New Year's Resolutions

B-School Deans: Big Hopes for 2012 and Beyond


Educators love a clean slate, free of chalk dust and open to new possibilities. That’s exactly what a new year brings, the opportunity to write your own destiny on that fresh blackboard. For the past two years, Bloomberg Businessweek has asked deans at top business schools about their resolutions for the year to come—for their schools, their students, and the world of management education. In 2012 they are aiming to produce more thoughtful and present leaders. Their goals go beyond the here and now; they are looking well into the future at the kinds of managers and businesspeople their schools will be producing. Ultimately they want better for the world, and constant improvement is what they say they need to achieve that.

For starters, some educators think traditional teaching methods can be stale and should be reconsidered. They want business schools to take more risks and produce graduates capable of confronting the world’s problems. “Looking ahead to 2012, it is critical for management education to inspire students, the next generation of business leaders, to think deeply, creatively, and boldly about solving the complex, large-scale problems facing our global society,” writes Sally Blount, dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, in an e-mail. “As educators, this means we must push boundaries in how we approach teaching and research. We must go beyond what has worked in the past to meet the current needs of this dynamic, vibrant planet of 7 billion people.”

Choosing a method of teaching is important. Determining what kinds of lessons you will teach is extra important. And the global financial crisis has put pressure on business schools to instill a greater sense of responsibility in their graduates. “Business leaders must master the ability to recognize the connections between their own actions and those of their organizations and industries in a global context,” writes Glenn Hubbard, dean of Columbia Business School, in an e-mail. “Now more than ever before, they must also take into account the social impact of their decisions. Management education will play a critical role in teaching the next generation of business leaders to ‘connect the dots’ in making informed decisions that encompass both cross-functional expertise and social responsibility.”

Wharton Revamp

University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, for example, is revamping its curriculum and will implement the changes in 2012. With increased focus on ethical and legal responsibility, oral and written communication, and self-analysis, the school is also going to provide recent graduates with ongoing executive education to encourage lifelong learning. The intent is to make sure the future is bright for individual students and business as a whole.

“The purpose of management education is to prepare the next generation of leaders. That means we have to focus not just on the needs of our students now, but also on their future needs,” writes Wharton’s dean, Thomas S. Robertson, in an e-mail. “Wharton’s new MBA curriculum design, which emphasizes continuous innovation, keeps this in mind. Our faculty and staff are hard at work to ensure that the implementation [of the curriculum] goes smoothly.”

To prepare students for the future, business schools need to consider what is happening in classrooms in the present. Paul Danos, dean of Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, says business schools must vow to improve on the delivery of core knowledge and skills, encourage principled leadership, provide students with access to great minds, and integrate global and social leadership ideas into their teaching. Specifically he calls for the following resolutions to address these issues: “continuously improve the rigor, breadth of coverage, and integration of the core; continuously create team involvement, feedback loops, and counseling to aid students in perfecting their own personal leadership plans; find ways for students to probe the knowledge creation and evaluation processes of the leading faculty thinkers and to create their own approach to knowledge evaluation; and create programs that inspire students to embrace the responsibilities that will be offered to them in their careers, to realize that they are best prepared to contribute to the lives of the diverse constituents in whose interest they will lead organizations.”

Beyond the Bottom Line

Schools have to think big, both for themselves and the business world to which they cater. The major challenges that business schools must face head-on include disruptions from online education, millennials who are less willing to check their values at the door, and states that are investing less in public higher education, writes Rich Lyons, dean of the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business, in an e-mail. “We should resolve to build even more authentic brands. We can define identities that hold more truth and continue to transform our organizations to deliver them,” he adds. “I foresee 2012 as a year in which business schools will delve more deeply into the change management process as they determine how what they do can have a much deeper, positive impact.”

The bottom line is that business schools need to help students think beyond the bottom line and promote working for the greater good, especially as the world continues to encounter financial troubles, writes Bill Boulding, dean of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, in an e-mail. His resolution? “May we produce the leaders of consequence the world needs. Why? Business connects us around the world and into fundamental issues we confront globally around health, poverty, economic development, energy security, and environmental sustainability,” he says. “We need leaders who will see the opportunities to make a difference and accept responsibility for shaping a world that advances from good to better.”

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Francesca_dimeglio
Di Meglio is a reporter for Businessweek.com in Fort Lee, N.J.

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