Strategic leadership changes are coming to the University of South Florida Muma College of Business on the Sarasota-Manatee campus. Among the appointees are Joni Jones, who will replace Jean Kabongo as campus dean, and Cihan Cobanoglu, who has been made permanent dean of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management and will continue to serve as director for the M3 Center for Hospitality Technology & Innovation. The changes are part of a larger effort to ensure the college’s continued success as Lynn Pippenger Dean Moez Limayem prepares to leave the USF Muma College of Business to become president of the University of North Florida after a decade at the helm.
“These changes will be of great value not only to our campus and to the college, but also to the region as a whole,” said Karen Holbrook, regional chancellor for USF’s Sarasota-Manatee campus. “We are fortunate, as a community, to have leaders like Drs. Kabongo, Jones and Cobanoglu who value student success above all else.”
Jean Kabongo heads to Tampa
Jean Kabongo, a professor of strategic management and entrepreneurship in the School of Marketing and Innovation, has been with USF for over 10 years. His research interests include the analysis and promotion of sustainable practices in organizations, sustainable entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education in developing economies. He has served as campus dean for the Muma College of Business on the Sarasota-Manatee campus since 2020. This summer, he will move to the Tampa campus to serve as associate dean for academic affairs and accreditation and chief diversity officer.
“My experience on the Sarasota-Manatee campus has been wonderful. USF has transformed me into the person I am today by giving me the opportunity to grow not only as a scholar but also as a person who is passionate about education and impactful research,” said Kabongo, who credits “wonderful” campus leadership, colleagues, students and staff for his success.
As campus dean, Kabongo enjoyed the opportunity to support faculty and celebrate student success. “Watching our young men and women who are ready to go out and make a positive impact walk across the stage and receive their degrees creates a sense of pride in me,” Kabongo said. “This is our shared goal. We accomplish it together.”
Kabongo is also proud of the community outreach program he developed with Jessica Grosholz, an associate professor of criminology on the Sarasota-Manatee campus. “It transformed the way I think about research and community involvement,” Kabongo said of the program, which encouraged inmates at the Sarasota County jail and the Hardee Correctional Institute to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset, generate ideas, develop business models and draft plans.
First up on Kabongo’s agenda as he prepares to step into his new role as associate dean is to invest time in his colleagues. “I want to learn more about their teaching styles, their passions and their research,” Kabongo said. “The better I know them and understand their concerns and challenges, the better I can serve them.”
Born and raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kabongo cites early exposure to international travel as a privilege that allows him to view the world through a cultural lens. “We all come to the table with our cultural backgrounds,” Kabongo said. “Every conversation is a cultural event.” Before settling in the United States, Kabongo lived in Haiti, Mexico and Canada. He is fluent in three languages.
Kabongo brings a broad perspective to his role as chief diversity officer. “The key to addressing diversity, equity and inclusion is to create open dialogue and a space for reflection and analysis of our findings,” he said. “Most important is our ability to implement changes to our policies and procedures so that everybody feels welcome and included.” Diversity exists along numerous axes: gender identity, race and ethnicity, country of origin, socioeconomic status, age, religion, politics, sexual identity, veteran status, and disability, among others. The university’s strategic plan emphasizes recruitment, retention, and advancement of diverse students, faculty and staff, as well as increased utilization of diverse suppliers.
Joni Jones joins Sarasota-Manatee campus
Replacing Kabongo as campus dean is Joni Jones, an associate professor in the School of Information Systems and Management. Jones has been with USF for nearly 20 years, during which time she spearheaded the creation of USF’s Business Honors Program on the Tampa campus, directed the undergraduate Management Information Systems (MIS) program, evolved the Business Analytics and Information Systems program and served as the academic director for the interdisciplinary, online master's program in cybersecurity. Since 2019, Jones has served as the academic director for the master’s in business analytics and information systems. “The growth of the Muma College of Business during this period has been astronomical,” Jones said.
In the classroom, Jones promotes data literacy and prepares students to uncover solutions to complex problems, “to make decisions based on data but also to know how to make data tell a story,” Jones said. “A spreadsheet chock full of data doesn’t give you any information. Only when the data is refined do they become informative. Until then, it’s just data.
“We teach our students everything from how to design data-collection systems, how to create a mineable database, how to clean data and draw the information out so that it says something of value and how to visualize it,” she said. “The goal is to produce informed decisions based on concrete data.”
In her new position, Jones hopes to forge partnerships with local businesses, bolster enrollment and ensure all degree programs are represented on the Sarasota-Manatee campus. “Dr. Kabongo has been doing a wonderful job,” she added. “If I am able to continue in his footsteps, I’ll be happy.”
“I’m a small-town girl,” Jones said, referring to the time she spent growing up in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. “I have been excited to join the Sarasota-Manatee campus for a long time. I love the idea of the small, collegial campus. This is exactly where I want to be.”
Cihan Cobanoglu stays put, thinks big
Also on the Sarasota-Manatee campus is Cihan Cobanoglu. In the 12 years since arriving at USF, Cobanoglu has pivoted from faculty to administration and back again. Last year, he stepped back into his role as interim dean. “The idea at the time was that, after a year, a national search would be conducted, but things have been going really well. So, when campus leadership asked me to consider continuing as a permanent dean, I agreed.”
Under Cobanoglu’s leadership, the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management has experienced a 100% increase in enrollment, expanded to the Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses and forged three key business partnerships to provide students with hands-on field training. The partnerships with Aramark, the on-campus food service and catering stalwart, and Mainsail Lodging and Development, a specialist in the tourism lodging sector, will provide as many as 130 student fellows on-the-job training over the course of eight years, for a combined value of $3.6 million. The school has also partnered with McKibbon Hospitality, which manages 98 hotels and 20 premier brands, including Marriott and Hilton, giving students the opportunity to shadow industry professionals and gain real-world experience in hotel operations, executive-level leadership and real estate and hotel development.
“No one else is doing what we’re doing,” said Cobanoglu. “Our next challenge will be to integrate our strategic partnerships into our four-year degree so all students will graduate with management training experience. Usually, students spend 12 to 18 months on management training after graduation so that they can secure higher salaries and higher positions in the hospitality industry.”
Cobanoglu also plans to initiate a “zero-based curriculum review” this summer to keep up with industry changes, which have accelerated rapidly since the beginning of the pandemic. “The plan is to invite as many stakeholders as possible – hotels, restaurants, theme parks, casinos, tourism destination organizations, vendors – to imagine we are creating a new school. What should the graduates of this school know?” Cobanoglu plans to organize the findings, conduct a gap analysis and roll out new courses to address any programming gaps. “I am sure there will be quite a few things.”
If all goes according to plan, Cobanoglu will be able to offer the required coursework on all three campuses. “As I always say,” Cobanoglu added, “‘Sarasota-Manatee is small enough to care and large enough to lead.’ The stars have aligned for us.”
Kabongo, Jones, and Cobanoglu will transition into their new roles this summer.