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Certificate Roundtable

December 8, 2020 Jim Warner
Bob Hausladen, Kathy Gosser, and Jim Warner

Closing the gap between the classroom and the workplace means providing students with not just theoretical knowledge, but an applied wisdom—one which comes from years of experience. The best teachers are often the best bridge builders, translating their professional careers into one real-world lesson after another. It’s the difference between another  lecture in a string of course lectures and a life lesson that becomes professional practice. As opportunity is a window into specialization, the College of Business has invested in two distinct certificates which provide not only inroads to careers but also serve as electives for the MBA program.

Kathleen Gosser and Robert Hausladen have each excelled in their respective industries and bring their collective knowledge into the College of Business, infusing and informing the Franchise Management and Distilled Spirits certificates respectively.  While each have taken distinctly different paths to join the College, their understanding of their fields is only matched by their passion for teaching. It’s common ground for uncommon careers. 

Kathleen has been a fundamental part of the Franchise Management Certificate from its inception. She retired from KFC (YUM! Brands) in August of 2019 after 35 years; her last role was Director of Learning & Organizational Development and the Chair of the KFC Foundation. She immediately started a new position at the University of Louisville, leveraging her experience in learning and franchising. “The Dean was interested in developing certificate programs and was especially interested in the Franchise program,” Kathleen said.  

 “KFC is 98% franchised in the U.S. so my work had been predominantly with franchising…we created a strategy working with members from the International Franchise Association (IFA) and other industry experts and laid out a strategy for a certificate at the graduate level.” She now leads the Franchise Management certificate program, an online, asynchronous program focused on all the critical elements of franchising. A majority of the adjuncts teaching for Gosser have decades of franchise management experience across a variety of industries. 

There were some initial concerns about the Franchise Management Certificate’s audience as many franchise owners are already working in the industry and may not have the need or desire for a graduate degree. While owning a franchise provides opportunities to be an entrepreneur at a lower risk level, it still means understanding best practices in business to be successful. 

For those who are not looking for the advanced degree, the Franchise Management Certificate does offer a bootcamp model. The six-week course does not require a bachelor’s degree but does offer 250 credits toward a Certified Franchise Executive™ (CFE) designation from the International Franchise Association.

Many of the bootcamp attendees work for larger franchisors to help learn how to better work with their franchisees. Along with those working in the industry, Gosser also mentioned interest in the certificate coming from two distinct populations: military retirees and the international community. “An area like the Middle East is big on franchising and franchising U.S. brands… it looks like a budding opportunity for us down the road. Asynchronous courses makes [the certificate] scalable anywhere.”

When it comes to franchises, KFC may be as Kentucky as it gets; however, it could be argued that bourbon is the signature industry of the bluegrass state. Bob Hausladen worked for more than twenty years at Brown-Forman, starting in sales and ultimately becoming VP of Leadership Development. He helped to develop an award-winning diversity training program for Brown-Forman as well as new approaches to management training based on Gallup research. After his time at Brown-Forman, Hausladen wanted two things—“to teach at a university and open my own consulting firm.” He currently does both—consulting with his company New Horizons and teaching at the College. 

Unlike Gosser, Hausladen was not immediately involved with the development of the Distilled Spirits certificate, but has signed on to direct the program. While the courses had corporate fellows and some advisors from the industry, Hausladen has helped to create consistency and uniform design in the individual classes. 

“In the distilled spirits industry, legally you have a three tiered system — a manufacturer, the wholesaler, and the retailer,” explains Hausladen. As a result, topics covered in class are seen through the lens of each tier, providing a robust experience for students. 

The Distilled Spirits courses have had a range of students from those looking to enter the industry to spirits aficionados. “The industry is really interested in bringing people in,” says Hausladen adding that several companies are working to offer internship opportunities to students. “We saw a lot of people who were in the industry that were looking to move ahead.”

Much like Franchise Management, the Distilled Spirits certificate has its own industry-centric challenges. “The industry has been white male dominated and it’s been hard to break [into the industry] because in the past, you’ve had to step into that atmosphere,” said Hausladen. A trend towards diversity has been evolving at the retail level first with increases in women-owned—as well as Latinx and Asian-owned businesses. “We’re doing a lot more to increase minority-representation throughout the whole industry.” 

By collaborating with industry partners such as the Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA), the College has developed a scholarship program aimed at addressing those concerns. Developed in partnership with the University of Louisville College of Business, the KDA Lifting Spirits Scholar program empowers and equips diverse students with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel as business professionals in the distilled spirits industry.

As both certificates speak to specific audiences, it’s ultimately Gosser and Hausladen’s experiences in each industry which guide their work. “Very similar to [Distilled Spirits] there is no textbook on franchising—because it changes every single day,” says Gosser. Hausladen agrees adding, “I have found a couple of books, but none of them are really up to par.” The very nature of each certificate means being vigilant on updates to both practice and policy. “It is the hardest part of being a program director…making sure our content is always up to date.” Gosser and Hausladen use a variety of approaches within the courses to keep them up-to-date, including industry blogs and podcasts. 

While both of these certificates offer professional credentials that can advance prospects, they are also pathways into the College’s MBA program. Each certificate’s credit hours fulfills degree electives while providing a level of specialization. In the end, regardless of certificate, both Gosser and Hausladen agree that cultivating relationships is a key to professional success. “It’s a people business—most are when you really get down to it,” says Hausladen. “The people connections are the important ones.”

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