James Jordan, DBA graduate

James E. Jordan Jr. received a Doctor of Business Administration from UMSL in December 2020. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The day before James E. Jordan Jr. received his Doctor of Business Administration from the University of Missouri–St. Louis, he was notified by his employer of almost two decades that he was chosen to lead a newly created division.

For Jordan, being named the director of the Program Assistance Division at Rural Development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture was affirmation that his research and hard work to earn a DBA had made a positive impact on his career.

“I graduated  December 19, 2020, and found out I was offered the new position on December 18, 2020,” Jordan said. “I officially started the job in January 2021. The skills that I have gained in the DBA program provided me with additional skills to meet the needs of the new organization. There was a need to research and understand the problems and prepare recommendations for resolution, and the tools that I acquired during the program gave me the necessary knowledge to be able to make a difference.”

The UMSL Doctor of Business Administration program is a three-year, cohort-based program that offers research concentration in all areas of business administration and gives senior managers the opportunity to solve industry business problems through knowledge and applied research tools while earning their doctorate degree.

“The DBA identifies me as an expert in my field and has given me highly sought-after skills that employers are looking for to bring unique management and decision-making skills,” Jordan said. “The DBA gave me the skills to use scientific methods to solve real-world business problems, and coupled with my years of experience, it will allow me to excel at any business tasks and provide contribution to management knowledge in all aspects.”

Jordan said the faculty and staff in the DBA program at UMSL, including Francesca Ferrari, the administrative director of the DBA program, played an important role in helping him complete the program.

“Francesca was instrumental in making sure I had the tools needed to successfully finish the DBA program,” he said. “Not only did she make sure that steps for completion of the DBA were completed in a timely manner from an administrative standpoint, but she acted as liaison between me and the professors when needed. And she was a great listener and a source of encouragement throughout my journey from beginning to end.”

Jordan, who has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UMSL, has been employed by the USDA for more than 18 years in various capacities, including director of the Financial Operations Division before his promotion. In his current role, he is responsible for managing the USDA’s Rural Development single-family housing program with future expansion to other loan programs. He has also been tasked with improving the organization’s relationship with field and state office staff and responding to high-profile loan origination and servicing inquiries from USDA headquarters, Congress and the White House.

Jordan’s upward trajectory in leadership roles at the USDA is partly a result of his ability to expand his scholarly research from the DBA program into practical applications. Jordan said his research on talent retention in the context of the federal government had not previously been conducted, and he was able to use his research to create specific talent-retention recommendations.

“Most recently I participated in a strategic planning session where I helped develop a strategic plan for my organization,” he said. “I relied on my new knowledge to come up with a feasible plan to strengthen my organization in terms of rebranding, employee engagement and executing organizational goals. The current USDA Secretary has strong concerns about the USDA workforce and has made it one of his priorities. I believe that my research and findings can and will be used to effect change, not only in USDA but other federal government agencies as well.”

Jordan’s research discovered two key concepts in aiding talent retention: organizational pride and a communication construct that allows for autonomy and peer collaboration. His research-based recommendations include employee recognition programs, creating a workplace culture that promotes internal pride and encouraging employee feedback.

“The DBA was a great opportunity to expand my knowledge and develop a different approach to apply research tools to aid in addressing my organization’s high-level business problems through the application of theory to practice,” Jordan said. “Within the first year of the program, I was able to take a real-life business problem and come up with a workable resolution based on academic theory. Since that time, I have been able to apply this same formula to other organizational issues.”

Jordan’s dissertation chair, Ekin Pellegrini, reaffirmed the practical implications of Jordan’s research.

“Executive doctoral programs, such as the DBA, are geared toward a practitioner audience, and focused on practical engaged scholarship,” Pellegrini said. “The insights generated through dissertations, such as James’, directly contribute to advancing the intellectual foundations of business practice.”

Jordan and Pellegrini recently had a paper accepted by the Academy of Management, a professional association for management and organization scholars, for presentation at their annual conference.

“I have been told it is hard to overstate the value of this accomplishment, as AoM is a very prestigious organization,” Jordan said. “I am proud of our hard work and the recognition of the quality of our submission.”

Jordan, who is married and has three children, is a St. Louis native and a 1996 graduate of University City High School. He lists traveling to places like Europe and Hawaii as some of his best experiences and is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. Jordan currently serves as the assistant pastor of the Phillips Memorial Missionary Baptist Church.

He said that although he was born and raised right here in St. Louis, his dedication to helping the USDA’s Rural Development agency excel is based on his rural roots.

“I am proud to work for an agency that supports rural America, as my family has roots in rural areas of Mississippi and Louisiana where they were farm owners and sharecroppers,” Jordan said. “I have grown to love the mission of USDA, the ability to help and support rural America and understanding that the loss of talent via retirements and staff leaving is crucial to making sure support for rural America continues.”

Ramona Curtis

Ramona Curtis

Eye on UMSL: Tending the gardens

Biology student James Ott and Sustainable Energy & Environmental Coordinator Katy Mike Smaistrla pull weeds last week in the native gardens north of the Recreation Wellness Center.