Forming a Middle East and North Africa Affinity Group

Jacob Chako, former dean of the College of Business Administration at Abu Dhabi University and now dean of the Clayton State University College of Business, talks with AACSB's Tim Mescon about the idea behind, formation of, and function of AACSB's Middle East and North Africa Affinity Group.


Timothy Mescon: [00:00] One of the many leadership roles you've taken is with our Middle East North Africa Affinity [MENA] Group. Maybe, if you wouldn't mind sharing a little bit about the strategy behind both the creation of the group and some of the initiatives that the group is involved with.

Jacob Chacko: [00:33] The idea of the MENA group was, by and large, for business groups to get together to discuss common issues that we all face, in terms of attracting faculty, retaining faculty, in terms of faculty development, research, there's a dearth of research, and be in a safe zone not in our college, not hosted by one of the universities to talk about the common issues we have.

[00:59] We had, I should say, some failed starts in the sense we wanted to have some joint research projects, and few people did it and rest of the people did not. I think we are gaining momentum, gaining traction, people are much more comfortable talking about common issues. What are some of the challenges we all face? That no matter how big, small, new, public, private, et cetera, it doesn't matter.

[01:24] We all face issues with relevant research to the region. We face issues with case studies developed within the region. Students have common issues in terms of employment, whether they're going to work, the trend of outworking... In that part of the world, in many of the countries, most of the people work for the government. The governments have started realizing that they just don't have enough opportunity.

Mescon: [01:48] I love the notion you referenced, Jacob, that you had with this Middle East North Africa Affinity Group, there were some fits and starts in building momentum. But we talk about, in being innovative, that it doesn't always lead to initially success. That we learn from sort of misdirected opportunities as well... or ideas.

Chacko: [02:13] That is also that cultural aspect. One of the things I've learned there is that people don't like to take risks. If you don't make mistakes, nobody will blame you.

Mescon: [02:23] Great point.

Chacko: [02:24] All right, and so...

Mescon: [02:24] It's safe?

Chacko: [02:25] Yeah. It is safe, and people like to play safe. One of the aspect of it is people are not empowered to take risks. Nobody wants me to take risks, why would I take risks? I think that we are coming together. One of the things I want to really stress that I think Middle East North Africa is a great area for business education to thrive, and AACSB has a great role to play.

Filmed April 2017 on site at AACSB's International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM) in Houston, Texas, USA.