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The EFMD business magazine

Pioneering the learning and leadership that meets the urgency of our times – Results from the GRLI Deans and Directors Cohort. Collated by John North and Claire Sommer.

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To achieve the kind of world we consider human, some people had to dare to break the thrall of tradition. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Hungarian psychologist and author of Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention 1996

The idea for a “Deans roundtable”, suggested by Julia Christensen during the 2016 AGM of the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI) held at Kemmy Business School in Limerick, Ireland, has led to a growing participant-driven co-learning initiative that “dares to break the thrall of tradition”. Inspired by the 50+20 vision (2012) of “Management Education for the World” and the urgency our times require, our GRLI Deans and Directors Cohort operates like a “collaboratory” for deans and directors acting as catalysts of change.

Two years on the cohort is gathering momentum for our third face-to-face event, which will be held at University of Vermont, USA, on March 21-24, 2019. Global Focus invited participants to share some of their reflections on the initiative, including “learnings from the learning” about how the cohort works and the impact it has had within and beyond their institutions and organisations.

The opportunity to apply whole-systems thinking and action has already bridged institutional and disciplinary boundaries, opened new research avenues, the start of new centres and programmes and a number of collective impact initiatives aimed at transforming management education.

Rashmi Prasad, Dean at the College of Business of Western Governors University, an online university headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, comments:
Stories told by colleagues from around the world painted a familiar picture: the obstacles to creating and sustaining new forms of business education for a sustainable future are many, including the mimicry of big brand schools, the power of rankings, narrow disciplines, conventional teaching and faculty models, a crowded field of stakeholders, some of whom wield a veto. One valuable takeaway for me was to build alliances with other professional schools (at one’s own university or even at other universities) by finding areas of common value. I discovered the ‘inter-professional’ movement which is having a real impact in improving healthcare quality outcomes by fostering collaboration among diverse health professionals. These insights have driven university-wide collaboration in areas such as social and emotional learning.

Wayne Visser, Academic Director and Professor in Sustainable Transformation at Antwerp Management School (AMS Belgium, says:
We’re looking at collaborating with the University of Vermont to develop a multi-continent executive programme on sustainable transformation. In addition, GRLI’s focus on ‘whole person engagement’ has been an inspiration as I continue to develop our work around the ‘values dividend, and ‘integrated value’. Rather than being another content-laden or deliverables-driven meeting, GRLI serves as a supportive community of deans and directors where collaboration can emerge, ideas can be stimulated and personal leadership can be affirmed.”

Dayle M Smith, Dean at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, USA, describes the next chapter for the College of Business Administration (CBA) as one “that was influenced by the thoughtful work of the GRLI. The CBA, coupled with a Jesuit mission of men and women for others, is redesigning curriculum and working across boundaries in the university to bring together disciplines, building creative confidence in the students and using ‘global imagination’ to make a difference in the world.
The CBA focuses on business as a force for good where we look at business education as an enabler that develops future business leaders as having an important voice at the table for addressing, in transdisciplinary and entrepreneurial ways, the most significant issues affecting the global community. Sharing ideas and coming together with the GRLI community has been a wonderful professional development opportunity, helping us drive strategy in our respective institutions.

Julia Christensen Hughes, Dean of the College of Business and Economics (CBE) at the University of Guelph, Canada, was inspired to “ground and grow” CBE’s commitment to sustainability. Following the inaugural cohort meeting in Guelph, she appointed Rumina Dhalla, CBE Sustainability Coordinator. Together, Rumina and Julia attended the second cohort meeting in Marseilles, France, which gave them the opportunity to crystallise a plan of action. Rumina is now in the process of forming a college-wide sustainability coalition as well as developing a proposal for an Institute for Sustainability and a new ten-course minor (that will soon be available campus-wide).

As I prepare to step down as Dean next year, I am confident that CBE’s commitment to sustainability has become well-enshrined in our culture and our programmes.

David Allen, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean at the University of Exeter Business School, UK, and Ilke Inceoglu, Research Director in the Department of Management, has run a workshop in which the Exeter Centre of Leadership and the Centre for Circular Economy explored the question of what it means to lead in a circular economy.

Olayinka David-West, Academic Director, and Dean Enase Okonede of Lagos Business School, Nigeria, describe how a whole-person and whole-system approach to learning transformation is leading to tangible progress:
Since the cohort, we have embarked on articulating a vision of what the faculty of a leading business school operating out of an emerging market should look like and articulating key attributes of the faculty body.”

Charles Areni, Executive Dean, Faculty of Business, University of Wollongong in Australia shares.We are starting a ‘trans-faculty’ master degree in sustainable growth with Engineering and Information Sciences (Materials Engineering) and Law, Humanities and Arts (Environmental Law), and perhaps Social Sciences (Geography) for delivery in 2020”.

Hanna-Leena Pesonen, Dean and Professor in Corporate Environmental Management at University of Jyväskylä, Finland, took inspiration from her participation in the inaugural cohort meeting in 2017 and at the 2018 event announced the steps they have taken to establish a world-first Centre for Resource Wisdom.

Participating in this cohort allowed me to put in perspective what we’re doing at Católica Porto Business School, Portugal, and emphasised the need to give it greater visibility”, says Dean Sofia Salgado. “Examples include initiatives such as coaching the individual bachelor student in his/her specific development needs and redesigning the executive MBA programme with an increased focus on organisational needs and professional development, with a commitment to the accountability and responsibility of future leaders.

Other participants have taken their learning into new fields and roles. Following her participation at the inaugural meeting in October 2017, Dima Jamali, Kamal Shair Endowed Chair in Responsible Leadership at American University of Beirut, is taking a year off to fully adjust and comprehend her new role as a member of the Lebanese parliament where she will work on improving the education sector, especially the public schools.

Steven Murphy joined the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), Canada, as its new President and Vice Chancellor in March 2018, where he will champion diversity in all forms.

Sanjay Sharma, Dean of the Grossman School of Business (GSB) looks forward to welcoming the Cohort for the next full gathering on 21-24 March, 2019 at University of Vermont.

At GSB, sustainability is the core driver for faculty and the business ecosystem. As part of the gathering in Vermont, GSB will offer a live case study that involves perspectives from Faculty, Students, Alumnus, corporates partners and other stakeholders, thus bringing to life their School’s inspiring journey towards fully integrating sustainability into each course, topic, and program.

As a whole, the cohort seems poised to make an impact at the organisational and systemic level not because of their unique qualifications or knowledge but rather as result of a process which convenes committed, dedicated and empowered individuals that are willing to bringing a ‘whole person’ approach to their work and to their lives. These are Deans and Directors that are daring to break the thrall of tradition – Deans and Directors as agents of change.

The small sampling of feedback shared here is meant to provide a taste of the Cohort’s exploration of learning and leadership for Global Responsibility. The group looks ahead to building on their shared experience and insight and also to involve other voices and perspectives in upcoming meetings.

Deans and Directors Cohort 2017 / 2018

We are like-hearted and like-minded participants from 14 countries and a mix of specialisations; representing well-established institutions in the developed world as well as fast-rising and ambitious organisations in developing economies.
• American University of Beirut — Lebanon
• Antwerp Management School — Belgium
• Católica Porto Business School — Portugal
• Colegio Universitario de Estudios Financieros (CUNEF)—Spain
• Corvinus University of Budapest—Hungary
• ESADE Business School—Spain
• George Mason University School of Business — USA
• Grossman School of Business, University of Vermont — USA
• Kent State University College of Business Administration — USA • Lagos Business School—Nigeria
• Lahore University of Management Sciences —Pakistan
• Othman Yeop Abdullah Graduate School at Universiti Utara Malaysia — Malaysia
• School of Business, Clarkson University, Potsdam, New York — USA
• School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg — Sweden
• Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University — Canada
• University of Exeter Business School —United Kingdom
• University of Guelph, College of Business and Economics—Canada
• University of Jyväskylä School of Business and Economics—Finland
• University of Portsmouth—United Kingdom • University of Wollongong—Australia
• Weatherhead School of Management — Case Western Reserve University — USA
• Western Governors University — USA

Visit to learn more about participation in the cohort or contact John North at to discuss applications.

See more articles from Vol. 13 Issue 01 – ’19.

John North is Executive Director of The Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative

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