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AACSB Embraces Business in a New Way

March 2014

By Brenda Lovell, Senior Vice President, Chief Practices and Engagement Officer
AACSB International

Nearly all business schools have some type of advisory group comprised of prominent business people that are there to support the institution in numerous ways. Whether it is to help ensure curriculum is relevant, development efforts are on target, or student and faculty internships are available, these advisors are committed to the continuous improvement of business schools. So why wouldn't AACSB, the association for quality business schools, mirror this practice?

It has. With the launch of the Business Practices Council (Council), AACSB has adopted the concept of an advisory council—at the management education industry level. When creating this group, we realized we couldn't reach out to alumni or even local business leaders. Instead, we assembled a small group of stakeholders, representing various global industries and interests, to develop the same advisory core familiar to—and in many cases, already in place—many business schools.

Mike Thomas, executive vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton, leads this newly formed council of 14 individuals, comprised of 10 business practitioners and four academic leaders. Each person has a wealth of experience in both business and academe, and, as a result, immediate synergies emerged. The council has defined their mission, agenda of activities, and communication strategy with stakeholders. Their charge is simple: as a collaborative partnership, inform gaps between business school graduates and employer needs, and inform accreditation policy, as appropriate, with regard to interaction with business. And, foremost, support business school innovation, engagement, and impact in executing the mission.

"This is a small, but very passionate group of thinkers who share a strong conviction with the AACSB Mission of wanting business schools to be the best they can be," says Mike Thomas, chair of the group. "The discussions are energizing and illuminate so many opportunities for business and academe to strengthen their partnership." With members from Deloitte LLP, General Motors, The Coca-Cola Company, Ingelheim Boehringer, KPMG LLP, The Conference Board, DMB Peru, the Society of Human Resource Management, and State Street Exchange, the cross-industry challenges are amazingly similar. How do you channel the creativity of millennials or engage baby boomers? How do you use MOOCs to augment your talent development? How do you resource talent in emerging economies? How do you leverage entrepreneurial thinking throughout the organization? The academic leaders from Boston University, IMD, Pace University, and the University of Kentucky can understand the tests the leaders face in recruiting and developing talent, as they hear the same from their stakeholders.

At their last meeting, the council enthusiastically supported the dialogue that will be created through Boston University's upcoming Business Education Jam, a collaborative online event where discussion forums with business leaders, top business schools, and thousands of participants will run for over a 60-hour period. They also discussed outcomes from recent research conducted by The Conference Board, DNA of Leaders: Leadership Development Secrets and CEO Challenge 2014, where there could be many opportunities for academe to partner with business to solve identified economic and social issues. The canvas of what could be accomplished is large. Yet, the council wants to see measurable impact and have chosen a few areas to focus upon initially.

As the council began work in 2013, it gathered examples of how schools are engaging their students and faculty with business practice—all of which will be shared through AACSB communications. Secondly, nearly half of the business practitioners participated in accreditation peer review visits so that they could deepen their understanding of what AACSB Accreditation means in the marketplace. Last month, the council introduced themselves by presenting at the AACSB Deans Conference, and several members provided examples of how they view innovation, engagement, and impact. In the coming year, they have outlined a full schedule of projects to undertake, and as each one comes to fruition, the outcomes will be communicated through various AACSB media channels.

In the next few issues of eNEWSLINE, we'll introduce you to the council members and also share updates on the group's initiatives. If you have engagement examples that your school would like to share, or have interest in supporting the council's work, feel free to contact me at: brenda@aacsb.edu.

Brenda Lovell
Senior Vice President, Chief Practices and Engagement Officer AACSB International