Carlson School to lose MBT director

The director of the Master of Business Taxation fears Carlson School will cut the program next.

A prominent graduate program at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management will lose its director starting next year. The change prompted a complaint about Carlson School’s current administration.

Mark Sellner, the director of the Master of Business Taxation, sent an email to the search committee for Carlson School’s new dean saying he was told the school would discontinue his contract in the fall — a move he said he believes foreshadows major changes to the operation of the program, or even absorption into another program.

Students in the MBT program study tax law and apply concepts to business situations. After graduation, many alumni find jobs as tax specialists in major corporations, or work as consultants in certified public accounting firms. Many students already have accounting degrees and want to pursue careers as tax executives.

Although Sellner said in his email that MBT saw slight increases in enrollment this year, enrollment in the program has decreased over the decade, down to 44 students from the decade high of 72 in the 2003-04 academic year.

Sellner also wrote about what he considered mismanagement of revenue from the MBT program by Carlson School Interim Dean Sri Zaheer, who is a possible candidate for the permanent dean position.

According to Sellner, Zaheer plans to use revenue from the program to fund new faculty positions instead of maintaining or expanding the program.

Zaheer took over as interim dean after former Carlson School Dean Alison Davis-Blake stepped down in September. A committee, made up of 19 faculty and staff members from Carlson, was tasked with a national search for a new dean and said it hopes to fill the position by March 2012.

In the email, Sellner said that while Zaheer has previously been supportive of the program, he now questions her treatment of the graduate program, stating that she misunderstood the relationship between the program and the state’s business community.

But representatives from the school maintain that they defend the current program.

“We value this asset tremendously and are dedicated to its stewardship and growth over the long run,” said Steve Rudolph, a Carlson School spokesman.

He confirmed the school’s plan to fund new faculty positions, but said there are no current plans to change the program.

More than 1,000 students have graduated from the program since its inception. Eighteen alumni have moved on to work for the Internal Revenue Service.

The program also has direct ties with major corporations across the state and the country. The University uses the relationships to attract adjunct faculty or job placements for graduating students.

In another email to University President Eric Kaler, Sellner said that since his appointment as director, he had been recognized as the face of the program in the local tax community. His removal from Carlson administrators was inexplicable, he said.

He wrote in the email to the committee that he hopes the MBT program finds support in the new dean’s administration, instead of being disbanded.

“I sincerely hope that a 35year tradition of world class graduate tax education is not being dismantled or irreparably disadvantaged.”