding dean of the Graduate School of Business at the University of Maine. 

In a video introduction to the FSC community before moving to Lakeland with his wife, Sherrie, Dr. Weber said former colleagues and students likely would describe him as “a listener, a collaborator, an innovator” — someone who enjoys meeting and working with students.

Born in Gainesville, Dr. Weber grew up in the Pensacola area. He attended the University of Florida for his undergraduate studies, received his MBA from the University of West Florida, and lived in Miami for about 10 years.

How did you feel about being able to return to Florida?

“I’ve been out of the state for 15 years, and was really looking forward to coming home. My wife’s a Georgian; I recruited a Georgian to move south!”

Dr Weber
“We’re excited about the future,” says FSC's Dr. J. Michael Weber. “Barnett Business looks forward to being part of the fabric of the business community in Lakeland.”

What are your priorities for your first year at Florida Southern?

“I think my strategy is consistent, in terms of what I would have done in a normal world and in a COVID world. In the beginning, it’s a discovery process where I meet with everybody and listen to their great ideas, the things they’re really passionate about — just putting together the picture of who we are. I see an opportunity for entrepreneurship to weave through the fabric of what Barnett Business is all about. We’ve got students already participating in a really great club called Enactus, actually doing social entrepreneurship now through Career Closet Lakeland, collecting professional wear and distributing it to people who couldn’t afford it so that they could be dressed well for job interviews.”

How else do you hope to build connections with the local business community? 

“By getting out and meeting the alumni and the business community, figuring out ways that we can collaborate and add value to the business community. In a lot of aspects, this facilitates more and more opportunities for our students; it helps with internships and employment. We want to be a part of economic development. We also want to work with getting more of our students interning at Catapult and working with the start-up business community. They’re a vibrant community over there. One of the benefits of a place like Catapult is the kind of collaborative thinking that can occur.”

With your background in the graduate program at the University of Maine, what do you anticipate for the Barnett School’s graduate program?

“We’ve had some good growth, especially in the MBA for this fall. We’ll continue to build up some concentrations and certificates for the graduate level, which I think will make us even more competitive in the marketplace. Areas that we’re going to be working on this fall include analytics at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and we want to have more majors in finance. We’re investigating the potential for developing a student-run investment fund. They would manage the money and do the appropriate trades — an incredible, hands-on learning experience.”

Do you have a favorite business-themed book? What lessons did it teach you?

“I refer to a great business book called Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. It emphasizes that you listen — and, if you’re moving forward in some direction, it’s important to explain why. Everybody needs to be on the same page together as to why we’re doing something.”

Who is your personal hero?

“My own father, Jim Weber, because I think he was nice to everybody. He was a lawyer. Sometimes those two things aren’t thought of, hand-in-hand.”