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Former Air Force commander targets grad students

September 07, 2007

In baseball parlance, Paul Smiley would be a utility player, a master of many trades who covers a lot of ground and does so at the highest level of the game.

A faculty associate in Arizona State University’s School of Global Management and Leadership, Smiley’s resume is as varied as it is impressive. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern Illinois University, he earned his master’s in public administration from Golden Gate University in San Francisco. His military credentials include graduation from the Senior Leadership School at the Joint Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., the Air Force Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala., the Joint Warfare Planning course at Maxwell AFB, and the prestigious U.S. Force Fighter Weapons School “Top Gun” graduate program at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

Smiley, who now directs the student recruitment efforts for a pair of new graduate degrees offered by the School of Global Management and Leadership – Master of Accountancy and Applied Leadership and Master of Applied Leadership and Management – isn’t just textbook smart. From 2000 through 2002 he was commander of the 607th Air Control Training Squadron at Luke Air Force Base and before that served three years (1997-2000) as an operations staff officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. Serving in the Air Force from 1983 through 1996, Smiley flew, trained personnel, and earned a number of leadership assignments. He flew 22 combat support missions in Operation Desert Storm, was Air Operations War Planner at the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Kosovo conflict, and during 25 years of service to his country, he has been awarded over 20 medals and citations.

And now he is looking for students looking to take their education to a higher level.

“This is something that excites me,” says Smiley, who was chairman of the school’s Dean’s Advisory Council last year. “Having taught at ASU’s West campus during the past four years, I can tell you the faculty and the curriculum are world-class. Our graduates not only get an advanced degree, they receive an overall experience that will make them better people, better managers, and effective leaders.”

Now the founder and president of Sonoran Technology and Professional Services in nearby Goodyear, Smiley sees parallels between recruiting students and his life in the military.

“There are two comparisons that comes to mind,” says Smiley, who lives in Goodyear with his wife Malinda and 13-year-old daughter Rachel. “First in any endeavor, people need to know and understand the value of what they are doing. Oftentimes, it’s difficult to see the end result at the beginning of the journey; there’s a big picture you must make clear. Second, is the value in terms of financial reward. It’s understood you are not going to get rich serving in the military, compared to certain professions in the civilian market. The graduate student, unlike the military person, wants to know what the payoff is in terms of financial reward. As I recruit graduate students, the challenge is to present the opportunity these two degrees offer in terms of reward, both financial and the personal and professional growth that are the result of these programs.”

The new degree programs have been designed by the school to address a numbers game that the Valley and other growing markets face.

“There is a fundamental and urgent need for business leaders who can deal effectively with the new challenges created by a rapidly emerging global economy,” says Pierre Balthazard, director of graduate programs for the School of Global Management and Leadership. Balthazard notes that local growth in the managerial and administrative professions has registered more than six percent annual gains since 1994. He cites research estimates that one in 10 individuals are put into roles of leadership. Given the Valley’s current population of more than two million, it is no stretch to postulate the need for more than 200,000 leaders in order to be globally competitive. The number will double to 400,000 in the next 25 to 35 years, Balthazard says.

Smiley, whose leadership and management skills were honed as a mission crew commander on the E-3 AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft, says the reputation of the School of Global Management and Leadership and its accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) give him the upper hand in the recruitment game.

“Graduate students are sharp and forward-thinking, and they have a perception of the marketplace and the impact the ‘right’ advanced degree can have on their lives,” he says. “They know you can go to any number of schools that are not nationally accredited and be in the same position after completing a graduate program. Employers want the ‘best,’ and they are keenly aware of the schools – like ours – that are accredited and graduating excellent leadership and management candidates. We are offering value in education, not just a degree.”

In other words, Smiley is convinced he and the new degree programs offered by ASU’s School of Global Management and Leadership will pass muster and send a new generation of students soaring into the world global business well-equipped to manage and lead.