eNEWSLINE - Business Education News from AACSB International

Interview with Industry: Life-long Learning Paves Path to Success

November 2014


Michael Thomas, Executive Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton
> Read Thomas'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?

Thomas: The importance of education has been a cornerstone of my life for many years. My parents were always focused on getting my sister and me to complete our college education, as my dad was the first to graduate from a four-year accredited university and believed that was key to his ability to build a successful career.

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

Thomas: The BPC represents an opportunity to drive a real partnership for AACSB and for all our members. This is a focused, dedicated, passionate group, who collectively have incredible experience in the business world and academe.

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

Thomas: The training of the workforce is a major issue today. The skills for the ever-evolving and rapidly changing work place demand a focus on continuous, life-long learning. The opportunity for academe and business to work closer on predicting the next wave of educational focus is a terrific partnership that is essential to the future of our overall workforce in this country. One example we recently worked on is that many of the computer science courses are teaching advanced generation computer languages and coding practices, which are crucial skills in most places but are a deficiency in the field of cyber forensics. Top cyber analysts need to really understand the fundamentals of the operating system and the inner workings of the computer itself; however, the advanced generation languages, to a large degree, make those basics much less important and therefore not as valued in some sectors of our work place.

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

Thomas: (1) Listen to the market, the skills are changing and evolving at an extreme pace. The international aspect of the educational experience is so much more important today than it was not long ago. (2) Increase experiential learning through internships and advisory councils that connect real-time needs with real-time educational delivery. (3) Encourage life-long learning; instill the curiosity and understanding required to let students know that this is just a beginning. The deans I have met through AACSB really embrace this approach, and I believe that role-modeling will be key going forward.

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

Thomas: This is the beginning of your journey. The foundation is being set in the education you are achieving today, but the workplace is an extremely dynamic and changing place, and only by embracing the entire journey of life-long learning and gaining experiences will you really achieve your potential.

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.