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12 Inspiring Female B-School Deans Share Leadership Lessons

John A. Byrne
·94 min read

The world’s top women who lead business schools share what they’ve learned

“To confront any kind of uncertainty, you need to be flexible.”

Francesca Cornelli could tell you a thing or two about leading during a crisis. A veteran of the business school scene, previously holding positions at global heavyweights London Business School, the LSE, Duke Fuqua and The Wharton School, Cornelli has steered Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management through one of the most challenging years for academic institutions in recent history. She cites flexibility as one of the key skills needed for leaders during a crisis, as well as empathy: “You need to be able to bring others along with your vision…empathy through collaboration is what allows you to pivot together.”

The first woman to be tenured and become a full professor in London Business School’s history, Cornelli has done a great deal to advance gender equality in academia, helping to create AFFECT in 2016, a committee of the American Finance Association, which works to promote the advancement of female academics in the field of finance.

‘COMBINING WORK AND FAMILY IS AN ETERNAL BALANCING ACT’

Kellogg Dean Francesca Cornelli
Kellogg Dean Francesca Cornelli

Kellogg School of Management Dean Francesca Cornelli

She isn’t alone in her achievements. The Kellogg dean is one of an increasing number of women who have scaled the business education ladder and now lead some of the world’s most prestigious schools. In recognition of International Women’s Day, 12 of those leading female Deans have sat down to share their stories.

Marion Debruyne, Dean of Vlerick Business School in Belgium, shares Cornelli’s take on the skills needed in crisis management. “Through all of it, it’s been an exercise in (remote) empathic leadership,” Debruyne says.

“The role of a dean contains a lot of stakeholder communication at any given time.” Like Cornelli, the Vlerick Dean has stressed the importance of being able to juggle the demands of numerous stakeholders at any one time, whether that be those in your professional life, or personal.

“Combining work and family is an eternal balancing act in juggling demands on many fronts. Six years later, I feel my biggest achievement has been to find a way to be happy on all those fronts, and see my kids thrive as well, even though their mom is far from perfect.”

‘INNOVATION IS BORNE OF CHALLENGE’

Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou of Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business
Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou of Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business

Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou of Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business

Despite the challenges that business schools have faced over the course of the last year, Debruyne, a Vlerick alumna herself, has taken a surprisingly optimistic view of the situation: “I believe this is such an exciting time to be in education, as we will see a tremendous amount of change.”

She’s not wrong. The pandemic has forced schools to take almost a decade’s worth of innovation and make it happen in a matter of months. And for many, that can be an overwhelming feat. But not for Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou.

“One thing I know is that innovation is borne of challenge, and uncertainty is a foundation from which we grow, thrive, and create monumental change that can impact the world.”

Taking on the role of Dean at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business at the height of the pandemic in October 2020, Bajeux-Besnainou undoubtedly faced a mammoth task in getting to grips with a new institution which looked to her for leadership. However, much like her Belgium-based counterpart, she was undeterred.

“Success in these types of situations demands a variety of skills…most of all, an enormous amount of courage, optimism, and passion.”

‘RESILIENCE IS THE KEY’

Ann Harrison, dean of Berkeley’s Haas School of Business

Bajeux-Besnainou and her resilience in spite of adversity finds company with Ann E. Harrison, the Dean at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Quoting the wartime British Prime Minister, Harrison insists that leaders mustn’t fear failure.

“To quote Winston Churchill, ‘never, never, never give up’. Resilience is the key,” she says.

According to Harrison at Berkeley Haas, successfully leading her institution through this crisis has been her greatest career achievement, and has come down to skills which include critical problem solving and emotional intelligence.

“We are in a time of creative and disruptive innovation as universities and other providers experiment with new formats, including online degree programs and just-in-time education models,” she says. “A lot of universities will not make it through the current pandemic crisis, and those that do make it will radically transform their offerings. The pandemic has taught us that we can do much more online than we thought possible and that some online instruction can be more effective for some students, who reap the benefits that are unique to remote learning.”

In the case of Bajeux-Besnainou, while the Dean’s personal skillset is important, cultivating a strong team is paramount: “Surround yourself with complementary, smart people who you truly trust and empower them…a great leader is never alone.”

Durham University Business School’s Susan Hart shares Bajeux-Besnainou’s sentiments. “I have achieved nothing alone,” she says flatly.

”ADJUSTING EVERYONE’S EXPECTATIONS AS TO WHAT CAN AND COULD BE ACHIEVED’

Delphine Manceau of France’s NEOMA Business School

For Bajeux-Besnainou, online learning was nothing new. Tepper had launched its online MBA long before COVID, meaning that the school had already “worked out the kinks” of remote delivery, as the Dean notes. Similarly, for emlyon Business School in France, the switch to remote teaching didn’t come with much of a learning curve. “emlyon Business School was certainly well ahead of many business schools and universities in the digitalization process,” says the Dean, Isabelle Huault.

But that’s not to say that it was easy sailing for Huault and her colleagues. “The impact of Covid-19 was difficult for many students, especially the first-year students, deprived of the quality and intensity of life on campus,” she says. In navigating this crisis, emlyon’s Dean insists that being ambitious, far-sighted yet flexible is crucial. The importance of flexibility is echoed by a number of others, including Susan Hart at Durham. After UK lockdown restrictions forced the school to switch to remote teaching, “adjusting everyone’s expectations as to what can and could be achieved” became a significant first step. In times of crisis, ensuring that faculty and staff are on the same page through effective communication is arguably the marker of an effective leader.

Delphine Manceau seems to think so. Dean of France’s NEOMA Business School, Manceau maintains that being able to communicate and reassure is a must for any crisis-time Dean. “We must be able to communicate what we know, without being afraid to tell what you do not know,” she says. Manceau is no stranger to leadership, having previously held a senior position at ESCP Business School. Crucially, she’s an innovator by nature which has proved invaluable during the pandemic. Under Manceau, NEOMA has responded to the demand for new teaching methods in revolutionary way, designing and launching Europe’s first digital campus.

‘YOU CAN CHANGE THE RULES’

“You are the game changers of tomorrow…you can change the rules, modify the way things work,” the Dean says. Looking at the way in which NEOMA has reacted to the COVID crisis, no one can doubt that Manceau practices what she preaches.

Idie Kesner, dean of the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University

According to Idalene Kesner, Dean of Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, “Deans are not just administrators or bystanders. Whether the occasions are happy or sad, we are privileged participants in the lives of our students, faculty, and staff.”

Discussing moments from her career that have left a lasting impression, Kesner indicates that much of her outlook on leadership has been shaped by her relationship with her ‘organizational family’. “These moments, and the unique stories behind them, also leave lasting impressions and bring perspective to the role I play,” she says. Taking a personal interest in the lives of her colleagues and students, Kesner notes that some of her most challenging moments have been when members of her organizational family have faced hard times. With such compassion for the Kelley community, it’s no surprise that Kesner has placed diversity, equity, and inclusion at the heart of the business school’s agenda. Looking at the pandemic in the wider context of a number of significant events that have shaped the US in recent years, she’s adamant that there is a lesson in all of this:

“The events of the last several years have reminded us that educational institutions, especially business schools, can play a pivotal role in changing the business climate and creating a more equitable and just environment.”

‘IF YOU ACTIONS INSPIRE OTHERS TO DREAM MORE, YOU ARE A LEADER’

Such an awareness of the societal role of business schools is also reflected in Fiona Devine, Dean of Alliance Manchester Business School in the UK. Devine attributes much of her awareness of the external environment her school finds itself in to her alternative background. Previously holding leadership positions in the School of Social Sciences and Department of Sociology at the University of Manchester, she admits that the move to heading-up a high-achieving business school came with a learning curve: “I very quickly had to learn about MBA programmes and Executive Education. In addition, I had to develop a deeper understanding about the high expectations on the Business School.”

But it’s her roots in sociology and politics that has left Devine “attuned to the wider context in which I operate as a Dean of a large Business School.” She adds that, “As an academic committed to top-quality research and teaching, and with a sense of social responsibility, I hope this infuses literally everything we do every day.”

While on the subject of politics, for Maryam Alavi, Dean of Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business, the making of a leader can be summarized in the words of former US President John Quincy Adams: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

‘STUDENTS TODAY DEMAND MORE OF THEIR EDUCATION AND OF THEIR EMPLOYERS’

Maryam Alavi, dean of the Scheller College of Business

For Alavi, it’s about the impact you have on others. From teaching a large undergraduate class as only a grad student herself, she instantly became aware of both the “responsibility and potential impact” that educators had on their students. With this in mind, she says, Alavi and her colleagues at Scheller strive to created “principled business leaders” who have that much-needed entrepreneurial nature and tech-savviness, but crucially, “are focused on value creation for stakeholders and improving the human condition.” Alavi wants her students to become as aware as she is of the impact that leaders have on others.

Creating socially responsible leaders is also on the agenda at Emory Goizueta Business School, as the dean Karen Sedatole explains. “Students today demand more of their education and of their employers. They want purpose in their professional lives, and they want to work for an organization that is purpose-driven. At Goizueta, we build principled leaders ready to solve the biggest issues of our society.”

Alongside Isabelle Huault at emlyon, Sedatole made the bold decision to take on a new role as Dean at the height of the pandemic. Sedatole has a clear and unwavering focus on social responsibility. And despite the challenges that COVID has presented, under Sedatole’s leadership, Goizueta is taking the opportunity create a better future.

‘BUSINESS AND SOCIETY CAN WORK COLLECTIVELY TO ADDRESS CHALLENGES’

The school recently launched the Roberto C. Goizueta Business & Society Institute, created with the goal of ‘transforming business to solve society’s challenges’. According to Sedatole: “business and society can work collectively to address the challenges of inequality and climate change, two of the most pressing challenges facing both business and society today.”

But that’s not the only way in which, under Sedatole’s leadership, Goizueta is looking to the future. “We’ve invested heavily in digital learning experiences and are launching next generation digital classrooms (Goizueta Global Classrooms) this spring, hologram technology, and virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experiences,” the Dean says.

In one way or another, all the schools mentioned have innovated the way in which they deliver content to students. The WU Executive Academy at Vienna University of Economics and Business is no exception.

‘BE BOLD AND COURAGEOUS…NOW AND NOT LATER’

“We equipped all lecture halls with state-of-the-art IT and interactive multimedia equipment in just a few weeks, enabling true hybrid teaching,” says Barbara Stöttinger, Academic Director at the WU Executive Academy.

For Stöttinger, the digitalization that has taken place during this pandemic, whether at WU Vienna or elsewhere, has triggered development that cannot be stopped. It’s therefore key that business schools recognize and master the skills needed to deal with the many other lasting effects of the pandemic and, in doing so, exploit the opportunities digital transformation has presented.

Offering a piece of advice to others, Stöttinger says that we must “Be bold and courageous – now and not later.” The common denominator with the tales, lessons and advice of all the Deans mentioned within this piece: courage, audacity, boldness. That is their overwhelming message of advice to others.

You can enjoy the full interviews with each of these twelve inspiring female business school deans – just click on the individual links below:

Francesca Cornelli – Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management

Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou – Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business

Marion Debruyne – Vlerick Business School

Ann E. Harrison – Berkeley’s Haas School of Business

Idalene Kesner – Kelley School of Business at Indiana University

Susan Hart – Durham University Business School

Isabelle Huault – emlyon Business School

Delphine Manceau – NEOMA Business School

Fiona Devine – Alliance Manchester Business School

Maryam Alavi – Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business

Karen Sedatole – Emory Goizueta Business School

Barbara Stöttinger – WU Vienna University of Economics and Business

Dean Francesca Cornelli

Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University

“Think less about perfection and be more confident in leaning into new opportunities. In retrospect, I could have accomplished even more at various stages in my career if I had been less preoccupied with the idea of perfection”

Where you’re from/place of origin:

Milan, Italy

Where you previously studied:

I graduated from Bocconi University in Milan with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics, and I received a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University.

Previous roles:

I have taught all over the world, including at London Business School, London School of Economics, Wharton School, the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad and the New Economic School in Moscow. I have also served as an independent board member of several global corporations – currently, I am on the board at GCM Grosvenor, a global alternative asset manager.

Before I came to Kellogg, I was professor of finance and deputy dean at London Business School. While I was at LBS, I directed the Private Equity Institute of London Business School, with the goal of building a bridge between academia and practice by partnering with private equity leaders in London, alumni and top academics in the field. Building connections between academia and practice has been a through-line for my entire career.

I’m particularly proud of helping create AFFECT in 2016, which is a committee of the American Finance Association designed to promote the advancement of women academics in the field of finance. There are so few women academics in finance and the numbers were not increasing so I, along with other women academics, decided to do something about it.

In addition to being the dean of Kellogg, I also serve as a professor of finance, holding the Donald P. Jacobs Chair of Finance.

How has your business school adapted to the Covid-19 crisis, and what initiatives and innovations have you implemented?

The strength of our response lies in our innovation and partnerships throughout the Kellogg community. In particular, a few key examples come to mind:

  • Connecting In the Classroom: Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve completely reinvented our classrooms, with a range of modalities designed specifically to support the content being taught in the classroom, as well as student and faculty preferences. This includes 100% in-person teaching; hybrid teaching with groups of in-person and remote students; completely remote teaching (which is useful for classes like negotiation, where participants need to see each other’s faces); a modality we call “Remote Plus In-Person” where students have an opportunity for in-person, small group experiences with faculty; and a modality called “Students Together” where a group of students can attend a class together in the Global Hub and the professor teaches remotely. Our faculty have also broadened their office hours, opening up Zoom for a period of time before or after class for informal conversation and community building with students. Our teaching approach will continue to evolve as we’re constantly thinking about how to redesign and reimagine the classroom experience — not just to address a challenge presented by the pandemic, but to think creatively about how the content in the classroom can best be taught in the long run.

  • Connecting with Peers: We’re also thinking beyond the classroom experience to the co-curricular. So much of our students’ MBA experience is defined by their networking opportunities and collaborations with each other. To better support students during this disruptive time, we’ve launched pods for first-years in our Full-Time MBA program, which allow small groups of seven or eight students to regularly connect. They’re intentionally designed to be inclusive of in-person and remote students, and structured to support self-reflection, leadership development, or just to casually connect. As we look to the Spring Quarter, we’re also partnering with student clubs to explore in-person components to some of Kellogg’s signature spring events, and we are hosting more casual events like trivia and movie nights with in-person elements. Just as importantly, we’ve launched many innovations for connecting virtually – including a popular Koffee and Kocktails program for global get-togethers. Students grab coffee, tea or a cocktail, depending on where they are in the world at that time, to network or connect more deeply with faculty and alumni. We’ve also hosted all-virtual events like Recruiting Refresh Week, which is focused on deeply preparing our students for Spring recruiting. It included virtual keynotes from popular faculty on topics like negotiations and career derailment, and a keynote from Mariana Atencio – a viral TED Talk speaker and award-winning author – on the topic of resiliency.

  • Connecting with Alumni: While Kellogg has always had a strong and incredibly responsive alumni network, it’s important for students to receive intentional professional development support from alumni right now, during such a disruptive time. With this in mind, we’ve created a matching program for alumni to mentor current students – offering firsthand guidance as they navigate their goals at Kellogg. The response has been fantastic, with more than 400 students and 400 alumni opting into the mentoring program in just several weeks. We have also increased the amount of virtual alumni talks for our students, bringing in alumni from all over the world for candid conversations – including Yum China CEO Joey Wat, Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes, and Nissan Executive Vice President Asako Hoshino.

Our core values of collaboration, creativity and empathy have guided these innovations and will continue to inspire our response, no matter what lies ahead.

What do you feel are the most important skills needed for managing a business school through a crisis?

To confront any kind of uncertainty, you need to be flexible. That requires the ability to leverage multiple skillsets — sometimes simultaneously. You also need to seize opportunities when you have them and then think creatively about solutions.

Most importantly, though, you need to be able to bring others along with your vision. This requires a great deal of empathy toward your collaborators, understanding their unique points of view and why they might approach a challenge differently. Empathy through collaboration is what allows you to pivot together.

For instance, at the beginning of the pandemic, we realized how crucial our students’ perspectives and alignment would be in designing and implementing the changes needed to operate safely in the midst the pandemic. With this in mind, we created the COVID Executive Committee, which includes Kellogg administrators, faculty, staff and students. This group allowed us to not only continue our close partnership with students — which is true to who we are at Kellogg — but to make key operational decisions with their perspectives at the forefront.

In the midst of a crisis like the pandemic, which is often fraught with so much urgency and ambiguity, organizations tend to make decisions in isolation and behind closed doors for the sake of expediency. However, at Kellogg, we know that you cannot lead people and operate in new ways without engaging in deep collaboration from the beginning to the end.

How has your career helped to shape your leadership capabilities, and your priorities for your role as Dean? Can you share an anecdote about a previous instance/moment in your career that you feel has left a lasting impact on you?

Having taught all around the world has shown me how critical it is to be an empathetic leader. When I was teaching in Moscow, I realized my students had a completely different foundation of knowledge than what I assumed, since they were mathematicians, not economists. What was obvious for me wasn’t obvious for them, and I needed to adapt to meet them at their baseline and particular background.

For me, this reinforced that we all bring different but valuable perspectives to the table, and the most effective leaders will notice and leverage those perspectives. This is a central theme to my leadership approach as Dean. Kellogg is an incredibly diverse place – a mix of cultures, experiences and skill sets – and we must collaborate together in order to grow as an organization. Solving problems using one’s own experiences as a guide is easy. Solving complex problems in consideration of multiple points of view and lived experiences is significantly more difficult, but creates better, more inclusive results.

That is one of the reasons I find Kellogg so inspiring. Our faculty, for instance, span areas of expertise including physics, psychology, economics and the science of science, among many others. And our students comprise investment bankers, brand managers, social impact consultants, entrepreneurs, former members of the military and Olympic athletes, to name a few. Together, our faculty and students tackle business challenges creatively by leveraging these countless unique experiences.

I celebrate Kellogg’s many diverse, multicultural perspectives and want to continue to invest in them – that is another key tenet of my leadership approach. Diversity is an investment that is not only central to our culture, but central to our growth as a school. Currently, in partnership with our Associate Dean for Leadership Development and Inclusion, Professor Bernie Banks, we are focused on expanding our programs, partnerships, initiatives and events that challenge conventional thinking, broaden perspectives and highlight the transformative power of diversity and inclusion in the Kellogg community.

What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for business education in the coming years and what is your business school strategy to tackle this?

The world is evolving so quickly, and we need to evolve with it. It’s important for MBA graduates to be adaptable, see change and embrace opportunity. Ultimately, as graduates of an elite business school, our students get incredible jobs and thrive when they graduate. In fact, 95% received a job offer within three months of graduation in 2020, a remarkably disruptive year. But we are also thinking about what their next job looks like, or the job that they take 20 years from now. We live in an era of change and disruption, and in the future, a particular job may not exist or may look completely different. Leaders cannot rely on a static skillset to carry them through their careers. At Kellogg, we focus on a strong foundation in leadership development, change management, crisis management and leading diverse groups and teams. Our knowledge of what matters in business is constantly evolving, and this foundation teaches our students to be agile and evolve with it.

Additionally, we launched our MBAi joint degree program with Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering last year, focused on preparing students for tech-focused leadership roles — including some roles that don’t even exist yet. While AI and analytics hold significant promise, most organizations continue to struggle with delivering and scaling it to produce business outcomes. There is an urgent need for leaders who can blend business experience with deeper expertise in technical areas. Our MBAi Program, which welcomes its first cohort this fall, will prepare students for this type of collaboration. When students graduate, they will take leadership roles that bridge science, technology and business, including tech product management, product or digital marketing, entrepreneurship and consulting.

Ultimately, change is a constant. And Kellogg prepares a unique kind of leader that thrives in this environment — a leader who has been shaped by and embodies the essential qualities of creativity and collaboration.

What would you say is your biggest achievement in your career so far?

Looking back, I would have to say my biggest achievement is becoming the first woman to be tenured and to become full professor at London Busines School. While I’m incredibly proud of this accomplishment — I also wish that there were many other women before me.

I also want to mention that becoming Dean of Kellogg is a close second!

If you could give one life lesson/piece of advice to your younger self/young female leaders, what would it be?

The first piece of advice is to think less about perfection and be more confident in leaning into new opportunities. In retrospect, I could have accomplished even more at various stages in my career if I had been less preoccupied with the idea of perfection.

The second piece is to make sure your network includes diverse backgrounds and expertise — these perspectives will help you think about a subject or challenge from different angles and further your growth. Specifically, I encourage young female leaders to make sure their networks include a close group of women. Research from Brian Uzzi, a Kellogg professor and a renowned social network scientist, has shown the most successful female job-seekers establish not just a wide network of contacts, but they rely on a close inner circle of women who provide support and gender-specific job advice. At Kellogg we believe in seizing the value of women-focused networks, which is why we recently established the Drake Scholar Network. Stemming from a transformative gift from Ann Drake — a Kellogg alumna and a leader in the supply chain industry — the network will allow Kellogg to more deeply nurture and facilitate intergenerational connections between women students, faculty and alumnae.

Incoming Tepper School of Business Dean Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou
Incoming Tepper School of Business Dean Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou

Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou

Carnegie Mellon, Tepper School of Business

“My advice: Dare. Nothing is impossible. Thanks to my generation, there is more and more awareness that females are instrumental in contributing to the economy. The future is yours.”

Previous Roles:

My journey to Carnegie Mellon University has been an American Dream that came true. Years ago, my husband Jacques and I who both grew up in Paris, met when we were in high school. From the beginning, we always intended to live and work in the U.S. because we believed in this country and its unique ability to foster freedom and innovation.

For me, mathematics was the path. I am an alumna from École Normale Supérieure in Mathematics with a doctorate in Mathematics Applied to Finance from Université Paris-Dauphine.

Soon after, I made my way to the U.S. to George Washington University as a Finance Professor, then the Chair of the Finance department before becoming Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs. I then joined McGill University as the Dean of the Desautels Faculty of Management in 2015.

In October 2020, I decided to make the transition to become dean of the Tepper School and to bring my experience as a professor and my passion for building a culture that is focused on students, research, and community here to Tepper.

I was very happy being a professor and teaching and researching for the longest time. It allowed me to find a good work/life balance to raise my three children while my husband was always on the road.

It was only later that I started taking interest in the administration of a university. At George Washington, I became department chair — mainly because everybody had to take his/her turn — and I found out that I very much liked having a more direct impact on the strategic direction of the School, contributing to the conversation and implementing new projects. So, I became Associate Dean for UG programs, and I liked it even more. Then, when I was approached to take on the Dean’s position at McGill, I said why not. And the rest is history…

Bottom line, it was initially somewhat by chance, but became more and more intentional on my side.

How has your business school adapted to the Covid-19 crisis, and what initiatives and innovations have you implemented?

At Tepper, we were fortunate because we just opened our new building in 2018, with large, bright open spaces intended to encourage student collaboration and interaction. The building was designed with the expectation of delivering new educational formats and to accommodate, and evolve, with new technology.

Long before COVID, we designed a robust Online MBA that is ranked #1 by US News & World Report and #2 by Poets&Quants. So we already worked throughout the kinks of how to deliver education in a remote setting. We understood the optimal model for delivery so the transformation to online teaching was not a new thing for us. It was just incredibly sudden for Tepper faculty and students to shift everything online all at once.

When COVID hit, safety was our top priority, which meant we had to pivot all classes to remote instruction. Tepper’s Learning Technology team worked closely with faculty to assist with the transition. We agreed that pedagogy should drive the conversion, not technology. Technology was simply the conduit. And we followed several principles throughout the process.

First, we made sure that all students had equal access to classes, regardless of geographic location or technological capability.

We offered flexible formats and shorter lectures that allowed more class-time discussion. We also hosted many small breakout sessions, and discussion boards to help students deliberate course content with each other.

When classes started again in the fall, we strove to balance online class delivery with meaningful, socially distant, in-person activity.

Today, we are in an exciting position to assess the outcomes from the changes we made to our programs during the pandemic. Looking ahead, we can start to envision what the future of business education should look like: What worked well? What do we want to keep? And what do we want to leave behind?

What do you feel are the most important skills needed for managing a business school through a crisis?

The coronavirus pandemic has taught us that sometimes situations occur outside of any planned scenario. Success in these types of situations demands a variety of skills — agility, quick thinking, empathy for all stakeholders, communication — but most of all, an enormous amount of courage, optimism, and passion.

One thing I know is that innovation is borne of challenge, and uncertainty is a foundation from which we grow, thrive, and create monumental change that can impact the world. For the better. So to approach this situation with that mindset is helpful.

How has your career helped to shape your leadership capabilities, and your priorities for your role as Dean? Can you share an anecdote about a previous instance/moment in your career that you feel has left a lasting impact on you?

Being a female dean presents its challenges. Ten thousand years of men ruling western civilization is very difficult to overcome. But this is not only from men. I strongly believe that everyone is biased, including myself, so I constantly try to remind myself to work on it.

I will confess that I am an introvert, raised in a culture where asking a question means that you have the deepest understanding of the material that was just presented and that your question is supposed to be the smartest and most insightful remark. In other words, it has been a long struggle for me to overcome my gender and cultural biases in making myself more visible.

As dean of a top business school, regardless of gender, I’ve learned that the key is to build a good team. Surround yourself with complementary, smart people who you truly trust and empower them. I have never been afraid to surround myself with smarter people than me and try to learn and be challenged by them. In other words, a great leader is never alone. A leader must understand his or her shortcomings and blind spots and know how to build an A team.

What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for business education in the coming years and what is your business school strategy to tackle this?

Today, we are in an exciting position to assess the outcomes from the changes we made to our programs during the pandemic. Looking ahead, we can start to envision what the future of business education should look like: What worked well? What do we want to keep? And what do we want to leave behind?

Thankfully, our new building is in use once again! That said, we believe that hybrid formats are here to stay so we must remain flexible in our delivery. And frankly, if we are to properly prepare our students for employment, Tepper’s learning environment should mirror the new workplace. Our graduates may work remotely, in person, or more likely, a hybrid of both.

More than ever, we must ensure that our classes are accessible to all students.

Also, while COVID brought about a very abrupt transition, our return to the “new normal” will be quite slow and intentional. We need to consider thoughtfully our students’ online and on-campus experience. We hear about the emotional toll that COVID has taken on our students. It is real. We figured out how to teach classes online – now, how do we deliver the whole college experience in order to provide meaningful student-to-student and student-to-faculty connection? That, I believe, is our next big delivery challenge.

What would you say is your biggest achievement in your career so far?

My biggest career achievement so far is launching the Bensadoun School of Retail Management at McGill that focuses on the future of the retail industry. Our goal was to give students the tools to respond to, and predict, the rapidly changing and increasingly complex world of retail in order to create sustainable consumption and healthier societies.

This was a very innovative idea to work with a “vertical”– retail — and we wanted

to address shifts in the retail landscape and consumer behavior, from digital disruption and the rise of e-commerce to the coming of age of the millennial generation.

We collaborated with industry and alumni as well with an anchor gift (from Aldo Bensadoun, founder and executive chairman of footwear giant Aldo Group). We developed an innovative curriculum that includes extensive opportunities for experiential learning for the students. There is also a live laboratory set up with Circle K on the first floor of the building. It is a touchless convenience store that doubles as an educational and research lab with co-directors from Operation Management and Computer Vision.

My hope was to create an interdisciplinary program to prepare the next generation of retail leaders to define the future of the industry.

If you could give one life lesson/piece of advice to your younger self/young female leaders, what would it be?

Now more than ever, it is important to support one another and ensure gender diversity in the workplace. It is already a proven fact that companies who do better in the marketplace tend to be the most diverse. Losing women in the workforce during the pandemic will have long lasting impacts on our society. We must work harder to overcome these challenges during this time and ensure that women will always have a space in our community and a voice as leaders.

My advice: Dare. Nothing is impossible. Thanks to my generation, there is more and more awareness that females are instrumental in contributing to the economy. The future is yours.

I am not going to pretend that it is easy, especially as a woman if you want to have a family and raise children, to navigate a career. Unfortunately, the day-to-day burden is often still on women. The main problem is that very often, even the most supportive partner, talks about “helping” instead of “being in charge,” which seems subtle, but is actually quite a big difference.

Given all of that, remember that you do not need to get everything done in the same year. Life is long and some things, both personal and professional, can wait. Life is not a race, it is a marathon, and the goal is to enjoy the journey, not to focus on the destination.

And the secret is to have fun along the way.

Dean Marion Debruyne

Vlerick Business School

“Combining work and family is an eternal balancing act in juggling demands on many fronts. Six years later, I feel my biggest achievement has been to find a way to be happy on all those fronts, and see my kids thrive as well, even though their mom is far from perfect!”

Where you’re from/place of origin:

Belgium

Where you previously studied:

Master in Chemical Engineering from University of Ghent, Belgium

Master in Marketing Management from Vlerick Business School, Belgium

PhD from University of Ghent, Belgium

Visiting Scholar at Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Visiting Fellow at Kellogg Graduate School of Management

Previous roles:

Assistant Professor at Goizueta Business School, Emory University

How has your business school adapted to the Covid-19 crisis, and what initiatives and innovations have your implemented?

Obviously, the biggest adaptation has been in a massive adoption of online learning. Even though we were well-prepared, having invested significantly in online learning in the past years, the speed and scale of the shift to online learning was unprecedented and went remarkably well.

We used the opportunity to expand our portfolio of online self-paced programmes. We also made our online course on “Managing virtual teams” freely available to all, as so many managers were facing this challenge.

What do you feel are the most important skills needed for managing a business school through a crisis (couple of bullet points and why is fine)?

Culture eats strategy for breakfast, especially in times of crisis. At Vlerick, we can benefit from strong engagement, a collaborative spirit and an entrepreneurial attitude. This has been of tremendous value in the past year, as we had to shift from plan A, to plan B to plan C and back again.

Through all of it, it’s been an exercise in (remote) empathic leadership. The role of a dean contains a lot of stakeholder communication at any given time, but this period it takes up the majority of my time. I have experienced that frequent and honest communication is absolutely crucial, as well as active listening. Even when the answer to many questions is “we don’t know yet, but rest assured we’ll figure it out”. Being able to acknowledge the unknowns, gives more credibility to the things you can say with certitude.

How has your career helped to shape your leadership capabilities, and your priorities for your role as Dean? Can you share an anecdote about a previous instance/moment in your career that you feel has left a lasting impact on you?

Probably the most influential in my current leadership of Vlerick, is the fact that I have been a student at the school myself. Having experienced the transformational impact of the school myself, has enabled me to connect deeply to our purpose. Being an advocate for our “Live Learn Leap” credo feels entirely authentic, as I have felt it myself. I entered Vlerick as a shy and cautious engineer, uncertain about my path. And I left as a person fully willing and able to embrace change, with a strong passion and sense of direction.

Next to that, marketing and innovation being my areas of expertise, influences my thinking tremendously. I wrote a book titled “Customer Innovation” in pre-dean times. The real challenge then obviously comes from applying your own thinking in practise (it sure is easier to teach it than to do it)!

What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for business education in the coming years and what is your business school strategy to tackle this?

I believe this is such an exciting time to be in education, as we will see a tremendous amount of change. The post-pandemic world will not look like the pre-pandemic world. It is our global challenge to use this opportunity to change the world for the better, taking the learning lessons we gained and using them to advance on the issues we face. This will require transformation in multiple areas.

That applies to business schools as well. We have learned so much about how to leverage online learning, it would be a pity to forget about these lessons and go back to the old normal. We need to find the right balance between online and offline, lectures and experiential learning. This includes forgetting about old dogma’s about when online or on-campus are best suited. At Vlerick, we aim to be learner-centric in this discovery process, and remain as agile as we have been in the past year.

What would you say is your biggest achievement in your career so far?

When I became dean of the school, my kids were 5 and 8. Combining work and family is an eternal balancing act in juggling demands on many fronts. Six years later, I feel my biggest achievement has been to find a way to be happy on all those fronts, and see my kids thrive as well, even though their mom is far from perfect!

If you could give one life lesson/piece of advice to your younger self/young female leaders, what would it be?

To enter the arena, even when you are not fearless. And to read my book Making your Way, which I wrote for my younger self.

Ann Harrison, dean of UC-Berkeley’s Hall School of Business

Ann E. Harrison

UC Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“The pandemic has taught us that we can do much more online than we thought possible”

Where you’re from/place of origin:

I was born in France and raised in California from the age of 2.

Where you previously studied:

I earned my bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley (as a double major in economics and history) and a PhD in economics from Princeton University. Also, I hold a DEUG (diplôme d’études universitaires générales) from the University of Paris.

Previous roles:

I’m an economist who has dedicated her career to creating inclusive and sustainable policies in development economics, international trade, and global labor markets.

I came to Haas from the Wharton School, where I was the William H. Wurster Professor of Multinational Management and Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy. Before joining Wharton in 2012, I was the director of development policy at the World Bank, where I co-managed a team of 300 researchers and staff. I also served as a professor in Berkeley’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics between 2001 and 2011.

I’ve written dozens of journal articles and am the editor of three books, including Globalization and Poverty and The Factory-Free Economy: Outsourcing, Servitization, and the Future of Industry. Previously, I held teaching positions at Columbia Business School, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the University of Paris.

How has your business school adapted to the Covid-19 crisis, and what initiatives and innovations have you implemented?

Berkeley Haas transitioned to all remote teaching within 48 hours in March of 2020. We had talked about virtual programming for years, and realized that we had the ability to implement it—if we put our will to it. For most faculty and staff, the summer of 2020 involved reimagining courses and implementing technology improvements to prepare for fall. The challenges of COVID-19 led us to invest in significant technology upgrades, new virtual classrooms, and faculty training for an improved remote experience.

As part of the Berkeley campus recovery plan, Haas was one of five campus pilots that tested limited in-person, on-campus activities outdoors for select graduate programs between October 26 and November 22. Students who were invited by their program office to attend an in-person activity followed strict safety guidelines. We were pleased that the measures worked and we have experienced zero COVID-19 cases at Berkeley Haas. Throughout this process we aligned our actions and decisions with three guidelines:

#1 Putting the health and safety of our community first

#2 Making our remote instruction as engaging as possible

#3 Emerging from this pandemic stronger

What do you feel are the most important skills needed for managing a business school through a crisis ?

No dean has ever experienced anything like what we are going through right now. To manage effectively, we’ve relied on three critical skills: leadership, problem solving, and emotional intelligence. Leadership comes first, because messaging during a crisis comes from the top and must be informed, thoughtful, strategic, and concise, paving the way for others to follow. Problem solving has been integral for our leadership team since the pandemic began and we were forced each day to solve new issues that cropped up as we switched from in-person to virtual classrooms. The challenges that followed—from helping international students return to Berkeley to bringing some students to campus for in-person activities—could not have been tackled without strong problem-solving skills.

Finally, with so much uncertainty, emotional intelligence has helped us to communicate effectively and often with diverse groups. We listen to people’s concerns and fears with empathy, and collaborate to achieve our goals. As leaders, we must show that we are listening and responding and that we value the physical and mental health and overall well-being of our community, as well as the value of the education we are providing.

We have a very strong and distinctive culture at Haas that has helped us navigate this unprecedented environment. While this is not a skill per se, it’s a muscle that we exercise every day. It is especially during these troubled times that we need to double down on practicing principled leadership. And this has been such a leadership moment.

How has your career helped to shape your leadership capabilities, and your priorities for your role as Dean?

My career includes years of teaching at top institutions, which gave me insight into how different business schools are run—what makes them alike and sets them apart. At the World Bank, I was a leader who, in addition to setting direction and managing my staff, reformed the organization’s process for allocating research funds and convinced its president to release all historical records on project loans, a milestone in increasing transparency.

My long-term priorities for Haas are to put us at the heart of what’s next. That means elevating the school in three areas: innovation, inclusion, and sustainability.

When I arrived, I wanted to focus on taking advantage of our amazing Bay Area location and our proximity to startups and technology pioneers. That California spirit of innovation informs all that we do and we’re deepening that commitment by hiring more faculty for our entrepreneurship & innovation faculty group and creating a new hub for entrepreneurship.

DEI was a priority for me before I even set foot on campus. We are striving to create a true sense of belonging for all students, staff, and faculty of all perspectives and backgrounds. We’ve also doubled the number of underrepresented minority students in our full-time MBA program, increased scholarships, hired a chief DEI officer, and changed our admissions criteria to emphasize diversity goals. Fifty percent of our recent faculty hires have been women.

We have also diversified the Haas Board. Creating an inclusive environment where all Berkeley Haas community members feel comfortable sharing their opinions and showing up as their authentic selves is critical to me.

In sustainability, we’re working to expand our efforts to become a true leader. This year’s climate change events have shown that creating a sustainable economy is a matter of saving lives, preventing widespread food insecurity, reducing poverty, and retooling the economy. As a business school, especially Berkeley’s business school, we have a responsibility to facilitate the research and to develop the future business leaders to address these challenges.

Last September, I hired our first executive director of sustainability programs. She is working with faculty to infuse our core and elective curriculum with sustainability concepts across different disciplines. We also launched a new certificate in sustainable business in spring 2021 and are creating a concurrent MBA/master’s degree in sustainability with Berkeley’s Rausser College of Natural Resources.

So, in addition to teaching the tools our graduates need to thrive in any business industry or function or their choosing, we foster the know-how and mindset that allows them to apply the lens of innovation, inclusion, and sustainability to their post-MBA careers—whether they go into consulting, tech, finance, healthcare, or become entrepreneurs.

Can you share an anecdote about a previous instance/moment in your career that you feel has left a lasting impact on you?

When I first became a leader at the World Bank, I failed to realize how important it is to lead through influence rather than leading through position. That was an important lesson that I have brought to my leadership at Haas.

We also have a strong tradition of shared governance at Haas, which has been a pleasure to be part of. Our senior leadership, staff, and faculty are highly principled and skilled individuals who have truly made my job a pleasure. My role is to help them be the best version of themselves.

What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for business education in the coming years and what is your business school strategy to tackle this?

We are in a time of creative and disruptive innovation as universities and other providers experiment with new formats, including online degree programs and just-in-time education models. A lot of universities will not make it through the current pandemic crisis, and those that do make it will radically transform their offerings.

The pandemic has taught us that we can do much more online than we thought possible and that some online instruction can be more effective for some students, who reap the benefits that are unique to remote learning. For example, we have found that some students who are shy in the classroom speak up online or can engage more deeply in small breakout sessions. We’ve also found that we can cast a wider net to draw MBA applicants who might not be able to commute to Haas or leave their home office to attend an MBA program. We are incorporating this new knowledge to reassess how we teach and the programs we offer. We must adapt. We also know that the MBA is here to stay—and in fact we’ve seen increased interest in the degree.

What would you say is your biggest achievement in your career so far?

My biggest achievement in my career has been leading the Haas School through this pandemic. We pivoted to remote education, balanced the budget, enrolled the largest classes in the history of the school, and expanded faculty hiring. Looking toward the future, we created an entrepreneurship group, embarked on creating a more diverse community, and are bringing a sustainability lens to both our teaching and our activities at Haas. Ensuring the safety of the community while expanding our programs—we just created two new admissions programs, added three new joint degree programs, and created a certificate in sustainability—has been an amazing experience.

If you could give one life lesson/piece of advice to your younger self/young female leaders, what would it be?

I would tell young leaders not to be afraid to be assertive, to always make yourself heard, and to lean in. Reach out to others! Help them! Recent Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna of UC Berkeley advises women to “walk in the room like you own it.” Even more importantly, do not be afraid to fail and never give up. To quote Winston Churchill, “never, never, never give up.” Resilience is the key.

Dean Idalene “Idie” Kesner

Indiana University Kelley School of Business

“I would advise my younger self to be less risk averse…to trust your abilities to identify strategic directions and initiatives worthy of strong investments and actions, and to be willing to take those actions early, even if it means assuming the challenging role of first mover”

Where you’re from/place of origin:

Dallas, Texas

Where you previously studied:

Bachelors of Arts in Business (BBA) from Southern Methodist University, Cox School of Business

Master of Business (MBA) from Indiana University, Kelley School of Business

Ph.D. in Business from Indiana University, Kelley School of Business

Previous roles:

Prior to joining the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, I was on the faculty of the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. [NOTE: I started as an Assistant Professor followed by Associate Professor and eventually Full Professor.]

At the Kelley School, I led the school’s MBA Consulting Academy followed by serving as chairperson for the Full-Time MBA Program. Subsequently, I was chairperson of the Department of Management & Entrepreneurship, followed by Associate Dean for Faculty & Research. I was named Interim Dean in 2012, and I was appointed Dean in 2013.

How has your business school adapted to the Covid-19 crisis, and what initiatives and innovations have you implemented?

The Kelley School is home to the highly ranked Kelley Direct online MBA program. Launched in 1999, it was the first online MBA program from a Top 20 business school. Because of our extensive experience in this area, faculty members teaching in that program helped faculty members who primarily teach in our residential undergraduate and graduate programs move their content into hybrid mode or fully online during the pandemic. Our team of course designers and learning technology experts helped faculty members bring course content online, and worked closely with them to adapt their materials for hybrid and online modalities.

In addition to moving our courses online, many co-curricular initiatives were brought online as well. Our mental wellness initiatives are just one example. We know that some students struggled more as interactions moved online as opposed to face-to-face; therefore, we worked diligently to provide mental wellness support services. Academic advising and career coaching were moved effectively to the online modality as well. Indeed, many students tell us that the ease of individual appointments online made meeting with advisors and coaches easier. Faculty members, too, found success in bringing their “office hours” online and providing individualized appointment schedules for students.

During this time, we also found ways to bring more executive alumni into classes as guest speakers, connecting them to students as coaches, mentors, competition judges, and speakers or panelists for special-topic webinars. Because of the ease of online connections, alumni have been even more willing to engage frequently, helping our students in a variety of ways.

Finally, during the pandemic, we moved our student recruiting efforts online and also our corporate recruiting (through career services) online. These adjustments have been successful, although we hope to return to more on-campus recruiting beginning in the 2021 fall semester.

What do you feel are the most important skills needed for managing a business school through a crisis ?

Resilience is a very important skill needed when going through any type of crisis, including the pandemic. Being able to adapt and change in response to new situations/new circumstances is a critical skill for every leader. Leaders also must be effective communicators throughout a crisis and demonstrate adaptability. It is important to be able to change quickly from an action or approach that no longer works or meets the challenges to something that will work. It is also important to be a creative problem solver. Traditional solutions may not work in a crisis, and leaders may need to identify new ways to solve problems. Organizational skills coupled with quick logical/rational thinking and decision-making capabilities, can help organize and mobilize teams of responders in the midst of the crisis. These same skills are useful in the aftermath as organizational teams work to take lessons learned forward in dealing with future crises.

How has your career helped to shape your leadership capabilities, and your priorities for your role as Dean? Can you share an anecdote about a previous instance/moment in your career that you feel has left a lasting impact on you?

Prior to being selected dean, I had the opportunity to take on many roles in the school, ranging from leading the MBA program to leading a department. These various roles allowed me to see our school from the perspectives of various constituents, including students, faculty, corporate recruiters, alumni, and donors. As dean, I have tried to take these varied perspectives into consideration as I worked with others to help set our school’s vision, mission, goals, and objectives. Leadership is best not when it is dictated by one person or one view, but when it takes into consideration the perspectives and views of those with whom the organization engages. While there always will be differences of opinions as to the best courses of action, having the benefit of various constituents’ perspectives helps inform priorities and establish direction.

Can you share an anecdote about a previous instance/moment in your career that you feel has left a lasting impact on you?

Every stage of my career has brought great lessons and moments of learning. By far, the most challenging experiences for me as dean (i.e., the experiences that leave lingering impressions) are when a member of our “organizational family” (e.g., students, faculty members, or staff members) faces devastating illness or death. Being part of a very large school or university means that situations like this can happen every year. These experiences touch you emotionally in ways that are long lasting. During one graduation ceremony, I recall a father’s tribute to his son whose diploma was awarded posthumously. Carrying forward with the ceremony – a happy celebration for others in attendance — while tears were running down my face was a strange mix of sadness and joy all in the same moment.

As the above story highlights, as a dean, I also get to be part of some of the most rewarding experiences — celebrations when members of our “organizational family” have recovered from illness or injury and/or celebrate important milestones (e.g., graduation or career accomplishments). These moments, and the unique stories behind them, also leave lasting impressions and bring perspective to the role I play. Deans are not just administrators or bystanders. Whether the occasions are happy or sad, we are privileged participants in the lives of our students, faculty, and staff.

What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for business education in the coming years and what is your business school strategy to tackle this?

Various events of the last few years have resulted in challenges for US colleges/universities. The pandemic may cause some (e.g., those facing financial hardships) to question the value of higher education, especially at the graduate level. The difficulty of securing study and work visas for international students may cause lasting declines in international student enrollments. And the issues of racial and social injustice in the US have also raised questions about how higher education can better serve underrepresented communities. All of these challenges impact the diversity of our student population. And, as we know from research, the greater the diversity of our student population, the greater the learning experience and the better able the graduates are to lead the US’s increasingly diverse workforce of the future.

Given the many challenges facing US business schools, each school has to increase its efforts to counter these hurdles. The Kelley School, for example, is working diligently to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across all areas. With regard to student recruitment, for instance, we are working to ensure our students represent diversity of race, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation, geography, age, and ability/disability. We are focused, too, on aiding first generation students and students with limited financial means. For undergraduate students, our efforts begin while they are still in high school by offering weekend and summer educational programs aimed at introducing business to underrepresented students. In addition to recruitment efforts (which including financial and non-financial support for candidates), we also provide extensive programming for our students during their degree programs and for alumni after graduation. These efforts are aimed at demonstrating and promoting the value of diversity, equity, and inclusivity.

The Kelley School’s DEI efforts are not just focused on students, however. We are also focused on recruiting, hiring, and sustaining a diverse faculty body and staff. Moreover, our school is engaged in ongoing efforts to incorporate DEI into program curricula and co-curricular activities. This includes providing training for all faculty members in content and pedagogical areas that support DEI initiatives both inside and outside the classroom.

The events of the last several years have reminded us that educational institutions, especially business schools, can play a pivotal role in changing the business climate and creating a more equitable and just environment.

What would you say is your biggest achievement in your career so far?

It’s difficult to pinpoint just one achievement of which I am proud, so I’ve listed several. But, more importantly, none of these accomplishments/achievements were done alone. All of these were team efforts. Thus, the biggest achievement, of which I am most proud, is having built a strong, dedicated leadership team. This team has stuck with the Kelley School and with me through the ups and down of the last 8 years to achieve the many accomplishments listed below.

We have increased student diversity quite significantly, especially in our Undergraduate Program. We have developed and launched new, valuable programs (e.g., specialized MS degrees) that serve students who are interested in specialized educational opportunities. We have developed new partnerships with organizations (both corporate and academic) that have led to enhanced educational programming and new career opportunities for our students. We created and launched a school-wide brand, which led to stronger awareness of our school and its programs. This, in turn, dramatically increased enrollments. We have grown our faculty in meaningful ways that serve our research, teaching, and service missions. We have enhanced our engagement with our alumni. And we were successful in our school’s $200 million Centennial fundraising campaign, exceeding our goal by nearly 15%. This resulted in new student scholarships, new faculty chairs, professorships, and fellowships, and increased support for programming across all degree programs.

If you could give one life lesson/piece of advice to your younger self/young female leaders, what would it be?

I would advise my younger self to be less risk averse; it has taken me time to accept this less risk-averse stance. I would advise my younger self to trust your abilities to identify strategic directions and initiatives worthy of strong investments and actions, and to be willing to take those actions early, even if it means assuming the challenging role of first mover. I also would advise my younger self to engage others earlier when working on projects, allowing them to take on more of the workload. This is a great way to allow others to develop their talents, which, in turn, prepares the organization for leadership successions.


Dean Susan Hart

Durham Business School

“I have achieved nothing alone. So, team formation, support and recognition are central achievements to allow everyone to benefit from wider work related achievements across the organisations I’ve worked for”

Where you’re from/place of origin

Scotland

Where you previously studied

University of Strathclyde

Previous roles:

FMCG Sales & Marketing, B2B Sales, Former Dean, Strathclyde Business School and various academic roles, in UK, EU, US and Australia

How has your business school adapted to the Covid-19 crisis, and what initiatives and innovations have your implemented?

The pandemic and the resultant lockdown and requirement for social distancing among colleagues and students required a change from pedagogies where in person face to face dominated, to those which foregrounded technology-enhanced learning, online face to face education and asynchronous taught material and online assessment. At first, this required all of the school’s managers to support colleagues in a (relatively) gentle change, in terms of actual education, alongside the very demanding shift to working from home, tooling people adequately and adjusting everyone’s expectations as to what can and could be achieved, and emphasizing the importance of looking after oneself as well as others. Gradually, we formed working and project groups, empowering those who were already well experienced in online and blended learning, learning to lead directly amongst their own teams as well as more widely across the school.

What do you feel are the most important skills needed for managing a business school through a crisis (couple of bullet points and why is fine?

1) Listening.

2) Holding (containing and interpreting what goes on in times of crisis, being present with colleagues to work out the way forward).

3) And, seemingly in contradiction to the above, being clear and decisive after a and b.

How has your career helped to shape your leadership capabilities, and your priorities for your role as Dean? Can you share an anecdote about a previous instance/moment in your career that you feel has left a lasting impact on you?

Having had academic leadership positions from a relatively early age (Director of Research, Head of Department, Vice Dean, Dean), I have made plenty of mistakes, for sure. I’m not sure there is any one instance – but rather a myriad of interactions with colleagues which have in turn, taught me better when to exercise boldness and conversely, when to show restraint. These interactions have been 360 – from bosses who have thrust me out of my comfort zone (nearly always a good thing) to direct reports who have shared how something I did or said helped, or hindered their work. I am grateful to them all.

What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for business education in the coming years and what is your business school strategy to tackle this?

Being agile, flexible, innovative, collaborative; allowing the dissolution of some partnerships past their time, and forming new ones, beyond traditional boundaries. I believe these requirements were necessary before the pandemic, and, absurdly, it is the pandemic that releases the ‘normal’ rules to allow these transformations to happen more easily.

What would you say is your biggest achievement in your career so far?

I have achieved nothing alone. So, team formation, support and recognition are central achievements to allow everyone to benefit from wider work related achievements across the organisations I’ve worked for.

If you could give one life lesson/piece of advice to your younger self/young female leaders, what would it be?

Believe in yourself. You’re OK.

Dean Isabelle Huault

emlyon Business School in Lyon, France

“Be audacious! I think it’s paramount in life – and especially in our professional careers. Many women (and I have been no exception for many years) tend to concentrate on doing their job very well – and do not project themselves far enough. Each new opportunity is a challenge – and we must have the confidence to seize it”

Where you’re from/place of origin

I was born and raised in Lyon (France).

Where you previously studied

I have graduated from emlyon in 1990, and obtained a PHD in management sciences in 1994.

Previous roles:

I have been Assistant Professor at the Université de Versailles-Saint-Quentin, then I have become professor at the Université Paris-Est-Créteil Val-de-Marne, and from 2005 onwards, I have taught at Dauphine – PSL.

How has your business school adapted to the Covid-19 crisis, and what initiatives and innovations have you implemented?

We had already digitalized some of the training sessions over the years. That was an asset: both our professors and students were already familiar with the tools. emlyon business school was certainly well ahead of many business schools and universities in the digitalization process.

However, the impact of Covid-19 was difficult for many students, especially the first-year students, deprived of the quality and intensity of life on campus. For those who were deeply impacted, we have created an emergency fund (of more than 600 K€) in order to allocate direct support. We have also reinforced our Wellness Center call line, to answer the questions of students psychologically impacted by the isolation linked to Covid-19.

More generally, this crisis questions our internationalization model, the mix between on-line and face-to-face pedagogy, the very content of our programs and syllabi (environmental challenges, risk management), our business model…. In this context, our main objective is to promote -more than ever- knowledge creation and its broad diffusion to impact the transformation of the world and of our society.

What do you feel are the most important skills needed for managing a business school through a crisis (couple of bullet points and why is fine)?

It’s a challenge to manage a well-known (and one of the most globally respected) French business school. This means setting the strategy for a lot of young people, allowing them to be prepared for a fulfilling and successful future. At the heart of the required skills, I would quote stringency, creativity and openness. Combining these skills is definitely necessary because one needs to be ambitious, far-sighted and flexible in this increasingly moving environment.

How has your career helped to shape your leadership capabilities, and your priorities for your role as Dean? Can you share an anecdote about a previous instance/moment in your career that you feel has left a lasting impact on you?

All my career has being built in the academic world. I have always had a passion for research, learning and for teaching. Moreover, I have taken, from a very early stage, responsibilities in the management of research lab, notably as the head of Dauphine Recherche en Management from 2009 to 2015. I have then become Vice-President of Dauphine – PSL in 2015 and was elected for President in 2016. I believe that this inner knowledge of the day-to-day life of academic world has given me the skills to manage today one of the leading French business school.

What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for business education in the coming years and what is your business school strategy to tackle this?

As a business school, you are at the crossroads of the major changes occurring in today’s world. It can be both exciting and overwhelming! The main challenges are notably to keep our level of academic excellence, to determine the right mix of digitalization in the education process, to imagine new programs for tomorrow’s world in order to face grand challenges (including hybridization between different disciplines) and to ensure the sustainability of our model (for example, by supporting students of less privileged environment).

What would you say is your biggest achievement in your career so far?

I have been pleased to promote the access of the less privileged into the academic world through specific programs starting in high school. It’s a major issue in France today to have a more inclusive society. Moreover, I tried to systematically promote and infuse the CSR dimension into the strategy. I was part of the dynamic – and I intend to continue as President of emlyon.

If you could give one life lesson/piece of advice to your younger self/young female leaders, what would it be?

Be audacious! I think it’s paramount in life – and especially in our professional careers. Many women (and I have been no exception for many years) tend to concentrate on doing their job very well – and do not project themselves far enough. Each new opportunity is a challenge – and we must have the confidence to seize it.

Dean Delphine Manceau

NEOMA Business School (France)

“You are the game changers of tomorrow. When you join a company, you can change the rules, modify the way things work. Learn and listen, but do not hesitate to suggest changes and innovations, this is also why you have been recruited. Share and dare: share with other female leaders and with the role models you will find, you will see that the challenges you face are faced by others and that you can find solutions together”

Where you’re from/place of origin: France

Where you have previously studied: PhD at HEC Paris, France, and a post-doc at the Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania) as senior fellow in marketing.

Previous roles:

My career has been mostly devoted to Management Higher Education. I started at ESCP Business School as a faculty member in marketing and innovation, then as Associate Dean for Programs at a crucial time for the evolution of European Higher Education with the implementation of the Bologna process, and then as Associate Dean for Executive Education and Corporate Relations. In 2009, I wrote the report “For a new vision of innovation” (with P. Morand), commissioned by Christine Lagarde, then Minister of Economy in France. I then founded i7, the Institute for Innovation and Competitiveness, an academic Think Tank. I also served as a member of the RISE Expert Group (Research Innovation and Science Policy) for the European Commission (2015-2018). I became Dean of NEOMA Business School in 2017. I have been the Chairwoman of AACSB European Advisory Council and am now a member of the EQUIS Committee (EFMD).

How has your business school adapted to the Covid-19 crisis, and what initiatives and innovations has your business school implemented?

Distance learning, student welbeing, adaptation of international partnerships, career service in a changing job market… Higher Education has been facing many challenges since the beginning of the pandemic. Among the key initiatives that NEOMA Business School has taken, I would mention:

  • The very first digital campus in Europe with over 80 rooms, lecture theatres, offices, where students, faculty and staff interact, which enables them to bump into each other and recreates spontaneity and serendipity just like on a real campus. It tries to create the richest possible student experience, even remotely. 3,000 students and faculty have already created their avatar. We now also organize events and concerts on this 4th NEOMA Campus.

  • Intense wellness services to students to help them face loneliness, isolation, financial difficulties… The health and well-being of our students has been our top priority. Our wellness center has developed its activities with psychological support, consultations of nurses and psychologists, an emergency funding scheme for students in financial distress, zoom cafés, and many other activities. We have also created a buddy system amongst students and with Alumni. For instance, during the first lockdown when we had 500 students abroad on an exchange program, the buddy system with Alumni living in the same country helped them feel less isolated.

  • Intensive training of faculty members to help them adapt their course design and teaching approaches to remote teaching and suggested ways to highly engage students despite the zoom fatigue. More than 25 webinars were organized with the faculty over the past 12 months. The pandemic was a great opportunity to try new approaches, since students were indulgent to mistakes and failures. We could adopt a trial-and-error to get better at remote teaching and then share best practices.

What do you feel are the most important skills needed for managing a business school through a crisis (a couple of bullet points and why is fine)?

  • Combine a strategic vision with a strong operational agility. Operational aspects and very short term adaptability have become very important due to the necessity to react to ever changing health and teaching conditions. However, it is very important to keep a clear view of what the key strengths of the school are and how we want it to change and develop for the future, since the crisis is also an opportunity to lead change, innovate and reinvent ourselves. The combination of short-term and long-term view has been key to providing an extremely quick response whilst keeping our strategic direction.

  • Communicate, reassure and make the community feel stronger: Internal communication to faculty, staff, and students is more important than ever. In uncertain times, everybody needs to understand the decisions that are made and to feel that we know where we are going. This is a real challenge in a context of high uncertainty like today! In my opinion, transparency is essential. We must be able to communicating what we know, without being afraid to tell what you do not know.

How has your career helped to shape your leadership capabilities, and your priorities for your role as Dean? Can you share an anecdote about a previous instance/moment in your career that you feel has left a lasting impact on you?

As an academic, I am a specialist of innovation. I use and implement theories about innovation to foster innovation at NEOMA Business School. For instance, specialists of innovation make a strong distinction between exploration and exploitation. I have implemented this approach in the School’s organization. On the one hand, the Department of Digital Transformation is charge of exploration, and they have for instance developed our very first Virtual Reality case studies or, recently, our Virtual Campus. On the other hand, the Department of Innovating Pedagogy is in charge of exploitation and making sure more and more faculty members use our innovations in their teaching and research approaches. Their job is about making innovations adopted internally.

Another example would be to really promote gender balance in our Executive Committee (to date, we have 2 female and 2 male as Dean+Associate Deans) and to promote conferences and classes for students on gender balance and gender equity, with workshops and courses on such topics as better negotiating salaries as women, making students aware of unconscious gender biases in the workplace, and other key topics.

What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for business education in the coming years and what is your business school strategy to tackle this?

I see 3 key challenges which are also opportunities: interdisciplinarity, social responsibility and innovation.

Interdisciplinarity: In the future, managers and company leaders will need to work more than ever with scientists, ethnographists, digital experts, artists… They need to be prepared for that and to learn their language and habitus. This is why we need to develop more multidisciplinary programs. For instance, at NEOMA, we have a program named TEMA at crossroads between technology, management and creativity. Business schools also need to forge stronger links with schools of engineering, design, architecture, human sciences… At NEOMA, the hybridization of skills is at the heart of our strategy, and we regularly build partnerships or double degree programs with schools in other fields from management. We have also just launched the NEOMA Coding School, a digital, community-based and collaborative learning platform for web development. We also need to reinforce the teaching of humanities in our programs since geopolitics and ethics are becoming more and more important in company decisions. Soft skills are particularly important in a future world where Artificial intelligence will automate certain tasks, and managers will need to focus on emotional and creative intelligence to lead.

We are also facing a challenge on social responsibility to make our students the builders of the world of tomorrow, a world where companies will care more about environment, CSR and diversity. Young generations are very sensitive to these topics, we need to encourage them to act and understand how to make real-world decisions and trade-offs that will push these priories in the companies they will join. It means understanding the difficulties related to such topics so as to combine their ideals with real-life constraints, in order to be real game changers.

Innovation is about fostering research on key topics for companies and for society (the future of work, the transformation of the world with more social and environmental responsibility) and increasing our impact on companies and society, while also inventing new pedagogical approaches and new student services combining differently presential and digital learning. In a nutshell, we are at crossroads and we need to reinvent Management Higher Education by learning the lessons for the last 14 months. The challenges for our sector will be very strong in the years to come and this is precisely what being a Dean now is so stimulating!

What would you say is your biggest achievement in your career so far?

When I joined NEOMA, the school had recently merged and we needed to recreate a full community with a strong ambition and a common vision. We built the ImagiNEOMA project where we organised hackathons, workshops and surveys with students, alumni, faculty and staff to share and define together the future we wanted for the school. I feel it really strengthened the NEOMA community and enabled us to address together the challenges we are currently facing.

If you could give one life lesson/piece of advice to your younger self/young female leaders, what would it be?

You are the game changers of tomorrow. When you join a company, you can change the rules, modify the way things work.

Learn and listen, but do not hesitate to suggest changes and innovations, this is also why you have been recruited.

Share and dare: share with other female leaders and with the role models you will find, you will see that the challenges you face are faced by others and that you can find solutions together; build a network of supporting women who are more experienced and of younger women that you will support; and dare to suggest new approaches and changes.

Dean Fiona Devine

Alliance Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester

“My younger self was much more timid than the person I am today. I have had setbacks like anyone which seemed harder to handle then. Life’s experiences shape who we become and our resilience too. I was preoccupied with succeeding in my academic career first and then management and leadership opportunities came along later. I wish I had known how much I would enjoy working alongside people doing amazing things”

Where you’re from/place of origin:

U.K.

Where you previously studied :

Degrees, master’s and doctorate were all gained from the University of Essex, U.K.

Previous roles:

I have been Head of Alliance MBS since 2013 and a Professor of Sociology since 2001. Head of the School of Social Sciences, The University of Manchester, 2009-2013 Head of Department of Sociology, The University of Manchester, 2004-2007

How has your business school adapted to the Covid-19 crisis, and what initiatives and innovations have you implemented?

The pandemic has meant that more of our teaching has been undertaken online than in previous years. We transitioned quickly to online learning at all levels of study during the first UK lockdown, utilising expertise and platforms from our Global Part-time MBA. We have 30 years’ experience of delivering the Global MBA in a ‘blended’ online and face-to-face format.
We launched an exciting suite of new short online executive courses, in partnership with Emeritus, an online education provider. Those courses, on topics like data and digital transformation, are about leaders ‘topping up’ their existing skillset and ensuring they’re at the cutting-edge of the latest business thinking.

Since the pandemic struck, academics from across the School have turned their attention to researching the impact of Covid-19 on their own specific research areas, with colleagues working closely with government and industry from the outset, supporting them with plans for ensuring recovery. We continue to issue fortnightly briefings to a wide international audience on Covid-recovery and have recently received almost £1million in funding to continue this work. We also launched our new £32million national Productivity Institute, headquartered at Alliance MBS, which will look at how productivity is central to driving forward our long-term economic recovery post pandemic.

What do you feel are the most important skills needed for managing a business school through a crisis?

Managing a business school through the crisis has been about agility and responding at pace to a fast-moving situation. Like all business schools, we have had to deal with changing circumstances and guidelines in the last year. As a leader, I have worked with my colleagues to adapt our ways of working and communicated them to staff and students. Maintaining morale in difficult times and sustaining confidence for the future have been critical.

What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for business education in the coming years and what is your business school strategy to tackle this?

One of the biggest challenges for business schools will be getting the balance right between face-to-face and online teaching and navigating the best hybrid model or models across our wide portfolio of activity as a full-service business school.
The current geopolitical climate will be a challenging one to watch especially given a significant proportion of business school students are international students. We will continue to collaborate with our international partnerships for teaching and research.

From a research perspective, fieldwork, including face-to-face interviews, company visits and so forth have been curtailed and means the way in which research is carried out has changed for the time being. That said, there is now a huge research agenda ahead of us as countries around the globe look to make a strong economic recovery, and for all citizens to be part of more sustainable and equal societies.

We also plan to adapt our research and curricula to meet the demand for new skills and insights that the post-Covid world requires. If we look specifically at our full-time MBA, global business has always been a core focus and the pandemic has underlined how interconnected the business world is now. Our students undertake three live client consultancy projects that cover commercial, not-for-profit and international business. For the most prestigious and demanding business qualification there is, business leaders expect, and need, more than just theory. We live by our strap-line of Original Thinking Applied.

How has your career helped to shape your leadership capabilities, and your priorities for your role as Dean? Can you share an anecdote about a previous instance/moment in your career that you feel has left a lasting impact on you?

As a student of Sociology and Politics, I would like to think I am attuned to the wider context in which I operate as a Dean of a large Business School. It is important to be cognisant of the local, regional, national and international environments in which we research and teach. As an academic committed to top-quality research and teaching, and with a sense of social responsibility, I hope this infuses literally everything we do everyday.

A move from leading a School of Social Sciences to leading a Business School has most certainly had a lasting impact on me! I very quickly had to learn about MBA programmes and Executive Education. In addition, I had to develop a deeper understanding about the high expectations on the Business School both in terms of interdisciplinary collaborations inside my university and having an external presence in the wider city region of Manchester and the North West of England. I understand rumours abounded about my lack of experience in business and management education on my arrival on the scene. That was eight years ago now of course so something must be going right.

What would you say is your biggest achievement in your career so far?

Being Dean of Alliance Business School of course! I mean that. I hope I am a good leader although that is for others to say.

I have been fortunate to be asked to undertake external roles. Most recently, I was very proud to Chair some citizens panels for the Bank of England. Professional success has been the source of much private joy as I was able to take my mother to Buckingham Palace when I was awarded an OBE and then an MBE for services to social sciences.

If you could give one life lesson/piece of advice to your younger self/young female leaders, what would it be?

This sounds like a cliche but I would emphasise the importance of confidence and believing in yourself.

My younger self was much more timid than the person I am today. I have had setbacks like anyone which seemed harder to handle then. Life’s experiences shape who we become and our resilience too. I was preoccupied with succeeding in my academic career first and then management and leadership opportunities came along later. I wish I had known how much I would enjoy working alongside people doing amazing things. Academia can be solitary while leadership is very sociable. I spend most of my day having great conversations with really interesting people about keeping the show on the road and improving everything as we go along. I have a hugely enjoyable time.

Maryam Alavi, dean of the Scheller College of Business.

Dean Maryam Alavi

Georgia Tech, Scheller College of Business

“Take more risks professionally early on in your career!”

Where you’re from/place of origin:

Iran

Where you previously studied:

The Ohio State University

Previous roles:

Faculty, Department Chair, Vice Dean, and now Dean

How has your business school adapted to the Covid-19 crisis, & what initiatives and innovations have you implemented?

At the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, we moved all courses and student services online and have since been increasing the quality and breadth of our hybrid and online learning options. We also moved some of our popular non-degree short corporate programs to an online format, and are in the process of planning online certificate and degree programs.

We have remained creative in our approach to student career success. All of our career services, including qualifying and practice interviews and career fair simulations to prepare students for the national career fairs, are being offered virtually. We have sponsored regular career development workshops featuring recruiters from employer partners advising students on how to present their best selves virtually. The average placement of our 2020 business graduates (at both graduate and undergraduate levels) three months after graduation was over 90%.

Shortly before the start of the pandemic, we became the newest site for the global Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) network. CDL offers objectives-based programs for massively scalable science- and tech-based companies. Our MBA students engaged with CDL-Atlanta through a practicum course that allowed them to work directly with tech companies, creating public health and economic recovery solutions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Another innovation at Scheller College during the pandemic was the creation of the Georgia Tech Covid-19 Economic Research website. This site documents the far-ranging effects of the virus on the health and well-being of the statewide economy and its residents. Included are descriptions of the effect of the pandemic on multiple sectors of the state of Georgia economy. This data is updated regularly, daily in some cases, to provide state residents and other interested parties with the knowledge to facilitate understanding and decision making in the current and post-Covid-19 environment.

What do you feel are the most important skills needed for managing a business school through a crisis?

  • Agility and flexibility

  • Transparent, clear, and frequent communication – It is important to tell affected personnel and stakeholders what you know and when you know it, using a variety of communication channels including interactive forums (e.g., small group meetings and town halls) that invite questions and discussion.

  • Listening to better understand the needs and concerns of those affected.

  • Showing empathy, offering options and encouragement, and suggesting ways that individuals can help themselves and others through the crisis. Creating a sense of community and being ‘in this together’ is beneficial to morale and state of mind during a crisis.

  • Developing plans to effectively and swiftly solve the problem and address the crisis, and then sharing those plans with various stakeholders.

How has your career helped to shape your leadership capabilities, and your priorities for your role as Dean? Can you share an anecdote about a previous instance/moment in your career that you feel has left a lasting impact on you?

There are many definitions for leadership. One that resonates strongly with me is given by John Quincy Adams (the 6th President of the U.S.). He said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

I believe that my career in Higher Ed and my role as an educator have provided me with opportunities to inspire my students to dream, do, learn, and become more. These opportunities and activities have shaped my leadership capabilities and my priorities as Dean.

The instance that I feel has left a lasting impact on me was when I stood in front of a very large undergraduate class to teach for the first time as a graduate student. I realized in that moment the responsibility and potential impact we, as educators, have on our students.

What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for business education in the coming years and what is your business school strategy to tackle this?

Both a challenge and an opportunity is the rapidly increasing pace of change in business and society. By anticipating change and understanding its drivers while developing our students to learn “how to learn”, business schools can remain relevant and in-demand. Our strategy at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business is to develop principled business leaders who have an entrepreneurial mindset, are tech-savvy, and are focused on value creation for stakeholders and improving the human condition.

What would you say is your biggest achievement in your career so far?

Working with and for hundreds of students and helping them to develop their potential.

If you could give one life lesson/piece of advice to your younger self/young female leaders, what would it be?

Take more risks professionally early on in your career!

Dean Karen Sedatole

Emory University Goizueta Business School

“Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself. Have confidence that you will discover within yourself the knowledge and intuition you need to meet the challenges you will face”

Where you’re from/place of origin:

I grew up in Pasadena, Texas (a suburb of Houston)

Where you previously studied:

  • Baylor University, Waco, TX (BSE, Computer Engineering)

  • University of Texas, Austin, TX (MBA)

  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI (PhD)

  • Previous roles:

Before joining academia, I worked as a systems consultant, designing and implementing various types of forecasting, budgeting, and decision support systems. I joined Goizueta as the Advisory Board Term Professor of Accounting in 2017 and was named interim dean in 2020. Prior to joining Goizueta, I served as the Russell E. Palmer Endowed Professor of Accounting at Michigan State University. I’ve also held academic appointments at the University of Texas at Austin and the Stephen F. Austin State University and visiting appointments at Monash University, University of Melbourne, Wake Forest University, and the University of California at Davis.

My research into the field of performance measurement and reward systems, the role of forecasting and budgetary systems within organizations, and control in interorganizational collaborations involves extensive corporate engagement and has enabled me to partner across industries – health care, tech, financial services, automotive, and more. I’ve worked with Disney, Amazon, Genuine Parts Company, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Microsoft, Cargill, and Marriott, to name a few companies.

How has your business school adapted to the Covid-19 crisis, and what initiatives and innovations have you implemented?

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change how we work and learn, organizations like ours have had to adapt to provide the best for our students, staff, and faculty, but it’s also pushed us to re-evaluate our business models for a new reality.

Like many other schools, over the past year, Goizueta faculty pivoted to virtual teaching and were quick to adopt many new interactive tools and applications, including virtual case discussions, breakout room technologies, virtual polling, and many others. We also set up virtual forums and discussion boards for faculty to exchange tips and ideas. Many of the activities and services we traditionally deliver in-person such as career treks to San Francisco and New York or recruiting or career managment events were delivered virtually and we saw greater participation by students and corporate partners.

In 2021, it’s not just the ability to adapt that’s key. It’s the ability to embrace change, identify opportunities, and help define the future. The time is now to explore the benefits and possibilities of digital learning and what it means for the future of teaching. The flexibility that digital learning tools provide is a perfect fit for busy working professionals, international students, and individuals who have responsibilities that prevent them from coming to campus.

We’ve invested heavily in digital learning experiences and are launching next generation digital classrooms (Goizueta Global Classrooms) this spring, hologram technology, and virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experiences. And now Goizueta is poised to take digital learning to the next level by providing business professionals with a true immersive, dynamic experience from anywhere in the world.

Expected to be in use later this year, holograms will allow Goizueta to invite guest speakers from all over the world, appearing as if they are right in front of students. Holograms also would make “pop up” classrooms possible in locations around the world. This method is far less expensive than sending a faculty member into the client’s location, say in far-away places like Shanghai or Rome, for in-person instruction. In the long run, this technology is expected to increase flexibility for new programs and create unique opportunities for innovation.

Additionally, gamification or the use of game-like virtual reality (VR) simulations can pave the way for immersive learning experiences without incurring the costs of associated travel and relying on external partners to create these learning experiences. In Goizueta’s current curriculum, students go to off-campus locations for experiential learning. With VR simulation, students can “travel” to locations while in the classroom and have the same type of immersive learning experience.

While the pandemic has presented a number of challenges, we’re really pushing ourselves to embrace change and see the opportunity within it. Digital learning offers an opportunity to expand Goizueta’s reach globally, while continuing to offer the world-class educational experiences and opportunities our students have come to expect.

What do you feel are the most important skills needed for managing a business school through a crisis?

I am coming at this question from the perspective of a newly appointed interim dean. For me, the most critical component of managing the business school through crisis was to quickly build the trust of the leadership team and the broader community. Key to this was signaling my desire to be transparent and then following through with that transparency.

How has your career helped to shape your leadership capabilities, and your priorities for your role as Dean? Can you share an anecdote about a previous instance/moment in your career that you feel has left a lasting impact on you?

I have spent my career as a research faculty member. Stepping into this leadership role was a transformational experience for me. My priorities shifted from a focus on my own scholarly community, to a focus on my school and university community.

As a faculty member engaged in critical evaluation of scholarly work (both as giver and receiver!), I constantly remind myself of a quote by editorialist and author Thomas Friedman that I find particularly meaningful,

“There are two kinds of critics in life: those who criticize you because they want you to fail and those who criticize you because they want you to succeed. And people can smell the difference a mile away.”

I carried this sentiment with me to the Dean’s office. It has helped me challenge myself to think about how I treat others, and remind me of the need to be humble and assume the best in others who criticize me.

What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for business education in the coming years and what is your business school strategy to tackle this?

Students today demand more of their education and of their employers. They want purpose in their professional lives, and they want to work for an organization that is purpose-driven. At Goizueta, we build principled leaders ready to solve the biggest issues of our society.

Earlier this month, as a reflection of our elevated commitment to social impact, we launched The Roberto C. Goizueta Business & Society Institute. The Institute’s goal is to transform business to solve society’s challenges through cutting-edge research, innovative programming, and principled leadership. The belief is that business and society can work collectively to address the challenges of inequality and climate change, two of the most pressing challenges facing both business and society today.

The Institute creates interdisciplinary study that explores the connections between business practices, market structures and social and environmental outcomes. For example, our Start: ME program offers an intensive 14-week business accelerator program to the most promising micro-entrepreneurs in underserved metro Atlanta communities, including business training, mentorship, and early-stage financing to develop their businesses. Through this initiative, we are working to create stronger communities in Atlanta and globally.

Another area of opportunity both in business education and business itself is building a student body and workforce that fully reflects the broader society. Business schools can achieve this through partnerships and unique programming.

For example, late last year, Goizueta MBA student Willie Sullivan spearheaded a virtual business case competition to support companies in tackling racial inequality from within. Teams from across the country examined disparities in wealth, health and education, and created strategies for corporations to address racial injustice. At the finals of the John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition, MBA teams from Emory, Harvard, MIT, Yale, and the University of Southern California presented ideas to the event’s corporate partners including HP, Johnson & Johnson, Salesforce, Southern Company, Truist, and Walmart. I was so proud to see our students and partners coming together to push for critical change to strengthen business and communities alike.

Finally, Goizueta places a huge value on innovation. We utilize our Executive Education courses as a testing ground for instructional innovation. Through our Experimentation Zone Fund and Innovation Fund, we also invest in innovative ideas for education and community engagement from faculty, students, and staff. We are innovating how we deliver programming as well. As mentioned above, Goizueta is poised to take digital learning to the next level by providing business professionals with a true immersive, dynamic experience from anywhere in the world.

What would you say is your biggest achievement in your career so far?

While I certainly have had success as a leader in my academic field, when I look back on my career, I think I will look on this time as my biggest career achievement. That I was chosen for this role means I gained the confidence of our faculty after only three years at Goizueta. I stepped into the role during a time of crisis and have thus far navigated it in a way that I’m proud of.

If you could give one life lesson/piece of advice to your younger self/young female leaders, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself. Have confidence that you will discover within yourself the knowledge and intuition you need to meet the challenges you will face, or that you will have the self-awareness to know when and from whom to seek advice. Either way, you will find a way to succeed, and while you should be grateful to those who helped you along the way, don’t forget to own your success.

Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy
Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy

Dean Barbara Stöttinger

WU Executive Academy, Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU Vienna)

“Ask for what you want and don’t be surprised to get it! Be bold and courageous – now and not later”

Where you’re from/place of origin:

Originally, I come from the beautiful city of Linz, located by the Danube river in Upper Austria. In 1983, I moved to Vienna to study Business Administration at WU Vienna.

Where you previously studied:

After my master’s degree, I decided to go straight into doctoral studies, which I completed in 1994. After some years in business, I returned to WU Vienna and earned my post-doctoral qualification in international marketing in 2003.

Previous roles:

Before joining WU Vienna’s Institute for International Marketing Management, I worked in the marketing department of an international consumer goods manufacturer (consumer electronics) and as a consultant. As part of my research, I have spent considerable amounts of time in the USA and in Canada. Moreover, I have lectured on marketing and international marketing in Europe, Asia and North America for many years and won several teaching awards.
In 2007, I was instrumental in designing the new Professional MBA specialization Marketing & Sales of the WU Executive Academy and became its Academic Director in the same year.

How has your business school adapted to the Covid-19 crisis, and what initiatives and innovations have your implemented?

Since the beginning of the Corona crisis, we at the WU Executive Academy have made every effort to continue to provide our participants with the smoothest and most valuable learning experience possible. Even during the first lockdown, we offered all modules virtually and brought various digital formats to the screens of our participants from all over the world. In parallel, we equipped all lecture halls with state-of-the-art IT and interactive multimedia equipment in just a few weeks, enabling true hybrid teaching. Currently, we are further developing this hybrid model: ahead of a module’s first on-site session, students will receive digital “nudges” in the shape of videos, quizzes, and tasks designed as challenges to introduce them to the respective topic. The goal is to combine the best of both worlds: This means, for instance, offering an online session on blockchain and then further exploring the topic in the next on-site session, where participants can share their personal experiences and things they already know in a live group discussion.

2020 was a very challenging time for most of the companies and their employees. These are exactly the challenges we had in mind when developing the topics and formats for our participants, but also for our corporate clients. In addition to areas such as innovation, leadership, strategy and change, we also put a special focus on leadership in times of crisis, coupled with a wide variety of aspects of digitalization.

Also, we have significantly expanded our portfolio in the area of online teaching. Besides multi-day programs on topics such as data governance, agile leadership or change management, we also offer digital game changer workshops or leadership and management training online. And, most recently, we have launched an innovative online program: the Professional Master Sustainability, Entrepreneurship and Technology, which is based on a new didactic online concept and combines the best that digital teaching currently has to offer.

The focus of all of these programs is to not only address those issues that executives need to manage the short- and medium-term impact of the pandemic, but at the same time to equip them with methods and tools that they can immediately put into practice.

What do you feel are the most important skills needed for managing a business school through a crisis (couple of bullet points and why is fine)?

Well, not any different from running any other commercial enterprise. In times of crisis, leadership skills are crucial – giving your team the confidence that you control what you can control, communicate proactively what you cannot control and what requires your and their flexibility as well as planning in different scenarios. And of course compassion – showing that you sincerely care – to all your stakeholders, but your team in particular. Your team needs to know that you support them in every respect and appreciate them for going all these extra miles. We are in there together and we are all very much looking forward to a great party once everything is successfully completed!

How has your career helped to shape your leadership capabilities, and your priorities for your role as Dean? Can you share an anecdote about a previous instance/moment in your career that you feel has left a lasting impact on you?

Good question – I think it has been solid education, preparation and training on the job. Ever since I started my career in academia, it had a strong interest in humans and how they “operate” across cultures – my field is international marketing – and my curiosity. Investigating consumer behavior, human behavior in general, has always greatly interested me and my curiosity has pushed me out of the comfort zone over and over again. So there is not one single moment I could name that made a lasting impact on me – but my curiosity and mission to make an impact myself – on the students at all levels who I have the pleasure to work with, on my team, etc – with what I do, what I can share and how I work.

What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for business education in the coming years and what is your business school strategy to tackle this?

The speed of change, the volatility and half-life of knowledge and practical knowhow are extreme challenges not only for companies around the world. The same is true for us business schools. Digitization has triggered a development here that can no longer be stopped – the Corona crisis was yet another accelerant. Our task in the coming years will be not only to focus on those topics that will be needed to cope with the short- and medium-term effects of the pandemic, but also to read the trends correctly and thus remain relevant for our customers – both in terms of content, but also didactically. Only in this way can we accompany companies in recognizing and successfully exploiting the countless opportunities that are emerging as a result of the digital transformation. But that is precisely what constitutes the USP of a university – to provide knowledge at a level that goes beyond day-to-day practice.

What would you say is your biggest achievement in your career so far?

Well, you would probably have to ask others to get a fair answer… I would say, how we are managing the effects of the COVID pandemic on our business – not me alone, but we as a team. It seemed impossible, until we got it done – in the past months and the months to come.

If you could give one life lesson/piece of advice to your younger self/young female leaders, what would it be?

Ask for what you want and don’t be surprised to get it! Be bold and courageous – now and not later.

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