Q&A with HPU’s New College of Business Dean Mark Rosenbaum

Dean Mark Rosenbaum, Ph.D.

Mark Rosenbaum, Ph.D., took his leadership role at HPU in January 2022, coming from Saint Xavier University in Chicago. Prior to his leadership at Saint Xavier, Rosenbaum was chair and professor of the department of retailing at the University of South Carolina, the Kohl’s professor of marketing at Northern Illinois University, and an assistant professor in the department of marketing at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.

Rosenbaum is a two-time Fulbright Scholar (Cambodia, 2009; Nepal, 2015) and a Fulbright Specialist (Uzbekistan, 2019). He is a research fellow at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, a visiting professor of marketing at Universidad de Externado in Bogota, Colombia, and the American Hotel Academy in Brasov, Romania. 

Rosenbaum earned his Ph.D. in marketing from Arizona State University. He holds master’s degrees from San Diego State University, New York University, and the University of Illinois Chicago, along with a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University.  

Rosenbaum spoke with the ‘Ohana in February 2022.


The ‘Ohana: Please tell me about your background, where you’re from. 


Dean Rosenbaum: I’m originally from Chicago, Illinois. Born and raised in suburban Chicago. One of my first jobs was at Chernin’s Shoes. A Chicago-based shoe store. I was a stock boy when I was 13 years old. I had to get a work permit to work at that age. I’ll never forget what the owner of the company told me. He said, “You have the most important job in this store.” I thought he was kidding. But he said, “If I have a customer and she has to use the bathroom and she sees it’s dirty she will never come back here.” I never forgot that experience because I realized it’s the small things that matter to customers. After spending several years in the shoe store, and having every job in the store, I thought, if I am going to sell shoes, I want to sell the most expensive shoes in Chicago.  

I was the youngest employee that Saks Fifth Avenue ever hired. I worked at Saks during my undergraduate and graduate education; and what I discovered was as I was selling expensive shoes to customers who, for the most part, did not need another pair of shoes. I was fulfilling another need.    

We would sit and talk about life for an hour, hour-and-a-half. That led me to focus on my dissertation, which was loneliness is a driver of consumption.  

Once I finished my MBA at the University of Illinois Chicago, I went to New York and entered the jewelry market. I would sell fine jewelry to the nation’s largest department stores, including Liberty House. As the department stores were consolidating, I decided to start my own jewelry company, which was a failure, but that led me to pick up another degree at San Diego State University. While there, the chair of my department said, “You’re not going to believe this but the faculty member who teaches statistics quit! Do you know statistics?” I said, I don’t. He looked at my resume and said, “You have two weeks to figure it out.”  

And that was my start in statistics. I taught five courses in statistics, and I decided to pursue my doctoral degree in services marketing from Arizona State University. I wanted to understand retail from a psychological perspective. Understanding the social support that retail employees play in a person’s life. That all stemmed from my experience of selling shoes at Saks.  


What brought you to HPU? 


I lived in Hawai‘i back in the early 2000s, working at another university, so I was familiar with Hawai‘i. What brought me to HPU was not just the location, but really, it was the position and mission of the university in calling for skill-based learning.  


Skill-based learning. Please tell me more. 


Sure. HPU is dedicated to experiential learning and student engagement. My life has been impacted by working with businesses, especially on experiential learning projects at Northern Illinois University. If a professor has a Ph.D., you have to work with businesses for the next pressing issue, and through an experiential learning project I began working with Living Well Cancer Center, in Geneva, Illinois – a suburb of Chicago. I realized the social supportive role that non-medical personnel play in cancer patients’ lives. I knew nothing about cancer, other than it impacts family members. But here is a business faculty member taking the social support research from retail and applying it to cancer patients.  

I ended up publishing an article about social support in cancer research centers and that led to several publications looking at the non-medical care that men with cancer need during their cancer journey.  

I also became reiki level one certified in a study to understand the impact of massage, yoga, light-touch massage for women with breast cancer. I would have never had those experiences without experiential learning. 

I am dedicated to experiential learning as a faculty member and as a student. Anyone can read content, memorize it, and churn it out for an exam. But is that real learning?  

Real learning is when students can apply when they learn. Faculty members have to leave their comfort zones. Because the issues of business are constantly changing. I’ve worked with Jewel Osco, which is part of the Safeway family, on understanding consumer purchasing of organic products. Again – organic groceries were not my area of my expertise! 


It's amazing how you have picked up so many experiences and skills. Statistics, research, reiki…  


Yes, and one of my other consulting projects was with Abbott Nutrition. Understanding digitization of healthcare. In the future, it will be possible to analyze your bodily health through your breath at the pharmacy. Including a positive cancer diagnosis.  




Yes. That’s the future of healthcare. That’s the digitalization of healthcare. That’s where we are headed. It raises many issues. Let’s say, genetic testing. Are we learning too much information about ourselves? Do consumers understand the dark side of digitization? Every technology has a dark side.  

Faculty must be dedicated to working with local businesses. Even if it means faculty saying, I am not an expert in this field, but I have the ability to do research and work with students and become an expert in areas I never planned on. 

Dean Rosenbaum at the Tashkent State University of Economics


What are your short- and long-term goals for the College of Business at HPU?


My short-term goal is to work on our accreditation journey with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). But that accreditation journey requires that we be a force for good in the community. I want to work with faculty to increase experiential learning. To work with communities, to make sure we play a role in promoting the local and state economy.  

My long-term goal is to develop a clear niche as a skill-focused university that is geared towards skill development. 


Skill development. In the MBA program? 


In the MBA, as well as the undergraduate program. The marketplace right now is asking business schools to play a key role in providing skills to students, whether these skills are mastering software programs like Excel. Mastering data digitalization programs like Tableau.  


HR programs? 


Sure. Companies are looking for certifications. SAP relationships. Business education began as a skill-focused program. In the 1960s, under the influence of the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation, business education became more theoretical based. More into the sciences of psychology. In fact, there was an article if marketing should be called “marketology.”    

What’s happened is that in many instances at universities the emphasis on theory has swung too far. Businesses are saying we need the skills! Because there was a deficit in skill-based training, many third-party vendors began to fill the niche of skill-based training. Coursera, LinkedIn, edX all began to fill that niche of skill-based training.    

There is an opportunity for HPU to integrate skills into the programming, and that fits right into lifelong learning. Business schools need to take a life-long learning approach. It’s not just teaching today and tomorrow but teaching into the future. 


Why should students be interested in earning an MBA today?  


Many students pursue an MBA when they realize their career needs to be enhanced. There are two types of graduate learners. Those who want to enhance their careers, and those who want to switch careers. Those who switch their careers appreciate the close relationships with faculty, as well as networking with other leaners. Those who want to enhance their careers and maybe want to learn an extra skill or two really fit into the market for online learning.  

HPU’s College of Business has both in-person and online programs. We can educate students who fit into both career paths. Those who want to switch careers and those who want to enhance their careers.  


Do students have the option to take in-person or online courses for a graduate degree? 


At the graduate degree level, we have two key programs. In-person and online. The in-person attracts those students who want to switch careers. The online program attracts those who are more interested in career enhancement. 


Do you have any thoughts on the Great Resignation?  


The Great Resignation is quite complex. I hope that the Great Resignation is temporary because we do need to maximize employment across the board. Service organizations need talent, and we need people paying into social security and taxes.  

I think that from a psychological perspective COVID asked people to reconsider what’s important in their lives. And for many individuals working in unfulfilling jobs, just having a job and not having a career – and there is a difference – were easy jobs to walk away from. Many people walked away because they looked at alternative income, such as expanding home prices as something to draw from in the future. That is almost playing roulette. 

I hope that people who had jobs and not careers will look at this time as an opportunity to switch careers or enhance their careers. Go back to school, learn new skills. The Great Resignation was a part of a psychological impact of COVID that made us reconsider what is important.  

What is the impact of the pandemic today? For many people, they took a hiatus from working jobs. Unfortunately, I have seen the impact on service organizations, many of them having to close early because they do not have the employees to run double-shifts.    


What’s your favorite activity to do in Hawai‘i? 


One of my favorite things to do is explore Kaka‘ako. You can find me every Saturday at the farmer’s market, engaging with the local community. Looking at the artwork, the murals. Developing relationships with local restaurant owners, boutique owners.  

I am dedicated to exploring my community. Exploring Kaka‘ako now, from Waterfront Plaza to SALT to Ward. I hope that the growth will be manageable growth and not to the point where we cannot control growth. It’s wonderful to see the community, but at the same time I wonder if too much is planned in a very small space.     


Too many buildings. 


And will we even be able to walk? We have to appreciate the few parks that we have in Kaka‘ako and treat the area with respect. 


What is your idea of perfect happiness? 


For me, perfect happiness is when I wake up each day and I have vision in my left eye. Because I suffer from Macular Degeneration in my right eye, I do not know the day when I will lose vision in my left eye. Which means, happiness to me is truly the day I can see. And if I can see, I want to make it a great day.    

Someday, I won’t have vision. I don’t take anything for granted in life. Macular Degeneration does not give a person any warning. It just comes on and when it happens vision is lost. So, for me, as long as I can see it has to be a great day.  


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