Experiential Learning in a Global Business World

Dean Susan McTiernan of the Gabelli School of Business at Roger Williams University and AACSB talk about the need to invest in learning by experience in business schools.


Michael Wiemer: [00:18] I'd like to start our conversation focusing on experiential learning. I was impressed, actually, visiting the Gabelli School at Roger Williams University. I learned that you take a very innovative approach to experiential learning.

[00:29] There's something known as the Center for Advanced Financial Education, or CAFE, that for me was an eye opener. I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about the Center, about CAFE, and its impact on your students, your community, and those that you serve?

Susan McTiernan: [00:45] The CAFE program is the marquee experiential learning program at the Gabelli School of Business. It's something we are extremely proud of. It's been in existence now for about 11 years. We were a first mover in the area of establishing a student investing fund.

[01:01] Our students are working in investing two separate funds, one using a value approach, which of course is that espoused by Mario Gabelli, and another using a more general instructional approach. We are very proud of our students, because for every year since 2008, they've beat the Dow Jones. I don't know how they're doing today.

[01:23] [laughter]

McTiernan: [01:25] They've had a very good run with investing. It's a unique program in a couple of respects that I'd like to mention. One is that the students are making the decisions. They have a trading account. They buy and sell.

[01:37] They don't make decisions and then vet them through three layers of faculty or advisors. They have a very personal stake in this. The other part of it is that they travel every semester abroad. Every semester, they go to another country. They present their research methodologies and strategies.

[01:56] They share ideas with other professional investors around the world. They visit graduate schools of business and undergraduate schools of business and talk with faculty. Basically, spread the good word about what experiential learning is in the finance area at the Gabelli School. I think more than a few programs have grown from those exchanges around the world, which is satisfying to us.

Wiemer: [02:19] That's fantastic. The international dimension, I think, is quite unique. You talk about the world of finance, and it is truly a global dimension. That must add significantly, I would assume, to the process.

McTiernan: [02:29] It adds very significantly to the process. We have a whole network of alumni who have been through the program, all of whom are working in the financial services industry almost to a person.

[02:43] When they come back for their reunions every year and talk about the program, that is what they identify as the singular experience, having gone abroad, talked with others in the financial services industry in other countries. Whether they're traveling to Tokyo, to Dubai, to Scotland, or the U.K., they've been everywhere, pretty much, in the world at this point.

[03:08] They always come back energized, excited, ready to try new ideas, and with a lot of new friends that they maintain over the course of their careers.

Wiemer: [03:17] With the networking pieces, I think about a student who's eager and ready to start their career. They have a chance to connect with very impressive individuals in organizations. What that does for their career as they're starting out, to have that embedded network as part of the program, that's fantastic.

McTiernan: [03:32] It is fantastic. They speak very highly of it. They're networks that they use. Obviously, we're living in a very global business environment.

[03:42] Our students are traveling all over. It's a great way for them to maintain those connections and really take a deep dive into what it's like to be a business practitioner somewhere other than New York or Boston or LA, which is a valuable experience for them.

Filmed February 2018 on site at AACSB's annual Deans Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.