When Rebecca Porterfield, the dean of Northern Kentucky University’s Haile/US Bank College of Business, looks out her office window, she can see the tops of downtown Cincinnati’s skyscrapers jutting toward the sky.

That view, she says, motivates her to further extend NKU’s connections not only with businesses across the region, but also to further internationalize the business college, the way she did at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Cameron School of Business.

“It’s quite a view, isn’t it?” Porterfield noted during a recent interview. “In fact, every time I need inspiration, I look out that window and say, ‘OK, look at all that lovely business out there that we can engage in.’”

Porterfield, who took her post in July of 2014, also sees businesses huge, medium and small that she says make up a business-school dean’s fondest dream for its variety of opportunities.

“You’ve got everything from the small start-ups all in Covington with all that entrepreneurial ecosystem that’s going on there that we’re participating in,” Porterfield says. “All that new growth, and then you’ve got the large corporations across the river, and the medium-sized sprinkled throughout.

“If you were a university college of business dean, what better community to live in?” she adds, “Because no matter what that student wants to do, whether start a business, work at a medium-sized company or go to work for the large corps, they can do it here.”

Porterfield intends to extend the international reach of the business college, as she did at UNCW, creating what is believed to have been the nation’s first dual graduate program, which has people earning twin master’s degrees, including one from abroad.

Through that UNCW program, “students would do two years with us and two years in Europe—in England, France, Spain and Germany—and they would get two bachelor’s degrees. And the other students could come to us and do the same thing,” she says.

“Those programs grew and that totally changed the culture of the business college because the number of students who were coming in from the other countries really globalized our students, and galvanized the faculty around that,” she adds.

At NKU, administrators asked Porterfield to launch similar global outreaches. In 2016, students will create a consulting project for a Prague company, and then will visit the company in the Czech Republic company and present their work to the client. Meanwhile, some faculty will spend the summer teaching classes in Germany.

“So we’re starting that outreach,” says Porterfield, who at press time was in the process of hiring someone to direct those international activities.

Mike Vogt, vice president of human resources and external affairs for Mazak Corp., is chairman of Porterfield’s executive advisory board. While NKU for years has operated an international master’s program called Executive Leadership and Organizational Change (ELOC), Vogt says he expects Porterfield to expand international opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students.

Vogt says Mazak paid money for mid-level managers to go through the ELOC programs—“and it’s not cheap, but we felt it’s a good investment for our employees, so we put a number of them through the program.”

“Today, the business world knows no boundaries, and as a result of that, it’s important that individuals understand how business is done in different countries, and, at the same time, how they can make Northern Kentucky a better place for foreign investment for the communities,” Vogt says. “As part of that, they do trips in different countries, and one of those countries is Japan [where Mazak is based].”

Porterfield says the countries NKU involves itself with will be different from those of UNCW, based on input from the Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati business communities.

“Right now, my advisory board has told me that we need to be in Japan; South Korea; Germany; probably someplace in Africa, and I’ve got some ideas there; and Brazil,” Porterfield says. “Well, I have contacts in most of those areas, so we’ll start to build that out.”

Some of those contacts come from establishing international alliances with other universities that participate in cross-borders education. For her various international efforts, Porterfield in 2006 was named UNCW’s first-ever Global Citizen of the Year.

She also is formulating mentorship programs for students with local executives as she did in Wilmington, starting with 18 mentors there, and expanding the program to include 184 executive mentors who helped with such skills as telephone interviewing, resume writing and employment interviews. 

Porterfield says business leaders consistently “tell me our students have a really good educational foundation and that they’re really good, hard workers once they get to the companies. And that’s partially because so many of them are working part time to support themselves through college. They’ve got the good work ethic, and then they’re getting a good, solid business education. And I see that playing out over and over, in school and outside.”

She has witnessed students’ hunger for learning during NKU’s Business Week, a period of two or more days when classes are suspended and business leaders come to speak with students—sometimes in filled 450-seat auditoriums, where students and speakers stay 30 minutes or more after the program ends, continuing to exchange ideas.

The business college recently was included in the 2016 edition of The Princeton Review’s The Best 295 Business Schools, its fourth year making the list.

“When people say, ‘What’s your biggest challenge?’ I say, ‘Managing opportunities.’ Because that’s what we’re dealing with right now: Managing opportunities. And I mean that. I can see it visually [out the window].”

“When I bring faculty members in here for recruiting, when I’m hiring two new accounting faculty, I go, ‘There’s that city right there, and the Big Four accounting firms are there, and the Big Three Regionals are there, and you’ve got all this business stuff in between, and it’s whatever you decide to do. You can define whatever you want to do. The river’s small, and there’s a lot of bridges—some not so safe.’”