University of Minnesota president Joan Gabel AACSB president and CEO Caryn Beck-Dudley discuss how we will connect with each other differently in the workplace and the classroom going forward, and the continued value of networks.
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Caryn Beck-Dudley: [0:00] What do you think are the key features that our students need to have to be able to work in the future, and how is higher ed helping that or hindering it?
Joan T.A. Gabel: [0:26] I think there's really two sides to our role in preparing students for the future of work. One is just what we're teaching them. Do they have the skills? The other is do they have the competencies because I think the main thing we all presume about the future of work is certainly industries will shift in response to what we decide we need or don't need.
[0:46] Downtown offices, high-rise office buildings are likely to look really different, super-expensive clusters in high cost of living areas are likely to look very different.
[0:59] I think one of the things we really need to be thinking about as higher ed institutions and particularly business schools is what we look like after this and how this affects the professional development of new talent.
[1:14] We've already done a lot of the heavy lifting around preparing students in a timely manner to progress, graduate, and enter the workforce. Many of our employers are hiring. In fact, in a lot of the industries, particularly here in the upper Midwest, they never really missed a beat. There was a quick pause, and then they were back up again needing new talent.
[1:35] How is that talent being identified for fast tracking? How is that talent being mentored? How is that talent being curated into the culture so that they can develop from new talent into leadership?
[1:51] That always required face-to-face time and observation, tap on the shoulder, connectivity, relationships, and that simply won't exist in the same way in all likelihood in the future, since so many of us are going to retain our distanced working lifestyle because of the advantages that it offers, not everybody.
[2:14] In order for distance to not become a fundamental disadvantage, I think we really need to be thinking overtly about leadership development, talent development, and helping employers understand that they'll need to be very purposeful about pulling talent up through the ranks, or it won't occur.
Beck-Dudley: [2:33] I love thinking about it that way. Historically, the faculty member has been the subject matter expert. Now that students can learn subject matter anywhere, the faculty member sometimes now is the coach, the mentor, [laughs] and the social worker.
[2:49] Our 2020 accreditation standards are principle-based rather than rules-based. It allows for a broader role for the faculty member. Do you see resistance in your faculty to taking on these new roles or do you see them embracing it?
[3:03] Oftentimes, I know as a faculty member, I didn't feel like I was qualified to do a lot of the things other than teach the subject matter for a long period of time.
Gabel: [3:15] We're seeing disruption in the faculty. If you had sat faculty around a conference room table a year ago and said, "Hey, what do you think about switching from taking your lifetime of developed and curated expertise and shifting it to a facilitation role?" That meeting would have been short.
Gabel: [3:34] Today, our faculty, even the ones who taught online...I mean, I've been teaching online since 1998. Teaching online isn't new for most of us, but teaching online everything all the time, that's really new even for programs that were 100 percent online. The pivot, such an overused word but really dizzying pivot. I think a lot of our faculty are like, "Hey, bring it, what's next."
[3:58] If we're going to stay in higher ed, if this is our new order, then we better be able to articulate our contribution, and we might need to become students of this cultural shift, or we're going to get left behind. I think there will always be a place for deep expertise.
[4:16] I just think it's in the delivery and how it is used. The expertise is not necessarily standing in front of a classroom saying, "Listen to me. I know a lot." It's in bites as the expertise is needed, because the expertise, it's not like this changes the fact that we need to have deep understanding. It's just in the delivery that I think we see the shift.
Beck-Dudley: [4:38] I'm going to be fascinated to see how it all turns out, I guess, at the end, but I've been very proud of business faculty across the world who really stepped up pretty quickly. As you said, many business faculty have been teaching online for a long time.
[4:52] In a lot of universities, the business school really had to help the other parts of the schools, and the other parts of the university really step up on. It's been an interesting experience just to view it globally. As you know, AACSB is a global convener of business schools all around the world.
[5:08] I know you have a deep and wide history of being an international traveler yourself. You have lots of connections internationally and globally. How do you think that your global connections are being maintained in this new technology environment?
[5:22] Has it been harder? Has it been easier? What do you see for the future of global connections for you as an individual as well as for a business school faculty in general?
Gabel: [5:35] It's been both harder and easier. It's harder in the sense that we can't be together personally. It's easier in the sense that you can get people on a Zoom meeting, and nobody seems to mind...
Beck-Dudley: [5:46] [laughs]
Gabel: [5:46] when that's the suggested medium, other than our collective Zoom fatigue. Projects that we were actively working on at the time that everything shut down, we've been able to maintain those conversations. I'm assuming that our inability to get together in person will eventually affect how we are able to close different arrangements, partnerships, exchanges, etc.
[6:13] I worry a lot for our students. As you say, I've been taking students overseas basically my entire career and very actively engaged in international research teams and international service projects that I think are fundamentally core component of the mission of a higher ed institution to expose students so that they can have cross-cultural competency.
[6:39] If anything, Zoom and distance makes us flatter. We should be absolutely certain that our students are capable of having an understanding of cultural difference and being leaders, how those differences create opportunities and advantages, both for the individuals and then for the team, and for your creative mindset in your innovation in a company that you work for or your own company in many cases.
[7:05] Students are not going to be able to study abroad in normal ways for a while. Things are going to open back up again, but I think it'll be a while before people are comfortable just popping over to a new place. There's this anchor that we feel from the pandemic and wanting to be close to home.
[7:23] I'm quite sure many of our colleagues listening to this are also feeling real pressure from faculty and students to reopen as much as possible so that they can do their research and keep their student experiences going and keep their collaborations going. I don't think it's going anywhere, the idea that we need to be partnered in boundaryless ways.
[7:44] I encourage people to take advantage of Zoom in the meantime and be prepared to travel again as soon as possible but probably with slightly different agendas. Much like you were referring to earlier won't be about saying, "Here's the history of the country we went to," and "Look at this political arc," or "This is how they do banking here, can do that anywhere."
"[8:07] This is what the family structure is," and "This is how the political environment has led or discouraged innovation," and "This is what the currency exchange has meant for risk." Those kinds of questions seen in the face-to-face experience, more so than the needing to be in country to develop expertise.
Beck-Dudley: [8:32] I can't wait to travel again. [laughs]
Gabel: [8:34] Me too.
Beck-Dudley: [8:35] I thought that I really wanted to not travel, but now I'm tired without traveling. I'm glad to hear other people are ready to travel again as well. Anything you would like to add at the end? I really appreciated your time and your long association with AACSB.
Gabel: [8:52] Appreciation for the opportunity to be able to do this especially with you. Congratulations to you and to all of the listeners. You are in very good hands with Caryn Beck-Dudley as your president.
[9:03] I think one of the things that really was so valuable for me in my time in business school leadership and in participating in AACSB Board Leadership and Events is AACSB is obviously the home base for accreditation. There's so much more to AACSB. It really is an academy.
[9:22] I learned so very much and developed so many of the relationships that have been the support and guardrails what I call sometimes when I talk about leadership with my personal board of directors when I think about who I trust and who I think has had a shared experience from which I've been able to learn and my own professional development, which has gone better than I could have hoped for.
[9:48] A lot of that came out of AACSB. Embrace it as a partner. Think about the lessons, opportunities, and people with shared experience and shared interests that it provides. It's been invaluable to me.
Recorded October 2020.