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Creating Community: Collectively Addressing Common Challenges

August 2014

By Eileen Peacock, Senior Vice President and Chief Officer Asia Pacific, AACSB International

As AACSB's Asia Pacific office celebrates its five year anniversary, we not only reflect on the tremendous success we've experienced, but embrace a new challenge that calls us to provide an enhanced level of service.

In his recent article UpFront, AACSB's President and CEO John Fernandes posed a challenge: "while we have our eye on change, we haven't found the right strategy to meet our diverse constituency's needs. Business schools in emerging regions can certainly benefit from our experience; we just have to find a way to deliver the services they need, on their terms." This is no small task, but we have a number of initiatives on the horizon that will provide a distinctive level of assistance to schools in Asia Pacific.

Before any action was put into motion, we knew that listening was an important first step in being able to effectively meet our member's needs. AACSB plays an important role in listening to Asia Pacific schools as they interact with their local networks, and we have a responsibility to apply what we learn. One way we listened is through a recent series of focus groups held in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand; these events fostered open collaboration on the needs of these schools in light of their resources and challenges. Information gathered at meetings like these provide insight and data to the 2020 Committee, charged with recommending strategies and structures to significantly increase AACSB's achievement of its global mission, providing for superior membership advantage as well as quality improvement and quality assurance services with particular focus on emerging economies. In addition, the Asia Pacific Advisory Council and Affinity Groups have assisted greatly in various ways: the Advisory Council recently provided facilities for holding forums for the emerging economies discussions, and the Affinity Group gives voice to the membership while providing opportunities for interaction and the sharing of knowledge.

The power of the internet also gives us the advantage of reaching those who can't attend focus group meetings. We've been fostering online communities of practice—on the AACSB Exchange site and in regional networks—to bring administrators together to discuss their challenges. We currently work with forums in Australia, New Zealand, and India, with plans to expand into Indonesia. As these groups become more active, these forums will help schools address common challenges collectively.

At the same time, it's important that we improve the way schools in Asia Pacific access information and learn from the global network. As more schools continue to complete the Business School Questionnaire (BSQ), give information on their effective practices, and undergo accreditation reviews, Asian schools will continue to have access to better information for benchmarking globally. In addition, to provide a level of more personal information about our global colleagues, AACSB developed a Country Profiles database containing information on both the culture and higher education landscape in a given country.

The project began with six initial profiles, including China, Denmark, Germany, India, Peru, and Thailand. An additional 19 countries will be added in the coming year, and the project will eventually expand around the world. Profiles are available to aide collaborations, as well as to prepare the Peer Review Teams (PRT). For example, a new reviewer might use the country profile to better understand the Asia Pacific environment, enabling them to provide more relevant consultation during the review.

The direct effect of all this participation—insight from business schools around the world, as well as research and content development from AACSB—has greatly benefitted the global membership of AACSB. The input from our work in Asia helped to revise the Accreditation standards to consider more institutional models and structures, ensuring inclusion of the world's best schools. As a community, we are able to more effectively partner with each other, as we have a greater understanding of our different operating environments and shared challenges.

While we've already made notable progress in some important areas, one of our biggest challenges in the next five years is to increase PRT and committee participation from schools in Asia Pacific. Now that we have a much better understanding of the nuances of administration and administrative roles in Asian business schools, we are working to ensure there are convenient opportunities to participate as a volunteer. We will continue to offer in-person PRT volunteer training in conjunction with most regional events, and utilize our online technology to increase volunteer engagement, particularly in areas where we are not able to bring events. In the future, our regional headquarters offices (Singapore and soon to be Amsterdam) could facilitate regional and global committee meetings through a blend of in-person and online options for committee members.

I look back on the last five years with great appreciation for the schools that have supported AACSB and our work in Asia. I am especially grateful that 47 percent of 2014 ICAM attendees were from the Asia Pacific Region—we asked you to come and support our first ICAM offering in Asia, and you answered with interest and participation. I would also like to take this opportunity to commend the early adopter schools for forging a path for others in their local markets. Deans and directors from these schools have made it possible for others to follow in their footsteps through their willingness to widely share the lessons learned along the way. To those individuals in the Asia Pacific Affinity Group, the Asia Pacific Advisory Council, and the countless others who have volunteered their time and counsel to me personally—I thank you.

To all our new member schools and individuals just beginning to connect to the AACSB community, I welcome you and look forward to working with you.