As business schools across the country step up the competition for the best and brightest MBA candidates, three area universities are starting the school year with newcomers in high administrative posts.

Francis D. Tuggle was named dean of the Kogod College of Business Administration at American University; Mark Wellman is the new director of graduate programs for the College of Business and Management at the University of Maryland at College Park; and Catherine Searle Renault has become director of the Business Incubator program at George Mason University's Entrepreneurship Center.

They are taking their new posts at a time when business schools are gearing up for the kind of competition that their graduates face out in the job world. Biannual surveys of the top MBA programs by Business Week and U.S. News & World Report have increased the pressure on business school faculty and administrators to earn top marks in their field, said Business Week reporter John Burns.

"There used to be a kind of gentlemanly edge to the competition," said Burns, who last week completed a three-month study of the nation's top business schools for the magazine's survey. "They were above the slings and arrows of the marketplace."

Wellman, 28, came to the University of Maryland from Bowling Green University in Kentucky with one overall goal: to elbow the College of Business and Management into the ranks of the nation's top 25 master of business administration programs. Maryland was ranked 28th by U.S. News last April but did not make the top echelons of Business Week's survey published last week.

As director of graduate programs for Bowling Green's business school from 1987 to 1989, Wellman implemented special programs to attract minority candidates. The percentage of African-American MBA candidates in the program went from 3 percent to nearly 10 percent during that period.

This fall, Wellman said, he helped launch Maryland's new, 31-person satellite MBA program in Rockville, "to attract the nontraditional business student who wants an accredited MBA program."

He said he plans to set up a database at the College of Business to track potential applicants and will emphasize seeking qualified minority candidates. Sixteen percent of this year's MBA students at the College of Business are black. Wellman said he also will meet with corporate recruiters, asking them how to improve Maryland's MBA program.

A 1983 Bowling Green graduate, Wellman started teaching at the university's business school in 1985 after earning a master's degree in organizational behavior there.

AU's Tuggle, 47, also arrived in Washington this summer preoccupied with national standards. The new dean said he is determined to win accreditation for the school's MBA program from the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

Kogod has completed a year-long self-study process required for accreditation. A committee from the AACSB will visit the school this fall and present administrators with a final list of needed changes.

Tuggle also hopes to establish a board of visitors at Kogod to improve the school's ties to the Washington business community. The board, composed of lawyers and professionals from the nonprofit and private sectors, would "get the faculty closer to what is going on in actual business practice," Tuggle said, and "provide outer limits to how far theory actually carries you."

Tuggle spent the last 12 years as a dean and professor at Rice University's Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Administration. He served on the business and computer science faculty of the University of Kansas from 1968 to 1977.

An expert in computers and organizational behavior, Tuggle earned a doctorate at Carnegie Mellon University under Nobel Prize winner Herbert Alexander Simon.

And he spent his first month as dean living in a AU dormitory. "I wanted to feel comfortable and on top of things at the outset," he said.

George Mason's Renault, 36, left the world of corporate high technology this fall to direct the business incubator program at George Mason University's entrepreneurship center.

A manager in the Tempest products operation of Atlantic Research Corp. from 1986 until last spring, Renault helped lead an unsuccessful bid by the Tempest subsidiary's management to buy the unit last winter. When ARC sold the division to San Francisco-based Mitek Corp. in March, Renault and the rest of the management team were laid off.

"I had met a lot of venture capitalists in the area {putting together the bid}, and it got my interest piqued," Renault said. "When I heard about the entrepreneurship center, I thought 'Gosh, that would be fun.' "

The two-year-old business incubator program houses eight fledgling high-tech companies and provides one outside company with support services and counseling.

Because Renault is the program's first full-time director since October 1989, she said, her first months on the job will be spent putting its administrative house in order and expanding its focus beyond the firms already in the program.

"When there wasn't anybody sitting here ... they kind of let {recruitment} slide, and now we're getting it back up again," Renault said. "You've got to get out in the community, meet the entrepreneurs and let them know what resources we offer."