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UpFront: The Search Has Begun!

By John Fernandes, President and CEO, AACSB International

It's 14 down and one to go for me as AACSB's first—and so far only—staff president and CEO. Prior to April 2000, the president was a dean of an accredited business school, and a new one was elected every year. Since then, the elected leader of the board is known as chair. The old system of leading AACSB seems so foreign now, it simply could not have worked much longer than it did. AACSB's mission is grand, and it requires the full-time-plus dedication of its CEO. But then again, AACSB has changed a lot since the turn of the century. I'll talk more about that the next time I write for eNEWSLINE, most likely as I head out the door in April 2015.

For this piece, I just want to talk about the search for a new CEO, which began last month. If you haven't read it, you should take a look at the position description on AACSB's website. The product of countless meetings with, and input from, members all over the world, the CEO position summary is a well-crafted cornucopia of competencies that (quite frankly) would have scared me away in 1999. Jan Williams, chair of the CEO Selection Committee, and past chair of the AACSB Board and dean at University of Tennessee at Knoxville, was my guest on the most recent eNEWSLINE Live. Dean Williams did a great job of explaining the selection process, candidate competencies, and selection criteria. Most importantly, he emphasized that the preferred candidate would have many of the experiences and skills, but no single candidate would likely have all.

AACSB is at a critical point in its development, and choosing the right leader is essential in continuing the association's global momentum. It's a more complex business education world than the one I encountered in 2000. The rising tides of business students are endless in the emerging economies, yet the lion's share of mature business schools are in the developed world. AACSB—now with members in 89 countries—is still modeled for the traditional higher education approach. 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. The AACSB 2020 Committee has begun charting a course that will re-invigorate the association's global mission, mindset, and strategies. By this September, AACSB 2020 plans to begin presenting its thoughts to our global membership. In the meantime, it is holding focus groups and conducting research around the world that will help formulate AACSB's plans for the next level of globalization.

The next CEO of AACSB will be asked to go further and faster in leading the association's hundreds of volunteers and staff in serving this wide, wide world of management education. At the same time, we must assist our long-term members in their transformation to technology-driven, global acting institutions. There is much to do; yet it can be one of the most exciting jobs in the world for the right person.

So now is the time for all of us to help the AACSB CEO Selection Committee find the best match for the association's and global business schools' needs. Look around—that person might be just around the corner.

Finally, I want to thank our volunteers, staff and members for making the 2014 International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM), the first ever in Asia, a resounding success. It was a "game changer" as is often said. AACSB has the right vision and make-up to serve the needs of management educators, students, and business anywhere. We just have to put our minds to it!


John Fernandes
President and CEO
AACSB International