April 8, 2014

Big Ideas: Gordie Karels

Gordie Karels
Dr. Gordie Karels, associate dean for research and graduate programs and Nebraska Bankers Association College Professor of Banking at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business Administration, is retiring this May after a distinguished 28-year tenure – a tenure that almost never happened. Karels’ career highlights include developing a nationally ranked MBA program, serving in senior administrative capacities throughout UNL and testifying before Congress, but if he had not taken a series of finance seminars at UNL in the mid-80’s he may not have made it to Lincoln.

“While I was chair of the economics department at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, I took seminar classes at UNL from finance professors Manferd Peterson, Tom Zorn, George McCabe and Richard DeFusco,” Karels said. “I was considering a job at another school when Manferd offered an appointment at CBA. From my experiences in those seminars, I knew this is where I wanted to work.”

Karels was eventually appointed MBA faculty director where he chaired a committee that revamped the program’s curriculum. The appointment opened the door to a number of administrative positions at UNL, and also prepared him to respond quickly to the changing needs of MBA students in the military.

“One of the biggest things I did was change the MBA course schedule from semesters to 10-week terms. We had to accommodate military personnel we served at Offutt Air Force Base and that was a way to get part-time students through the program in two years.”

Next came the crisis of 9/11 and serving the educational needs of the military got even harder.

“We were sending faculty to teach at Offutt, but once 9/11 happened, we weren’t allowed on the base,” he said. “When we got back on the base, the students told us they were being deployed elsewhere and couldn’t tell us where they were being sent.”

At that moment Karels was involved in a decision that would permanently change the MBA program at UNL.

“We made the decision to follow our students with online courses and became one of the early schools to get into the online MBA business. The program is now primarily civilian, but its roots were in serving the military. It was a fascinating period of my time at CBA, watching it become a top-ranked program nationally.”

Karels also takes pride in his research contributions including being asked to testify before the U.S. Congress House Ways and Means Committee in 2005.

Karels at recent CBA Awards Luncheon

Karels (left) in 2001 as director of J.D. Edwards and (right) in 2014 as CBA associate dean

“I was asked to testify about credit union and bank regulations. It showed the respect of my research nationally and was gratifying to know I’ve had some impact on the way companies are regulated and watched.”

He also appreciates having worked in a department that has been mutually supportive.

“The camaraderie among finance faculty is very important to our success over the years. As the finance chair for many years, it made my life easy and fulfilling working with a group of people who helped one another work toward the common good of the college.”

Karels’ other senior positions include serving as associate dean at CBA, being named interim associate vice chancellor at UNL and serving as interim director of the J.D. Edwards program which later became the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management.