Educators and corporate leaders swap ideas and innovations at Rutgers Business School's Big 10 collaboration

Monday, November 2, 2015

Rutgers Business School drew on its Big 10 affiliation to put on a three-day, thought-provoking conference that gave educators and business people from across the nation an opportunity to exchange ideas on how to better prepare undergraduate students for being successful workers and leaders in the business world.

Deans, faculty and advisors from 60 schools, including seven Big 10 business schools, together with executives from the country’s leading companies attended the Innovations in Undergraduate Business Education Conference, which took place Oct. 26 through Oct. 28.

"Business is changing dramatically,” said Martin Markowitz, a senior associate dean at Rutgers Business School who organized the conference. "We have to upgrade our teaching techniques and change what we’re doing to prepare students."

Markowitz said the conference was a first step in that process. "We have brought together representatives from those who impact the success of our students and, by extension, our economy to share perspectives, ideas and their newest practices that will help us all move forward and keep up with an ever-changing business environment."

Rutgers Business School’s ability to collaborate and to showcase its own thought leadership represents another side of its membership in the Big 10 Conference. As members of the Big 10, schools also belong to the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, a consortium of academic resource-sharing.

Dean Markowitz moderating a panel discussion on future job trends in business.

Markowitz hoped to tap into the network and its resources to collaborate with Big 10 business schools to innovate and streamline undergraduate business education.

A day of sharing of ideas, insights and best practices on Oct. 27 began with opening remarks from Rutgers Business School Dean Lei Lei, Rutgers University President Robert Barchi and New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.

Dean Lei set the tone by describing the challenges business schools face as they reshape curriculum to train students for global economy and a digital world. "To be ahead of the curve,” Lei said, "we need to be innovative."

"We come together," she said, "to network and to share ideas."

The exchange of ideas was evident in discussion after discussion as panelists provided insights on future job trends, described new programs for teaching management and internationalizing curriculum and shared best practices for how boards of advisors can be influential at their schools. The discussions were engaging, with audience members extending and broadening the conversations with questions and comments.

Rutgers Business School Dean Lei Lei welcoming the audience to the Innovations in Undergraduate Business Education Conference.

The audience was made up of administrators and faculty members from Big 10 members Indiana University, University of Iowa, University of Maryland, Michigan State, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Penn State. Ramapo, Seton Hall, the College of New Jersey, Georgetown, New York University and Pace University were among dozens of other business schools attending the first-time conference.

In a session on future job trends, executives from Citigroup, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, Deloitte and BD talked about the skills that are important for students taking their first jobs in healthcare and financial companies. One panelist, Johnson & Johnson’s Director of Talent Acquisition Eddie Stewart, said it remains important for students to learn the foundation business courses. In addition, he said, an entrepreneurial attitude and an ability to work in a collaborative environment are vital.

"We’re also looking for individuals who have a passion for their field because that passion makes it possible for them to learn new ways to do things," Stewart said.

Other panelists cited personal integrity, learning agility and, collectively, the speakers said students preparing for careers in the business world needed an ability to work on teams.

Gary Cohen, executive vice president of global health and development at BD (Becton Dickinson and Company) added emotional intelligence. "Even the smallest organization has politics,” he said. The ability to avoid taking things personally, he said, and being derailed by them is important.

In his keynote address, Cohen spoke about how businesses like BD have succeeded in creating business models that create positive societal impact.

Traditionally, he said, societal issues were considered by many companies to be outside the scope of business. Now, a growing number of companies are deciding that they can leverage corporate assets and build relationships to help solve social problems, from disease and poverty to gender issues and peace.

BD Executive Vice President Gary Cohen during his keynote address.

BD has developed safety-engineered needle devices to help prevent the spread of disease, forged a partnership with the Clinton Foundation to broaden access to HIV testing and is investing in new technology capable of reducing newborn mortality.

"These are ways that companies can help solve global problems," he said.

And there’s another positive effect: "These are highly motivational opportunities for employees,” he said, "which helps to build loyalty and dedication among our workforce.”

"Business school curriculum should incorporate all methods of social impact, including philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and shared value,” Cohen said. "Many in the millennial generation seek both career success and purpose in their lives, and companies that offer both will have a competitive advantage in recruiting talent."

Another panel discussion, Innovations in B-Education, allowed representatives from five business schools, including Rutgers, to describe new approaches they’ve taken to teaching writing, management and leadership.

Phyllis Siegel, a professor who became a senior associate dean at Rutgers last year, described a two-year-old management skills course that emphasizes team work and interpersonal skills. The course, she told the audience, is taught in a room furnished with round tables, and students are put together with classmates they don’t know to ensure they have to work on establishing relationships.

Students also tackle a semester-long project with their team and get unique lessons to instill principles of team work. Siegel explained how 800 students attended a Sunday session to hear Rutgers women’s basketball coach Vivian Stringer and her players talk about what it takes to build and sustain a team.

"We have surveyed students from the first cohort,” said Siegel, who helped to develop the course, "90 percent of them said they have applied the skills they learned in the course in other classes.”

"When they are interviewing for internships, some of them have been hired on the spot because of the skills they demonstrate based on the course.”  

Dean Markowitz sits among the audience during a panel discussion.

Agarwal, who delivered a keynote address on the final day of the conference, spoke about edX, a company that has been also been a strong force in reinventing education. "Education is one of the few fields that hasn’t changed,” Agarwal said.

The online destination was founded by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology three years ago with the hope that it could increase access to education with its free online programs, study how people learn and to develop techniques to improve learning. To get a sense of the impact edX has had, consider that 155,000 people have signed up for online courses, 5,000 institutions want to partner with the company and 145 states are adopting edX, Agarwal said.

While many of the online courses are free, edX has worked with MIT to develop a micro masters degree that requires four courses and costs students approximately $100 a course. Students who successfully complete the program, receive a micro masters from MIT and the ability to take additional courses at MIT. "I believe business schools should think about this approach,” Agarwal said, "the program becomes a funnel into school.”

Agarwal’s keynote address affirmed what many educators acknowledged repeatedly during the conference: business is changing and so are the requirements for students hoping to work in companies, start businesses, to succeed in careers.

Panelist Mukesh Patel talks about a class he teaches at Rutgers Business School during a discussion on developing effective programs.

In his welcoming remarks, Rutgers University President Robert Barchi said companies want to hire students who have much more than the traditional business education. "They’re looking for intellectual, analytical thinkers who can speak one or more foreign languages,” Barchi said.

Barchi acknowledged the challenge facing business schools in preparing future workers and leaders for a world that continues to change dramatically.

"The tools they need to succeed are today are not the tools they will need in the future,” he said. "Today’s workers may hold eight to 10 different jobs during the course of their careers.”

Barchi also spoke about the ability of Rutgers to collaborate with other Big 10 schools and gain from an exchange of diverse resources and rich insights.  “To me,” he said, "it’s the most exciting thing about being in the Big 10.”

-Susan Todd

TAGS: Big 10 Innovation Lei Lei Marty Markowitz Phyllis Siegel Thought Leadership Undergraduate