Actively Engaged

The many ways business faculty serve their schools and society by interacting with the wider community.
Actively Engaged

Whether they’re conducting workshops for practitioners, serving on boards, or consulting on commercialization projects, business professors find many ways to interact with business leaders in the community. In fact, faculty engagement is so important to schools that AACSB International has launched an initiative to explore the many ways it’s accomplished. Earlier this year, AACSB’s new Business Practices Council surveyed a handful of member schools to ask how faculty engagement is encouraged on their campuses, and many of their responses were shared at AACSB’s Deans Conference in February.

While the 11 responding schools detailed many different ways that their faculty engaged with the community, two major beneficiaries quickly emerged: students and society. Here, we take a closer look at how faculty engagement can reap rich rewards on both levels.


When professors interact with stakeholders outside the campus, they connect with businesses, nonprofits, governmental agencies, and specialty organizations. Not only do they enrich their own research, but they often bring their findings into the classroom—or bring their students with them into the real world. Schools shared some of the following examples of how their faculty are achieving these goals:

At Washington State University in Pullman, College of Business faculty collaborate with executives from a senior living company on a course that deals with a growing sector of business: seniors living outside of nursing homes. Executives from senior care companies within the state serve as instructors, teaching students the business of running a retirement community. The class also includes a three-day field trip to Seattle that gives students an up-close view of senior housing operations. Each of the sponsoring companies provides a US$2,500 scholarship to an exceptional student; the companies also offer paid summer internships.

At McCoy College of Business Administration at Texas State University- San Marcos, an HR faculty member was a founding member and president of the local chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. The professor’s involvement with the organization allows faculty to invite select HR professionals to speak in classrooms or to student clubs.

At American University’s Kogod School of Business in Washington, D.C., executivein- residence Jill Klein annually oversees the Women on Corporate Boards research study for the nonprofit Women in Technology, also based in D.C. This initiative has allowed her to expose students to the value of research: For the past three years, Klein has guided MBA students through the process of researching the gender makeup of public corporate boards in Virginia, Maryland, and D.C., then compiling the results into a formal report for the nonprofit.

At the University of Baltimore’s Merrick School of Business in Maryland, the Social Enterprise and Entrepreneurship course is led by senior lecturer and business leader John C. Weiss; it’s composed of UB students and representatives from local nonprofits. After students spend a semester learning innovative ways to generate both financial and social returns, they end the class by making a final presentation intended to create a new nonprofit.

Merrick School also has developed a partnership with the NASA Goddard Space Center that allows University of Baltimore students to analyze the commercial viability of new Goddard technologies. Students gain real-world experience in commercialization as they identify potential applications and markets for technologies that are raw, patented, or patent-pending.

Similarly, faculty at the University of Connecticut’s School of Business in Storrs have partnered with IBM on a program in which students devise ways to commercialize the vast amounts of data collected by the Watson computing system. One team focused on the pharmaceutical industry, specifically examining how drugs meant to treat one condition might be repurposed to treat other conditions; another team studied how Watson could make call centers more efficient by helping operators get accurate answers more quickly.

When developing its programs, Lancaster University Management School in the U.K. partners with corporate leaders or specialty bodies. For instance, it has solicited direct input from Ernst & Young on its bachelor’slevel courses in accounting, auditing, and finance. It also has worked with an organization called e-skills UK to develop a four-year bachelor of science degree in management and information technology.

As these examples show, when faculty engage with the business community, the classroom environment becomes richer and students gain valuable real-world experience.


Whether faculty are conducting research that’s sponsored by the state, consulting with schools in emerging economies, or serving on private or governmental boards, their activities can have a positive effect on business leaders, other universities, or society at large. Business schools are taking a range of approaches to this side of the equation:

Faculty at Kozminski University in Warsaw, Poland, frequently conduct research funded by the European Union, usually undertaking projects that are focused on executive training and professional development. One project will develop a cooperative network among thousands of small and medium enterprises in Warsaw; another will promote entrepreneurship and self-employment among Warsaw citizens in part by training students to launch business ventures after they graduate. Both were financed by the European Social Fund.

Four faculty from American University’s Kogod School have served on the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, two spent time as visiting scholars at the World Bank, and one served on an Institute of Medicine commission.

At Frostburg State University’s College of Business in Maryland, a recent consulting effort has resulted in an eight-week Entrepreneurial Leadership Program that is offered to the local small-business community. Starting in early 2014, it is slated to become an annual offering.

As part of a universitywide initiative at Washington State, faculty at the College of Business have worked with the Nelson Mandela African Institute for Science and Technology (NM-AIST) in Arusha, Tanzania, to develop courses on innovation, venture creation, and technology transfer. The courses benefit postgraduates and postdoctoral professionals in science, engineering, and technology-related fields. One professor continues to travel to Tanzania to teach workshops and entrepreneurship courses at NM-AIST.

At Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business in Houston, Texas, faculty participate in two workshop series that blend academia and business. The Thought Leadership series pairs a senior business professor with an executive; they give presentations that show how academic research complements real-world situations. At the RoundTable Series, professors present topical research to members of the business community during a luncheon and receive feedback and assessment on the practical value of their research.

At the University of Connecticut, the Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) hosts annual faculty development programs. A program on Green Business in Asia focuses on how Australian universities, government, and corporations are using innovation and technology to become more sustainable. A program called Redevelopment in Haiti and Dominican Republic explores how universities, government, and industry in those countries are rebuilding businesses with an emphasis on innovative industries.


Schools, students, and society all benefit from professors’ research, consulting, and service projects. So what can school administrators do to promote more faculty engagement? Respondents to the Business Practices Council survey had these three suggestions:

Provide time. For example, at the University of Mannheim Business School in Germany, professors are allowed to dedicate one day a week to consulting and research projects. In fact, that’s true across the nation because Germany’s Framework Act for Higher Education defines “knowledge transfer” as a main purpose of German universities.

Sabbaticals also give faculty time to connect with organizations and individuals. At the University of Baltimore, strategy and international business professor Christine Nielsen headed to the Philippines to establish the nonprofit NEW Pathways to Enterprise, which is devoted to social enterprises; she also launched IdeaShops, which awards business supplies to startups. Tigineh Mersha, chair of the department of management and international business, took a sabbatical in Ethiopia that resulted in an article about nurturing entrepreneurs in Africa.

At the McCoy College of Business Administration, tenured faculty with at least six years of experience can apply for faculty development leave—for one semester, if they take a full sabbatical, or for an entire year if they work half-time. While faculty can use the leave to pursue a variety of activities, most use it to work on special projects for business organizations. For example, one accounting professor used his leave to consult with Ernst & Young at its training facilities in Bangalore, India.

The McCoy College also uses an externship program to make sure faculty are engaged with business. During the 2012–2013 academic year, five faculty members applied for externships.

Provide funding. Sometimes what faculty need to engage with the community isn’t time, but money. The McCoy College Development Foundation distributes approximately US$80,000 each year to support faculty development activities, and faculty submit competitive proposals for awards. Activities range from acquiring software skills to attending workshops on improving teaching effectiveness to spending time collaborating with business organizations on specific projects.

Sometimes the money is best used to fund travel that allows professors to attend conferences, collaborate on scholarship, act as visiting faculty, host exchange students, or participate in other activities that will enhance the institution or aid its student recruitment efforts.

At Frostburg State University, the College of Business offers a program that sponsors international travel. Over the last three years, at least one-third of the faculty and administration have been sponsored in their travels to China, Taiwan, India, Peru, Ecuador, Hungary, Oman, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The trips have resulted in partnerships with institutions in China, Taiwan, and France; they also have led to a new offering in international hospitality that allows students to spend substantial time in Taiwan.

Assess the results. The University of Mannheim regularly measures faculty engagement with the corporate community, evaluating the number of applied research projects, number of publications for practitioners, and number of workshops held for companies. The school also considers the number of professors who serve on company or governmental boards. School officials believe such activities promote professors’ interaction with the management community and ensure that the school’s programs have practical relevance.


Whether they’re focusing on research, service, outreach, or consulting, faculty have many opportunities to interact with business leaders, government representatives, and other academics. When such activities are facilitated by the university, the school’s visibility is heightened, the classroom is enriched, the surrounding business community is strengthened, and everybody wins.

AACSB is continuing to solicit input from schools about how their faculty are engaging with the wider community and bringing those experiences back to the classroom. Send detailed examples to Bob Reid, AACSB’s executive vice president and chief accreditation officer, at [email protected]