Business News for the Mississippi Delta

Clarksdale Native Named Millsaps Dean

Fiser to Head Else School of Management

By Jack Criss

Clarksdale native and attorney, Harvey L. Fiser, J.D., was named Dean of the Else School of Management at Millsaps College in Jackson, taking over the helm officially in July. Fiser has been serving as interim dean since 2021.

Fiser joined the Else faculty as an Assistant Professor of Business Law in 2003, after serving in private law practice for the previous ten years, and currently also holds the faculty rank of professor. A prolific author and scholar, Fiser has worked in developing new course offerings in Executive Education and has been instrumental in the expansion of the Else School’s international footprint in Mexico and beyond.

“I could not be more pleased with the selection of Harvey Fiser (and Associate Dean, Dr. Blakely Fender, another new naming) to lead the Else School,” says Dr. Keith Dunn, provost and dean of Millsaps College, and now serving as interim president. “Their history with the college and the Else School, and particularly their guidance in recent years and active development of new programs, have positioned them well for the work that lies ahead. The Else School could not be in better hands.”

Fiser sees this next work as an important continuation of his career path since law school. 

“I left a partnership at a law firm where I practiced for twelve years, Adams and Reese, to join the Millsaps faculty and I have never looked back,” says Fiser. “This vocation allows me to be who I am and to meet students where they are. Our minds meet to analyze a challenge and, in that work, we all learn. It’s an extraordinary adventure. I had been teaching as an adjunct professor but also had a friend at Millsaps, who was director of our writing program, and who also made the suggestion that I put my hat in the ring for the one law position at Millsaps. Thankfully, I did and, after a long process, made the cut which led to where I am today.

“I get the chance to work closely with students, helping them learn how to critically analyze problems and work through solutions, bringing a good deal of experience from my days in private law practice to the classroom,” says Fiser.  “The most enjoyable part of my classes is probably also one of the most dreaded–that moment when I pose a question to the class, and someone provides a ‘correct’ answer from the book, only to realize that the correct answer is just the start of the conversation, and one that often includes an open debate and the degrees of ‘correctness’ of the answer.

“The study of law is an ideal fit at Millsaps. Since there are rarely legal issues which are no longer up for debate or analysis, I focus on exploring the limits of law and policy, and I challenge students to debate these issues openly and to be prepared to defend their positions both in and out of class. A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a question is only the beginning of the response!

“For example, with Mock Trial students, I insist that there is no manual on how to handle all cases from beginning to end, and no one can have all of the knowledge of the many areas in which you may be called to practice,”  continues Fiser. “As our Mock Trial team members have learned, one case may be about scuba diving and nitrogen narcosis while the next may be exploring fraudulent accounting records of a questionable amusement theme park. Or, in one of my favorite classes is ‘From Minds to Markets,’ which I teach in the Yucatan each summer, I work with a philosophy professor to guide the class through the crowded streets of Merida, Mexico, asking them to note the unusual or curious. From those exercises, the class works as a team to use those ideas to create new products or services—often far outside of the current knowledge of our class. Through research, creative thinking, and critical analysis of ideas, the class culminates in a final “product pitch” of their new creations and the students have gained valuable insight into exploring new cultures.

“Whether on our study abroad classes in Yucatan or Europe, in a Mock Trial case, while developing a new class, exploring new research interests, or in a normal everyday classroom discussion, I value intellectual curiosity,” says Fiser. “At Millsaps, students demonstrate their intellectual curiosity in delightful ways and, for me, that’s the best part of this extraordinary adventure we call Millsaps.”

Fiser fondly recalls working alongside former Millsaps Else School Dean and Jackson business/banking legend, the late Howard McMillan. “What a great gentleman,” he says. “When I first started here at Millsaps and Howard was our Executive-In-Residence at the time, I learned so much from him. His office was right next door to mine, in what we at Millsaps call ‘The Bat Cave’ where the younger instructors are placed and gathered, and I got to know him very well.”

Growing up in Clarksdale, where Fiser’s mother still resides, Fiser’s late father owned and ran Fiser Insurance and Real Estate. 

“The spirit of Clarksdale and the Delta runs deep in me,” he says. “After I graduated high school to go to Mississippi State to originally become a veterinarian,” says Fiser. “But, after taking Organic Chemistry, I quickly realized that was not going to be my career! I then went for Communications and Public Relations as a major and loved it. When I graduated, I worked for the DeSoto County Economic Development Council where I worked for Jim Flanagan as Membership Coordinator for a couple of years.

“While there, I made the decision to go to law school, eventually graduating from Mississippi College’s School of Law in 1994, before going to work for Ott & Purdy and Luther Ott, one of my dearest friends and mentors, before then moving on to Adams and Reese after a couple of years at another firm that splintered off from Ott & Purdy,” says Fiser. “And, as things sometimes come full circle, I called Luther when I became Interim Dean here at Millsaps to fill-in with teaching some law classes. So, I ‘pretend’ now that I’m his boss!”

As the new Dean of the Else School of Management, Fiser says he is honored to be a part of Millsaps’ unique place in Mississippi education history, and that he wishes to sustain and expand that uniqueness, especially as regards the college’s rich legacy of community service. “I want us to continue to grow and thrive in the ideal,” he says. “It’s not all about making tons of money, t’s about us producing leaders, as we have in the past, who are entrepreneurs who care and make tremendous differences in the lives of others.”