Newark Kid in Rural Pa.: Frese’s Journey to Clarion University
CLARION BOROUGH, Pa. (EYT) – “You want to know my age?” joked Phil Frese, the Dean of the College of Business Administration and Information Science at Clarion University. “Twelve. My date of birth is not important.”
(Photos courtesy Clarion, Pa. Rotary)
A “little older” than a preteen, Frese did not grow up locally.
A native of Newark, New Jersey, Frese told exploreClarion.com his hometown was “the best thing I ever experienced.”
“And why would I say that?” he pondered. “Because it was the only thing I experienced coming up as a child.”
From New Jersey, Frese moved to Shreveport, La., to attend college at Centenary College of Louisiana.
“I was down there for a year, then I had an accident where I hurt myself and had to come home, so I only spent a year there,” explained Frese. “I finished my education at Fairleigh Dickinson University where I got my bachelor’s degree in accounting.”
He returned to Fairleigh Dickinson, located in Teaneck, NJ, only a year later to pursue an MBA in accounting and taxation, a subject which would become his specialty.
“I went to work for, at the time, one of the big eight firms, today it’s called Ernst & Young. I did that for a few years,” Frese said.
From Ernst & Young, Frese founded his own accounting firm, and while he worked for himself, found another avenue of accounting – teaching.
Frese was teaching part-time at Seton Hall University, in South Orange, NJ, and found he enjoyed the academic world more than the corporate.
“I just enjoyed teaching so much, I decided to get my PhD and become a professor,” Frese said. “It was also something where if you did it properly, you left a little bit of yourself in the development of young people. Whether it was what you said, what you did, how you treated the students, I always felt I helped them not only to become professionals but good people. That was always the reward.”
He enrolled in Drexel University in 1986 and graduated with a PhD in Accounting in 1992.
Around the same time, Frese became Associate Dean at Seton Hall, though he would not stay there long afterward.
In 1993, Frese moved to Connecticut, taking a job as Dean of the Business College at Quinnipiac University.
The move from the faculty-side to the administrative part of higher education was something Freese said came naturally to him.
“When I worked at Seton Hall, I was teaching and working on developing a new program which was a program in taxation. That kind of put me in a mix of teaching and administration,” he said.
Frese stayed ten years at Quinnipiac and in 2003, arrived at a crossroads.
“I was leaving Quinnipiac,” he said, “I had to choose whether I was going to go back to education at the time or put to use some of the things I’d been teaching all this time. What I did was accepted a position at this particular company, which was having financial difficulties.”
The company, the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark, would turn out to be part of the next decade of Frese’s life.
“I thought I’d stay there for five years,” he said, “turn it around, and get back into education. It didn’t work out that way.”
In 2013 Frese finally came to Clarion.
He said it was the character of the people and students he met here during an in-person interview that convinced him to take the job.
“The thing that really sold me on it,” Frese said, “I was coming down the street, across Main Street and a young man saw me. I had to be thirty feet away, but he held the door till I got there. I thanked him and said, ‘I don’t think this has ever happened to me in the East Coast.'”
In the eight years that he’s lived here, Frese has become very involved in local organizations, something he considers extremely important.
He is a member of the Rotary Club and served as its president last year. Additionally, Freese was one of the founding members of the Clarion Blueprint Community.
“People need to do those kinds of things. You can’t complain about your community if you don’t step in to try and make it better,” Frese imparted.
In his capacity as Dean of COBAIS (College of Business Administration and Information Sciences), Frese is always searching for ways to improve the business program at Clarion.
He mentioned a particularly important fact-finding mission he, former Clarion University President Karen Whitney, and other university officials and faculty members went on.
They met with 13 companies large and small to discuss ways to improve the business program at Clarion.
“We asked them the same questions, ‘What do you want in five years for my students to have when they come and work for you?’ One thing everybody said whether it was a little company or a large company was analytics, data analytics. They wanted people to know what it was. They wanted students to know what to do with it,” he said.
This trip led to major changes in the business program’s core curriculum, with added emphasis on data analytics.
Frese said Clarion University’s business program demonstrates its strength not only in its preparation of students for future careers but in its professors, who have real-world experience as well as teaching acumen.
“I would say 90 percent of my faculty have actually worked in the areas in which they profess,” said Frese. “That’s very important because they are able to talk about the application of what they’re teaching. When you get that type of education, you’re a step ahead of those who didn’t get it.”
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