How can business schools collaborate with corporate partners to improve their programs and turn out graduates with the skills that businesses need? That was the question debated in “Successful Engagement with Business Practitioners to Enhance Educational Programs,” a session at the 2015 Deans Conference hosted in San Diego by AACSB International.
María de Lourdes Dieck-Assad, dean of the EGADE Business School at Tecnológica de Monterrey in Mexico, was among the presenters at the session. Noting that EGADE was founded by the local business community, she said that from its inception the school has been deeply engaged with industry. That engagement manifests in multiple ways, these three among them:
- A curriculum advisory board provides extensive input into what and how the school will teach. For instance, EGADE is preparing to launch a new MBA, and the advisory committee made it clear that soft skills should be a priority in the new curriculum, even if it means sacrificing time that might be spent teaching technical skills.
- A high proportion of classes are team-taught by faculty and practitioners. While faculty are present for all classes, the practitioners are responsible for about 40 percent of the work. They share case studies, relate personal experiences, and often invite students to their corporate headquarters. “They show students how business is happening in the real world at that moment,” says Dieck-Assad.
- Faculty are encouraged to conduct applied research on topics of critical interest to business. Says Dieck-Assad, “Yes, we want our faculty to publish in journals, and we want them to have academic freedom, but we also want them to try to focus on issues that are relevant to the business community in Mexico, Latin America, the world, and society as a whole.”
For all these types of engagement, it is essential that the business school make overtures to business practitioners and ask them to collaborate. Dieck-Assad realizes that some administrators are reluctant to take those first steps, fearing that executives will be too busy to participate. But in her experience, practitioners are eager to work with academics and happy to be asked.
Moreover, she says, “They’re living the reality. Our graduates are going out into the business world, so we need to be listening to what businesses are saying.”