eNEWSLINE - Business Education News from AACSB International

Interview with Industry: Fostering Greater Collaboration between Academia and Industry

September 2014


Kenneth Freeman, Allen Questrom Professor and Dean, Boston University School of Management
> Read Kenneth's bio

Facilitated by: Sarah Ham, Senior Manager, Marketing Communications

How has your passion for education—and your career experiences—influenced your decision to be part of AACSB's Business Practices Council?

Freeman: As Allen Questrom Professor and Dean at Boston University School of Management, I have the privilege of seeing talented faculty and students doing exceptional work every day. Similarly, during the course of more than forty years in industry I have seen many talented professionals doing exceptional work in support of their customers. Yet, it feels like academia and industry are operating in two very different worlds. We haven't capitalized on the opportunity to bring academia and industry together to define the future of business education. The AACSB Business Practices Council provides an exceptional platform for this conversation to take place on an ongoing basis. The end result will be progress in closing the gap between industry and academia.

Participation on the Council enables me to wear two hats—as a member of the academic community striving to educate the next generation of leaders, and as a seasoned business executive focused on creating value. Working with the Council is an opportunity to listen to and learn from other business and academic leaders and contribute to making progress.

What do you hope or envision that the Business Practices Council can achieve that will support business school innovation and engagement?

Freeman: The Business Practices Council has the opportunity to serve as a major catalyst for fostering greater collaboration and understanding between industry and academia. The Council has the potential to become a primary source of best practices that are widely adopted. When industry is directly involved in business education everybody wins! The needs of employers are rapidly changing. Student learning is both academic and experiential and companies gain new perspectives from students with their fresh ideas and their generational insights. The Business Practices Council will have an important voice in helping academia meet the future needs of business.

Are there any challenges facing global business today that could be better approached through a partnership with academe?

Freeman: Yes, there are. Take ethical leadership for example. In business schools, we overlook the contributing causes of the Great Recession to our own peril. Today's students want to understand what it means to become responsible, ethical leaders, and learn what it means to exercise informed judgment and how they can make a difference in the world. Strong partnership between industry and academia is essential to gain understanding and spark effective change. By engaging in dialogue about what we teach our students through the Business Practices Council, industry will have the opportunity to help shape a generation that will go on to lead with integrity and will create value.

In addition, business school faculty are dedicated to identifying ways to support innovation through academic research, while conveying practical professional information to their students. Future best practices will not be "best" if academics simply engage in dialogue with other academics. The voice of the business world is essential to the discourse.

This is why AACSB is sponsoring The Business Education Jam taking place later this month. It will uniquely connect business with academe in a 60 consecutive hour global conversation about the future of business education, from supporting competencies essential for success in the 21st century to harnessing digital technology and cultivating innovation and entrepreneurship. We expect the Jam will yield meaningful, actionable ideas, and organizations like the Business Practices Council will both provide an important platform for ongoing conversation as well as guidance for significant ways to change.

What are the three (3) most important things institutions must do now in order to remain relevant to industry—both now, and well into the future?

Freeman: The issue goes beyond remaining relevant to industry—we need to increase our relevance to society at large around the world.

First we must integrate our curriculum more closely with the practical needs of today's—and tomorrow's—employers by establishing stronger partnerships with industry, including but not limited to more experiential learning, and greater opportunities for job placement.

Second, we must use technology to expand our global reach and diversify our curriculum across schools and industries to strengthen our own business model, and make business schools more competitive. The student population is increasingly global, and excellent business schools have emerged in virtually every corner of the world. Education that occurs in only one city or one classroom is a thing of the past.

Third, we have an obligation to educate leaders who will—to put it simply—do the right thing. The individual losses and layoffs experienced around the world during the Great Recession caused great pain for many students, and corporate malfeasance broadly diminished their admiration for business leaders. Respect and relevance go hand in hand.

What is the one piece of advice you would give graduate students as they pursue business education?

Freeman: Understand the major forces transforming business—as these provide the essential context for innovation, informed decision making and growth. It is no longer sufficient to have knowledge solely about the management functions, from accounting to marketing to strategy.

Digital technology, health and life sciences, and social enterprise and sustainability are at the forefront in terms of job creation and value creation today, and for the foreseeable future. A basic understanding of these sectors—even if your industry is not directly related -is essential because it is inevitable that the growth of your business will be directly linked to them; they will impact every business in every country around the world.

Interview with Industry is eNEWSLINE's newest article series designed to introduce the members of AACSB's Business Practices Council (BPC) to our members. The BPC serves as a collaborative partnership for an ongoing, sustainable relationship between the business community and business schools at the management education industry level. Contributors share candid thoughts on the importance of aligning management education with effective business practices.