This article first appeared in the UConn Business magazine, Volume 1, Issue 1 (Summer 2009)
No one needs to convince UConn marketing professor Subash Jain that globalization continues to impact MBA program curricula in this new millennium. Jain, director of UConn’s Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER), believes that dialogue among MBA faculty internationally is central to curricular reform; therefore, he invited deans and senior administrators from leading MBA programs across the globe to discuss these changes.
This inaugural Global Roundtable on Advanced Management Education Reform (GRAMER) promises to be the first of many future roundtables that will encourage experts from leading business schools—this year, ranging from Harvard, MIT, and Columbia University to international stalwarts such as Fudan University (China) and IMD International (Switzerland)—to offer future direction for curriculum innovation.
While participants may have differed in opinions over the skills, competencies, and courses that MBA programs should emphasize to prepare the next generation of global business leaders, they all agreed upon one thing: the time is ripe for examining graduate education anew, especially with respect to the environmental, geopolitical, and technological shifts now impacting industry. “There is a concern that, since the practice of management has changed considerably in the past fifty years, the MBA curriculum at leading universities must always anticipate and address these substantive changes. This roundtable allowed experts from the finest business schools across the world to offer recommendations for curricular revision that reflect the explosive growth in international business,” said Jain.
UConn’s CIBER served as an ideal host for this three-day conference that focused largely on curricular responses to globalization. Under Jain’s direction since 1995, CIBER serves as a resource center for UConn faculty, students, and industry partners who seek knowledge and skills on international issues in order to enhance US competitiveness. In recognition of its excellent global business programs, UConn’s School of Business is one of only 31 US universities to receive a US Department of Education grant to support its outreach efforts. “UConn’s CIBER is a strategic partner to our business programs at UConn, working with faculty so they may help students cultivate a sense of cultural intelligence,” said Chris Earley, Dean of UConn’s School of Business.
After opening remarks by Earley, Jain, and John Stopford, professor emeritus of the London Business School and GRAMER’s co-chair, presenters launched into a range of innovative recommendations for preparing this generation’s business leaders. While some presenters discussed how new technologies are being leveraged to foster virtual, cross-cultural experiential learning, others illustrated the possibilities of dualdegree programs that encouraged US schools to partner with non-US institutions. Understanding that succeeding in the emergent global landscape requires an innovative type of thinking, several presenters explored strategies for teaching students creativity, emphasizing that “creativity is a precondition to being global.” The wide spectrum of ideas generated rigorous discussion throughout the Stamford event, and London Financial Times reporter Michael Skapinker moderated a wrap-up session to offer participants some closure and personal reflection as they press forward to adopt curricular change.
To serve as a catalyst for future roundtables, UConn’s CIBER will be developing a white paper to summarize presenters’ ideas and outline the emergent themes across the wide array of presentations.
While presenters concurred that an MBA education must, as always, prepare graduates to maximize benefits to stakeholders, these presenters also underscored that MBA graduates must be prepared to lead in cross-cultural environments, demonstrate an acute awareness of cultural differences, and demonstrate concern for global sustainability issues, including worldwide poverty and global warming. Discovering ways to develop this mindset among students remains central to UConn’s MBA program and reflects a central part of Dean Earley’s strategic plan: preparing global leaders for the new millennium.
Jain and UConn’s CIBER will participate in future GRAMER conferences to extend the ideas and recommendations that emerged in this inaugural international forum. Jain reflected, “We all recognize that the world and, hence, industry has changed considerably with respect to environmental shifts, geopolitical shifts, and emerging markets. Change is inevitable, and this first-ever conference has positioned UConn and its global competitors well to develop exceptional MBA programs that are responsive to these changes. Here at UConn, CIBER looks forward to contributing tothese strategic curricular changes, so we may give our MBA graduates the competitive advantage they’ll need to be successful.”