The Faculty Piece

Making sure faculty align with AACSB standards is one critical component of the accreditation process. But there might be more flexibility in this requirement than school leaders realize. 

The Faculty Piece

AS BUSINESS SCHOOLS EMBARK on the journey to accreditation or reaccreditation through AACSB International, one of the areas they look at most closely is faculty qualifications. And one of their goals is to make sure that, depending on their missions, they have the perfect balance among faculty who conduct research, faculty who teach, and faculty with close ties to the business world.

Under AACSB’s 2013 accreditation standards, Standard 15 outlines how schools should deploy faculty over four categories: scholarly academics (SAs), who focus strongly on their research; practice academics (PAs), who supplement their scholarly activities with real-world engagement; scholarly practitioners (SPs), who are primarily practitioners but conduct some research; and instructional practitioners (IPs), who bring their significant professional experience to the classroom. Standard 15 suggests that 40 percent of a school’s roster should be made up of SA faculty; 60 percent should consist of SA, PA, and SP faculty; and 90 percent should fall into one of the four main categories.

Standard 15 also broadly outlines what qualifications faculty members should have in order to fit into each of the four categories, but every school is expected to create its own criteria for each category according to its mission. So, for instance, AACSB expects that SA faculty will have earned their PhDs and be engaged in scholarly activities such as writing articles and presenting at conferences, but individual schools will specify how many articles their faculty must publish within a defined set of journals over a given number of years to qualify as SA at their institutions. Creating these criteria and assigning faculty members to the right categories has proved to be one of the more complex tasks for business schools seeking accreditation.

But schools should know that the suggested AACSB percentages aren’t so much ironclad minimums as helpful guidelines, notes Robert D. Reid, who spent five years as AACSB’s chief accreditation officer. “I regularly tell schools they should do what will make their programs the strongest,” says Reid. “They should be able to tell their story and document that they’re producing quality outcomes, and they should be able to justify why they’ve done what they’ve done—from a staffing perspective, from a student perspective, and from a co-curricular perspective.” While the standards are important, so is the school’s mission.

For many schools, decoding the requirements and opportunities embodied in Standard 15 can still be a challenge. BizEd spoke with representatives at three schools that have created helpful tools to track faculty designations or that have achieved accreditation with somewhat nontraditional faculty models. Their stories follow a Q&A with Reid, which starts below. 

BizEd also spoke to Reid to gather his insights. Reid retired from his full-time position in December. Stephanie Bryant took over the post in January, but Reid continues to play a role at the association as special executive advisor. BizEd asked Reid how business schools can interpret Standard 15, where they might find the most flexibility for their faculty portfolios, and what changes might lie ahead in the way schools deploy faculty. Read his comments below.

Schools seeking accreditation often seem uncertain about how to distribute their faculty among the four categories. What guidance can you offer?
The vast majority of faculty fit easily into one of the four categories. But there are always a small number whose activity level or intellectual engagement has lessened over time. To make sure they have 40 percent SA faculty, schools sometimes write criteria designed to include those faculty members whose contributions have dropped.

I’ve had deans ask me, “Would you rather I have 43 percent SA faculty with criteria that aren’t very strong, or 38 percent with really strong criteria?” I’ve always said that quality matters. I’d prefer them to be at 38 percent with really strong criteria—and a plan to bring all faculty up to those levels.

I would also note that we’ve made a subtle but important shift in the standards. Historically, we’ve asked schools to give us a table that lists all of their faculty and all of their qualifications. But now we’re asking schools to tell us where they were five years ago, where they are today, and where they want to be in five years. We ask them, “How is your faculty portfolio going to change?”

You’ve made the point that there is more flexibility in the standards than some schools might realize. How is that flexibility manifested in Standard 15?
We removed the word “minimum” from the faculty tables and inserted the word “guideline.” To me, that’s not trivial. If a school is launching a program in forensic accounting or some other cutting-edge field, there probably are very few PhD faculty who are capable of teaching in that area. Students would benefit from having teachers who are, in essence, creating that industry.

So there’s more leeway in faculty qualifications in up-and-coming fields?
And more leeway in interdisciplinary programs, where business schools partner with schools of medicine, engineering, communications, and so on. I tell deans, “Don’t let accreditation be a reason not to create a program that could be good for the school and create value in the marketplace.”

Do you think that schools pursuing accreditation for the first time can also be a little experimental?
I would tell schools that are in the initial accreditation process that they should be pretty conservative in defining faculty qualifications. But once they’ve been through their first or second continuous improvement review cycle, they should become more innovative. They could start with smaller pilots—maybe a master’s degree program or an interdisciplinary program that graduates 30 or 50 students a year.

In academia, the pace of change at times is glacial, and if that continues, people who are in business education will either be less relevant or be irrelevant. I don’t want to be irrelevant.

If we want schools to be innovative, we as an accrediting body cannot hold them to strict rules. We can’t hold fast to input measures to determine quality. We’ve got to be more outcome-focused and results-focused. We have to let members try new ideas.

In fact, the Accounting Accreditation Task Force recently discussed adopting more outcome-focused standards. How would schools prove they’ve achieved certain outcomes?
They could start with some pretty simple measures. Who hires the graduates, what kinds of jobs do they get, what salaries do they earn? Do they repay their student loans? What’s their pass rate on certification exams? How many of them get accounting or IT certifications?

Those measures are perfect for the accounting field, which has a number of certification exams. But there is a growing number of certifications in all the disciplines, and the marketplace is looking for badges that say a person is qualified in a specific field.

If the standards ultimately focus more on outcomes, will faculty qualifications still matter as much?
We’re certainly looking at faculty qualifications much more broadly. In the future, schools might consider not just faculty members’ degrees and intellectual work, but the professional experience they have and the professional certifications they hold. It’s a much more qualitative way of looking at qualifications than simply counting publications.

Will there be as much emphasis on research?
Research will always be important, because we expect schools to produce knowledge and have an impact on practice and pedagogy. But it’s up to a school to decide how it wants to create and measure impact.

I consider it a portfolio model. A school can assemble a cadre of academics who have terminal degrees and conduct quality research, as well as a group of faculty who are more engaged with the world of practice and who bring their experience into the classroom. I would contend that it’s this portfolio—this mix of different types of people—who bring real value to a business school.

What other changes do you see ahead?
The Accounting Accreditation Task Force is also considering ways to involve practitioners from around the world of professional accounting in the review process—as members of peer review teams, as part of the committees, and as part of the governance structure. If we adopted that approach in both accounting and business accreditation, it would dramatically change accreditation.

Our job is to help schools get better, and the accreditation process does that. It’s not an audit—it’s a peer review that’s designed to point out things schools should work on if they want to get better. Accreditation matters, but quality improvement matters more. And as a global organization, I think we should be focused on helping schools get better.

Teachers First

 

Teachers First

The nontraditional Hult International Business School focuses primarily on teaching excellence, but with a scholarly component.

LEADERS AT HULT INTERNATIONAL Business School will be the first to say that their institution is not the traditional research university staffed by tenure-track faculty focused on scholarly pursuits. The school—which has campuses in New York, Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, and Shanghai, as well as the Ashridge Estate north of London—was accredited in 2017 under a faculty model that emphasizes teaching over research.

“Of course we want professors who are curious and who are engaged in research that is of relevance to what they teach,” says Johan Roos, Hult’s chief academic officer. “But what we really want is scientifically grounded, practice-oriented, excellent teaching.”

Hult’s faculty consists primarily of two groups—employed full-time faculty, and adjunct faculty who have a stronger and longer affiliation with the school than is generally the case for adjuncts. Typically, faculty are first recruited in the affiliated adjunct role and usually have deep real-world experience; those who thrive often move up to employed status. Even then, they are encouraged to keep up connections with other schools or with industry so they bring new ideas and practical knowledge into the classroom.

Whatever their status, their primary responsibility is to generate value in the classroom. “If their teaching doesn’t get rated around 4 on a 5-point scale, it’s a problem,” says Roos. To gauge teaching excellence, the school relies both on student feedback and the input of mentors who monitor classrooms to observe teachers at work.

This focus on teaching is so critical that it wasn’t until 2016 that Hult began systematically measuring intellectual contributions. Currently, Hult requires faculty to produce five intellectual contributions (ICs) within five years— although, in keeping with Hult’s unconventional approach, what qualifies as an IC is highly flexible. Faculty can choose from a wide range of options that count as contributions, from articles published in peer-reviewed journals, to books, to cases, to conference presentations, as long as these are reviewed by external editors.

“Our mission is to be very relevant to employers, so the message to faculty is clear,” says Roos. “We really don’t care how much time you spend turning out intellectual contributions—we care about the use and benefits to organizations and the broader society.”

To encourage faculty to pursue ICs, the school has rolled out a number of measures. In addition to organizing courses in a way that allows faculty time to do research, Hult maintains an output-based incentive system that recognizes both traditional academic ICs as well as more nontraditional ones. For example, faculty receive US$20,000 for an article in a top scientific journal or a book published by a ranked publisher, $7,500 for a case with teaching notes, and $5,000 for participation in a practitioner- focused conference or other media, like a TED Talk. For ICs in social media, faculty will receive incentives when they meet the school’s thresholds of 1,000 and 10,000 views.

“We pay them for the outcome while recognizing the tremendous effort it takes to succeed in producing ICs with great impact, either in academia or in practice. The point is that we pay after the fact,” says Roos.

The school also provides significant internal and external support on research tasks such as gathering and analyzing data, conducting interviews, reviewing literature, and revising editorial drafts. Faculty are eligible to receive this research support if they submit proposals to the school’s research committee, which outline the practical problem they want to tackle, the research question, and the approach they plan to take.

Roos’ advice to any school that wants to make it through the accreditation process but might find itself an outlier when it comes to traditional measures of faculty qualifications: “Hold tight to the mission.”

“We do a quick internal blind review. We ask ourselves, ‘Does the problem fall within our research strategy? Is the research question clear enough? Can Hult put its brand on this?’ The proposal also must be approved by the ethics committee quickly before the research committee decides whether to approve it,” says Roos. “It is a welcoming and nimble process. In the period from October 2016 to September 2017, more than 90 faculty—employed and adjunct—registered 123 projects.”

Hult also boosts scholarly activity through an approach Roos calls “role modeling and energizing.” The school identified about a dozen people to act as Research Leads on each of the two “grand challenges” that the school is focusing on: transforming behavior and creating disruption. The Research Leads collaborate across all the Hult campuses on research projects related to these two broad themes. The school launched the Research Leads initiative with a global summit of faculty in January 2017, where the participants discussed how to boost Hult’s relevance to organizations globally and considered ways to get faculty excited about producing research with impact.

One idea to emerge from the summit was to hold a TEDx event. “We wanted to do something that would generate a buzz and create positive professional competition,” says Roos. Faculty were invited to submit ideas for their presentations; the 17 who were selected received extensive coaching by external professionals to help them become better at presenting themselves on camera.

In September 2017, Hult staged a daylong TEDx event, held at its Ashridge campus in England. One faculty member received 20,000 hits in a few days. Another received 12,000 hits after two weeks. “These research-based presentations exemplify the kind of impact Hult seeks,” says Roos. “The TEDx talks likely offer managers and organizations more benefits at a faster rate than a peer-reviewed article only read by a handful of academic colleagues.”

Roos hopes to come up with additional creative ideas that will inspire faculty to get excited about research. But he has a broader goal of modeling the kind of research a school can do “if it’s not the classic super-academic institution—if it has a different kind of mission.”

For that reason, he would like to see AACSB’s Standard 15 relaxed a little. “I think Standard 15 is a good model, but I don’t think there should be a particular percentage for each category,” says Roos. “I think that’s almost counter to the Collective Vision, which calls for schools to be co-creators of knowledge and catalysts of innovation in line with their unique strategies. Nontraditional schools have a hard time aligning with 40 percent SA faculty. I think the standard should be more flexible and dynamic—zero is not an option in any academic institution, but the percentage could be totally mission-driven.”

In fact, that’s his advice to any school that wants to make it through the accreditation process but might find itself an outlier when it comes to traditional measures of faculty qualifications. “Hold tight to the mission, and take it from there,” he recommends. “Don’t compromise. Just align your difference with a compelling mission, show how you deliver value, and argue your case.”

To learn more about the HultAshridge TEDx talk, visit www.ted.com/tedx/events/24113.

Professionally Qualified

 

Professionally Qualified

Saint Joseph’s creates specialized programs that draw heavily on practitioner faculty.

TO STAND OUT in the crowded educational field of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Haub School of Business at Saint Joseph’s University has made a point of developing niche programs designed in collaboration with industry. These range from a food marketing program created in the 1960s to pharmaceutical and insurance programs launched since the early 2000s. What these specialized programs have in common is that many of their classes are taught by industry professionals whose day jobs include holding senior positions in their fields.

“When we started the insurance program, it was all taught by industry people,” says Joe DiAngelo, dean of the Haub School. While the risk management and insurance program now includes faculty with degrees related to the industry, it still maintains its close industry ties. Last year, it received a US$50 million gift from insurance magnate James Maguire; $10 million of that gift went to name the Maguire Academy of Insurance and Risk Management.

“And we still have faculty members who are in the business,” adds DiAngelo. “Two are fellows in the Society of Actuaries, and passing the exams to earn that designation is harder than getting a PhD in finance. They’re bringing cutting-edge applications into the classroom.”

As another example, he points to a full-time faculty member in Haub’s pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing program—a medical doctor who previously worked as chief researcher at Auxilium Pharmaceuticals. In that role, he oversaw medical studies on the company’s new products, shepherded those products through FDA approval, and then brought them to market. Now he teaches MBA students how to bring their own products to market.

“When you have highly specialized programs, you need highly specialized faculty members,” DiAngelo says. And while that’s essential for niche programs serving specific industries, he believes it’s also true for traditional programs serving rapidly changing fields, such as accounting and taxation.

“For instance, many terminally qualified traditional faculty members can’t teach the newest developments in accounting,” he says. “If you’re not teaching data analytics in your auditing class, your auditing class is useless.”

To bring that up-to-the-minute expertise into the classroom, Haub relies on a significant roster of clinical faculty. Today, about 16 out of 86 full-time faculty at Haub fall into that category. While they generally fit within the IP classification of AACSB’s model, the Haub School often works with them to turn them into scholarly practitioners. For instance, IPs might be paired with tenure-track SAs to collaborate on case studies written for executive education clients; then, they can work toward having this research published in academic journals or presented at conferences.

Additionally, IP faculty often teamteach with SA faculty, which offers a number of benefits beyond meeting accreditation standards, says DiAngelo. “When we bring in industry experts, the last thing we want them to worry about is whether they’re designing the class correctly or handling the assurance of learning activities properly. The full-time faculty member will create the syllabus and the tests, handle the assurance of learning, give some lectures, and participate in the cases. But the executive with the specialized skills will deliver the bulk of the content.”

While DiAngelo appreciates AACSB’s faculty percentages model, he thinks it can’t be interpreted too rigidly. In fact, as a member of the Blue Ribbon Committee that formulated the 2013 standards, DiAngelo believes the association needs to find ways to be more flexible with faculty qualifications, particularly when it comes to programs serving new or fast-moving fields. That means that peer review teams might need to approve schools that have fewer than 90 percent of their faculty in the academically qualified categories.

“The standards say the peer review team has to make a judgment of the program’s overall high quality, and a school can reach overall high quality in a number of ways,” he says. “I’m not saying we don’t need terminally qualified faculty members. In highly quantitative courses and in foundation courses where you want to dig deeply into the theories of the functional areas, terminally qualified faculty are the best teachers to have. But we need to look at the people teaching certain classes that require high-level specialized expertise. Is it better for a school to hire the people who are doing the work every day, or hire someone who has a PhD but who has never done research in the subject of the course they’re teaching?”

Nontraditional schools seeking accreditation must emphasize the professional achievements of their IP faculty and the outcomes achieved by their programs, says DiAngelo. “These schools have to document the expertise of the people in the classroom. They also have to note who’s hiring the students coming out of their specialized programs.”

Such schools might be best positioned to meet employers’ needs in the coming decade—because those needs are changing. For instance, a senior partner at Pricewaterhouse- Coopers recently told DiAngelo that the firm would be hiring 20 percent fewer accountants in the next few years. Instead of sending accountants into the field to collect information, it will connect with clients via computer and conduct audits using artificial intelligence.

Says DiAngelo, “He told me they’ll be hiring the same number of people, but they won’t be accountants. They’ll be computer scientists and data analytics experts. It’s going to change the whole way accounting is done. The world is changing, and we have to change with it.”

Filling A Flow Chart 

Filling A Flow Chart

A simple graphic helps Christopher Newport University align faculty with the 2013 standards.

FOR SOME SCHOOLS seeking accreditation, it has been a challenge to determine how to fit the former “professionally qualified” and “academically qualified” faculty into AACSB’s new four-quadrant faculty system. That challenge was handled smoothly at Christopher Newport’s Luter School of Business in Newport News, Virginia, when it was reaccredited in 2015 under the 2013 standards. At the time, the school had about 300 undergraduate business students and 15 faculty members.

“We had very clear designations as to academically qualified and professionally qualified faculty under the old standards, so we looked at the activities of our faculty members on that dimension,” says Thomas Hall, associate professor at the Luter School and co-director of the Center for Public History. “They mapped pretty cleanly to the new two-by-two matrix of qualifications and activities related to maintaining currency.”

But to make it easy for faculty to envision where they fell in the new four-box system, Hall created a flow chart that clearly explained the criteria for each classification. (See graphic on the facing page.) “It’s pretty simple, yet it incorporates both the faculty member’s academic preparation as well as her or his recent activities that relate to staying current within the discipline,” says Hall. “We used the embedded definitions in AACSB’s guidance documents and came up with a series of questions that seemed to cover all instances fairly comprehensively.” The school also uses Digital Measures, a commercially available software package, to track intellectual contributions and teaching loads.

Both the flow chart and tracking system are coming in handy as the school embarks on a steady process of expansion. The Luter School is benefiting from a universitywide push to increase the number of FTE faculty across campus, as well as from growing demand among students for more access to business programs. Formerly capped at 300 students, the business school currently claims about 400 majors, and also serves a significant number of students minoring in the subject.

In addition, the dean, George Ebbs, is working to get approval for the school’s first graduate degree program. Taken together, these factors mean that the school has been bringing in more faculty—it is now up to 20 full-time professors—and it has needed to hire strategically.

“As we have expanded the faculty, we have consciously populated each of the four categories with the appropriate number of new hires,” says Hall. “We have found that the standards provide fairly flexible guidance regarding which sorts of people we want to hire and try to retain.”

Hall appreciates that the new standards are looking beyond traditional scholarly research and encouraging schools to focus on impact as well. “If we’re really interested in how the business school can make the world a better place, then we can’t just focus on peer-reviewed articles in prestigious journals,” he says.

This emphasis on measuring impact also opens the door for business professors to collaborate with liberal arts professors as they bring their quantitative and analytical skills to projects with social implications, and the Luter School has encouraged its faculty to pursue more grant-funded research and cross-disciplinary efforts.

“One of our economists obtained a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to conduct a study of declining museum attendance over time in the United States,” Hall says. “A finance faculty member teamed up with a professor in the history department to start our new Public History Center that works with local nonprofits on things like economic impact studies.”

Hall believes that the new standards— and the whole process of reaccreditation— also benefited the school as it redefined faculty responsibilities. “Given our planned growth in faculty, we were able to leverage AACSB’s threshold requirements and some comments from the visiting team to convince the administration to let us be the first division on campus with lower teaching loads, especially for SA faculty,” he says. “Eventually, this policy was adopted on a campuswide basis, so the business school served as a vanguard in promoting positive change across the entire university.”

He adds, “If you let the standards guide both your faculty and the university’s leadership, lots of interesting things can happen. We take seriously the AACSB guidance to improve both business and society at large.”

Filling A Flow Chart

This article originally appeared in BizEd's January/February 2018 print issue. Please send questions, comments, or letters to the editor to bized.editors@aacsb.edu