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How Goizueta is responding

In the wake of financial meltdown in the banking industry and increased regulation, a fundamental, perhaps permanent shift in the way business is conducted seems to be taking place. New realities have emerged, and business schools may have to change priorities or re-emphasize existing ones to stay relevant and thrive. As Goizueta Business School celebrates its 90th anniversary, what does the future hold for business education?

First, students need to rethink their approach to their careers, says Dean Larry Benveniste. “Traditionally, business school students followed a set path in finance, investment banking, marketing. We need our students to be more entrepreneurial and to be able to think more creatively about their careers, not just because the job market is tough now, but because companies expect more from our students.”

Benveniste has been personally working with a number of MBA students on their job searches and says their approach has changed completely. “They are looking at many different paths to get to their goals. For instance, they’ll work for a start-up without pay and take options and equity. I’ve not seen that before. I’m proud of their resilience.”

Graduates will need this resilience to make it in the new business arena. Companies are looking for employees who are strong team members, even in the face of difficulties, and who can also demonstrate leadership. “This is a world where companies must have leadership teams willing to work as a team—without teamwork, they cannot be successful,” says GE vice chairman John Rice, who also serves as a Dean’s Executive Fellow. “The pace of change is already aggressive and likely to become more so.”

Vice Dean Maryam Alavi agrees that leadership will take on more importance in this new, more complex environment. “Yesterday, it was enough to be exceptional at one functional skill to succeed,” she says. “Current and future leaders need to be able to manage cross-functionally, possess strong relational skills, have high levels of emotional intelligence, and be great at developing and communicating vision. At GBS, we have created a competency-based model based on these dimensions and anchored on ethical values and principles for student development. We have implemented this model through experiential learning, coaching, and team-based approaches.”

A management practice course has been added to the full-time MBA curriculum and focuses on solving a business problem with ambiguous information. Dean Benveniste says this was in direct response to input from business leaders. “It has elements of values, career development, and leadership, as well as the goal of making students much better prepared to make career choices,” he says. “It’s not just a curriculum change; it’s a change in messaging.”

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The 360-degree assessment is a key component of the new BBA Leadership Academy. “The process of seeing themselves through the eyes of others is illuminating,” says Andrea Hershatter.

At the undergraduate level, Andrea Hershatter, associate dean and director of the BBA program, says the new BBA Leadership Academy helps teach students how to understand themselves and begin to manage people or projects. A key feature is the 360-degree assessment, where students self-assess and are then evaluated by peers and someone with oversight, such as a professor, supervisor, or parent. “They find the process of seeing themselves through the eyes of others so illuminating, and it helps them grow enormously.”

With regard to executive education, Lisa Kaminski, associate dean for executive education, says she has noticed an increase in requests for non-degree leadership courses. “People are preparing their organizations for when the economy turns around, so there’s a lot of work now in talent management, filling the leadership pipeline, and succession planning.”

She adds that courses focusing on the intricacies of finance for those with little financial background are gaining traction now, even though they have been around for years. “Understanding the financial implications of decisions is very timely.”

This point was echoed by Michael F. Golden 86EMBA, CEO of Smith & Wesson. “A stronger emphasis on economics and finance will carry grads a long way in understanding how to run a business properly given the constraints of the economy. Certainly when I went to Emory I thought it was a very good program.”

Emory has enhanced its financial education opportunities with the new Emory Center for Alternative Investments. The Center provides education, research, and analysis for key areas of alternative investments, including private equity, hedge funds, venture capital, and real estate.

Financial acumen and knowing how to read a P&L statement are important skills, notes Javier Goizueta, vice president of The Coca-Cola Company and president of the McDonald’s Division Worldwide—but they always have been. “And I think equally important are personal traits like integrity and the courage to make decisions and take action quickly.”

Ethics is a common theme in light of the Madoff scandal. “To earn respect for themselves and for the conduct of business in this country, schools must be unequivocal champions of ethical practices, producing graduates that would never have any part in such scandals,” says Charles “Pete” McTier 61BBA, a trustee at the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation and a Goizueta Executive Fellow. Alavi agrees and echoes its importance: “We take very seriously our responsibility to emphasize business ethics,” she says.

Hershatter says there is also a rising awareness of the social responsibility of business, and how business practices shape economic realities. She notes that “we’re placing more emphasis on sustainability and adding courses or components of classes that focus on social enterprise. In my entrepreneurship class, for example, every student has to incorporate environmentally sound business practices.” Rice says that he’s noticed many of GE’s hires are concerned about the environment too, which is a good thing. “They want to align with companies that can help resolve some of the issues around environmental sustainability,” he says.

One area that does need improvement is communication skills. “In the world of texting, people are losing the skill to articulate their thoughts well, both face-to-face and in writing,” observes Goizueta. “In global business today, getting your point across clearly and succinctly is more important than ever.”

This is something that Hershatter has noticed, as well. “Our students have developed extremely effective oral communication skills but have not been held to the same standard in written communication. We’re looking at revamping what we do with respect to strengthening writing skills.”

Despite the challenges, the future of business education remains strong. “What’s exciting is that companies are still investing in executive education,” says Kaminski. “Often during difficult economic times, companies tend to cut in this area, and the irony is this is exactly where they need to grow. Companies will be better prepared for the future by developing their own talent and will save money by not needing to rely on consultants.”

Benveniste says there has been no drop-off in applications to Goizueta, underscoring the significance of business education and the Emory degree. “I believe Emory has always been a place with strong values and commitment to leadership. The education remains very valuable. As we celebrate our 90th anniversary, we look forward to another 90 years of excellence.”

Kathryn Whitbourne

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