Interview with Industry: Strengthening Ties between Education and Industry
Rebecca Ray, EVP of The Conference Board and AACSB Business Practices Council member, discusses industry-education collaboration.
Facilitated by: Sarah Ham, Senior Manager, Marketing Communications, AACSB International
How has your passion for education—and your career experiences—influenced your decision to be part of AACSB's Business Practices Council?
Ray: Beginning as a teacher in a high school setting and then moving to the college classroom and then on to corporate education and now as a researcher across the human capital spectrum at The Conference Board, my life has been about helping others develop so that they can find the successes they seek in a multitude of career choices as well as helping organizations build the kinds of infrastructure and capability that ensures that the organization can deliver on its business imperatives. I have had the privilege of teaching some exceptional young people; I have worked with talented employees and executive teams at world-class companies and partnered with great organizations equally passionate about education and development to try to make a difference. In all of these settings, I was struck by the number of people who genuinely cared about the quality of education, the opportunities that should be made available to all, and the seriousness of the "calling" to be of service to others. These experiences have given me a perspective about what businesses need their employees to do, how to interact, how to think, and how to be good global citizens. When offered the opportunity to serve on the Business Practices Council, I readily accepted, as I felt it would be a continuation of my life path to attempt to bridge the gap between preparation in an educational setting and execution in a corporate one.
What do you hope or envision that the Business Practices Council can achieve that will support business school innovation and engagement?
Ray: If our group can foster dialogue, generate innovative ideas, shed light on great work already being done, and strengthen the existing bridges between these two critically important worlds, we will have done something of importance.
Are there any challenges facing global business today that could be better approached through a partnership with academe?
Ray: The impact of research focused on addressing specific business challenges can be significant. We see this through the work we do at The Conference Board. Businesses win by getting objective views on the challenges they face. Institutions win by creating case studies or giving faculty the opportunity to further refine their teaching materials. Students win by having the opportunity to experience real-world challenges in a safe environment, which allows them a chance to experience, reflect, and grow. Business-focused research serves as connective tissue.
What are the three most important things institutions must do now in order to remain relevant to industry—both now, and well into the future?
Ray: In no particular order, as they are all intertwined and equally important, I believe institutions must do the following:
Focus on the goal: produce the greatest possible new entrants into the global workforce (those with "ready-now" skills and an understanding of the industries they will ultimately lead), which can only happen with a tight and effective partnership between business and academe;
Provide access: deliver education in new ways to ensure that a world-class education is not only available and affordable but can be delivered in ways that cross geographies, platforms, cultures, and methodologies;
Make education work for a lifetime: instill in students the belief that they must become perpetual learners and that it is up to them to stay not simply current but constantly improving. Corporations can help with innovative programs, paid sabbaticals, blended on-the-job programs, and opportunities to exhale in order to think differently and innovatively while an employee, and then help the employee prepare for an "encore" career or social mission work. Institutions can help by offering opportunities for students to learn from business executives, joint business challenge programs, and jointly led internships. In partnership, businesses and institutions can drive the economic success all countries seek.
What is the one piece of advice you would give graduate students as they pursue business education?
Ray: No matter where you start your career, it will be a long journey—one that is hopefully filled with gratifying experiences, opportunities for impact, rewards and recognition, and memories of challenges successfully met. Be curious, learn new things, and think of yourself as a growth stock so that you continually reinvest in you. Be a perpetual learner so that you grow and change to adapt to the VUCA world that lies ahead. Some skills and qualities will always be required: to collaborate, to think critically, to manage time and resources well, to have a bias for action, to be accountable, to have a global mindset, and to act ethically. And remember that the reason you are in a particular job may be less about the job you do and more about the people you develop and inspire; you may never know how instrumental you are to the success of those whose lives you touch.
Rebecca Ray serves as the executive vice president, Knowledge Organization for The Conference Board. In this role, she has oversight of the research planning and dissemination process for all three practices areas (Corporate Leadership, Economy & Business Environment, and Human Capital) and is responsible for the research agenda which, in turn, drives much of the business planning process for The Conference Board. She is responsible for overall quality and the continuing integration of our research and engagement efforts. She oversees Ask TCB™ our Business Information Service. Rebecca is also the leader of the global human capital practice. Human capital research at The Conference Board focuses on human capital analytics, labor markets, workforce readiness, strategic workforce planning, talent management, diversity and inclusion, human resources, leadership development and employee engagement. In addition to published research, related products and services at The Conference Board include peer learning networks, conferences, webcasts, and experiential and other executive events. She hosts the monthly Human Capital Watch™ webcast, which explores current issues, research and practitioner successes in the field of human capital. She oversees the Human Capital Exchange™, a website that offers research and insights from The Conference Board, human capital practitioners and our knowledge partners. She created the Senior Fellows program in human capital with some of the profession’s most acclaimed leaders. She is the Director of The Engagement Institute™, a research community of practice she created with Deloitte Consulting and Sirota.
This article was originally featured in the October 2014 issue of eNEWSLINE.