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Management Education Leaders from Latin America Share What Make their Schools Unique

August 2014

Facilitated by:
Elliot Davis, Senior Associate, Research, AACSB International
Hanna McLeod, Manager, Research, AACSB International

The world continues to become interconnected, and AACSB International membership accordingly includes more schools in all regions of the world. Furthermore, management education leaders across the globe face similar challenges: developing relevant curricula, adjusting business models, leveraging technology, and many others. While it is safe to say that all AACSB schools, regardless of location, continue to adapt to a new, more complex higher education environment, there are particular challenges that are unique to business schools located in certain regions with their specific contexts.

Latin America has generated particular interest in the past decade, not only by AACSB, but from other business schools and business leaders globally. In 2000, only 4 schools in the region held AACSB Accreditation. Today, that number has more than quadrupled to 18 schools that have emerged as major players in the management education landscape.

AACSB has worked closely with schools in the region, engaging members through a number of events and seminars, and particularly through the development of the Latin American and Caribbean Advisory Council (LAAC) in 2012, chaired by Fernando D'Alessio of CENTRUM Católica Graduate Business School. The LAAC advises the AACSB Board and staff on key issues and challenges related to business education and AACSB's activities and engagement in the Latin American and Caribbean context. It aims to enhance AACSB's ability to understand and meet the needs of quality improvement of business schools in Latin America, among other things.

AACSB research staff and a few members of the LAAC had the opportunity to briefly meet to share perspectives on some of the main challenges business schools in the region face, and to provide insights to the question—What impact is Latin America having on management education globally?


Dean Javier Yanez
Universidad de los Andes
Colombia

AACSB: How will or does Latin America impact management education globally?

Dean Yanez Arenas: Latin America, due to the diversity of its countries and the conditions inherent in the region, deals with a lot of constraints. Many Latin American businesses handle these constraints in very creative ways. However, management schools have not done enough to understand what has been done under uncertainty. We need to follow the path that industry has taken through the years. If we increase the research capacity among business schools in Latin America, we will be able to capture that value and share it with many other business schools and practitioners around the world. But, the key for us is to increase our research capabilities. In Latin America as a whole, only 12 percent of the professors teaching at university-level have doctorate degrees. By comparison, in the United States, that number is more like 60 percent. There is a huge opportunity to increase the number of researchers that we have in training, and subsequently direct their work to address Latin American issues.

AACSB: What do business schools in Latin America need to do in order to increase this research capacity? Are you trying to get more doctoral students to come to Latin America to study or attract professors to teach at your schools to increase this capacity?

Dean Yanez Arenas: The two you mentioned are very important, but up to this point, I don't think we are really capable of attracting many international PhD students because the PhD programs in Latin America are still in the process of consolidation. Most of the PhD programs in Latin America, as far as I am aware, are either in Spanish or Portuguese. Should we transition to program delivery in English? Or, should we expect English-speaking people to learn in Spanish or Portuguese? I don't think it's one or the other; I think it's a mixture. The very good schools in Latin America are attracting international faculty and that is certainly helping. But, beyond that, I think that the companies operating in Latin America, and even the business schools, need to be more open and need to learn to work as a network rather than trying to develop the same capabilities in a vacuum. For example, if there is an expert in human resources in Peru, we should look into sharing that capability with individuals and institutions in Colombia, rather than having them attempt to duplicate it themselves. An important thing to keep in mind is that South America is very large. We used to have direct flights from Bogotá to Buenos Aires; now depending on the route, the shortest is roughly 8 and half hours. Compare this to a flight from Bogotá to Madrid, which is also about 9 and half hour. Many people don't realize or forget how truly large and diverse this region is, and may think that everything south of the border is homogenous. And, it certainly is not. There are many particularities across the regions and countries within South America.


Dean Maria Virginia Lasio-Morello
ESPAE Graduate School of Management-ESPOL
Ecuador

AACSB: How will or does Latin America impact management education globally?

Dean Lasio-Morello: Most of the Latin American business schools were built upon a very practice oriented approach, largely because of the organizational structures in place, as well as accreditation processes, and so forth. Now, we are becoming more similar to other schools in the world, mainly schools in the United States. But, there is a lot of value in finding the right balance between practice and scholarly work. I see that businesses and companies work and develop at a much faster pace, today—sometimes before we have had a chance to really study these developments. Therefore, we need to be very well connected with the practitioners. At most business schools in Latin America, there is a very high level of integrated work between practitioners and scholars. In most cases, we view practitioners as scholars, here. We have a much larger proportion of practitioners as faculty than in U.S. business schools, for example.

Latin America used to be very unstable politically and economically. As a result, executives in Latin American countries are very well prepared for uncertainty. Businesses look for individuals from Venezuela, from Ecuador, from Mexico, because often times they are more comfortable with change, and are more flexible and adaptable. Latin American managers had to become skilled in operating amidst uncertainly because there was not much option for otherwise. However, instability is no longer unique to Latin America. The whole world is now highly volatile. I would be interested to see how we can transfer these types of skills which Latin American managers and executives have mastered with regard to dealing with uncertainties to other regions of the world. Today, such skills are of demand in all parts of the world, and we have the opportunity to provide leadership.

AACSB: Is there something that schools in Latin America are currently doing to fulfill the goal of collaborating with other regions of the world?

Dean Lasio-Morello: Some schools have joint programs. We see global MBA programs that have classes or courses in several parts of the world and provide students with opportunities for gaining experience in the Latin American environment and its people. Some business schools offer "innovation projects", which our region is not well-known for. If you look at recent reports on innovation, Latin America falls very low. Such low ratings are due to a lack of innovation in products and services, and low numbers of patents. But, what is overlooked or undervalued is the level of innovation in business models and processes. This is an ability needed in many other parts of the world.

AACSB: So, those are areas that can set Latin America apart from other parts of the world?

Dean Lasio-Morello: Yes, because of the current global environment. Latin America is no longer a minority in regard to having a volatile environment. Most of the Latin American countries and their governments keep exploring and changing things every day. This has both stable and unstable results. But we know that we still have to conduct business as usual. Volatilities remain in our region, but we have survived and continue to figure out how to survive. These kinds of survival skills are the things that business education leaders must learn to integrate in their classrooms. Such integration requires flexibility, adaptability, and stepping away from specialization, in order to have a broader view of management. If you cannot solve a particular problem by following one route, you can be flexible enough to try to solve it following another route. Learning how to work with diversity is very important in overcoming challenges in business, which schools and businesses outside of Latin America can learn more about from greater collaboration with us.


Dean Irineu G. N. Gianesi
Insper Instituto de Ensino e Pesquisa
Brazil

AACSB: How will or does Latin America impact management education globally?

Dean Gianesi: Management education in Latin America is still evolving, and has evolved quite a bit over the last decade. Initially, many Latin American business schools tried to import American and European models of education. But, the region itself is not homogenous. It is quite varied in terms of culture and in terms of the kinds of problems each country has. Latin American countries are making a lot of effort to adapt to what is being done elsewhere in the world and to the specific demands of the school's local society. In doing this, there are a lot of business schools in the region that are trying to innovate in their teaching, as well as experiment in making their programs more valuable and relevant to the communities they serve. Perhaps, by taking a closer look at some of the innovations and initiatives at these schools, we may spark some new ideas for the rest of the world. Schools across the globe are facing similar challenges and exploring innovation, and I think we all can benefit from exchanging ideas and sharing with others what Latin American business schools are doing in this space.

AACSB: Are there any particular innovations occurring at your school or at one also in the region, responding to a challenge that might be interesting to share?

Dean Gianesi: At my institution, we are addressing an issue that is particularly important in Brazil, which has many natural resources and strong human capital, but the country has not been very successful in fostering innovation. You can see that by the lack of international patents that are produced and in the way most of our businesses and corporations are evolving. In order to foster innovation, we are creating an engineering school that will be integrated with the business school. The idea is to combine business and engineering competencies, including design and entrepreneurship, to prepare students to be creative and innovative in a marketplace. We are designing the curriculum in partnership with an engineering school in Boston, the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. Olin is helping us to not only innovate in pedagogical methods but also in the process of designing the curriculum. We are trying to design a curriculum that is very multidisciplinary within the engineering portions, and we are also including design and entrepreneurship. The idea is to work within the intersection of business and engineering. I believe the future for business schools is greater focus on interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary areas, and not just within the field of business.

At my school, we do not have departments and our faculty are all integrated. As such, we try to use faculty from different areas of the campus. My school is not just a business school, but rather a school of business and economics. And even still, within business and economics, the faculty is integrated. We have an undergraduate program that is integrated for the freshman and sophomore years. We aim to move one step ahead by including engineering in order to bring in the latest technology and hard innovation, and prepare our students to think and act with innovation in mind, rather than be constrained by their area of study.


Dean Rafael Gómez Nava
IPADE Business School
Mexico

AACSB: How will or does Latin America impact management education globally?

Dean Gómez Nava: Latin America is a region with many opportunities, based in part on its high rate of growth, large population, and other factors. But at the same time, Latin America has many challenges. Challenges in terms of poverty, inequality, and corruption. Business schools in Latin America are working to increase equality, to improve not only managers within industry and their companies but also society as a whole. Since the Latin American market is an emerging market, I really believe that Latin America will significantly contribute to management all around the world. Understanding these social challenges and putting past experiences into other contexts will be beneficial for management education and the management experience within companies. It will provide solutions for improving society, which could be shared in other areas in the world.

AACSB: Could you share something in the curriculum that you may be working on?

Dean Gómez Nava: We have so many initiatives that revolve around topics such as social issues, social entrepreneurship, and social impact so that they are represented within the curriculum. Having the right balance between the economic perspective of the company and the social impact that those companies are having on society are the main issues that we are expanding within the curriculum in our MBA, EMBA, and especially executive programs.




Data From These Four Deans' Latin American Schools