Tepper School Dean Isabelle Bajeux Discusses the Future of Business Education
On May 26, the American Chamber of Commerce France hosted a virtual panel that brought together U.S. and French leaders in business education to discuss how to prepare new generations of students for tomorrow’s professional world.
Tepper School Dean Isabelle Bajeux was invited to participate in the event alongside Vincenzo Vinzi, Dean and President of ESSEC Business School, Eric Labaye, President Ècole Polytechnique, and Soulaymane Kachani, Vice-Provost of Teaching, Columbia University. The panel was moderated by Christopher Kramme, CEO of Outcome and Vice-President of AmCham France.
The panelists covered a range of topics from diversity in the workplace, technology, and soft skills, to changes brought on by the pandemic. They challenged the traditional business education model with the goal to address what future leaders will need to succeed upon graduation.
The program was broken into four main themes:
- Preparing students for tomorrow’s economy
- Education and diversity
- Digitalization and lifelong learning
- Soft skills
Preparing Future Leaders
The first theme of the webinar opened with Bajeux discussing changes business schools will need to make to prepare students for their future careers. She offered that because the business landscape has been changing quickly over the years (and recently accelerated by the pandemic), business schools are challenged to adapt to these changes in order to ensure the success of their students. Bajeux pointed out that “the biggest challenge for universities is to be able to be agile enough to adapt quickly to new learning environments.”
She went on to say, “The pandemic has tested and proven what is possible in terms of remote work and learning. I believe that pre-COVID we were already trending toward a more remote workplace, but the pandemic accelerated this change for businesses and universities, alike. Universities typically move slowly, much more slowly than businesses. This crisis has forced higher education to reinvent itself overnight. This was a huge shock, but I believe it will make us collectively stronger and more agile."
During the pandemic, the Tepper School was able to pivot quickly to remote learning thanks to the technology already in place here. The online MBA program is ranked #1 so the Tepper School was in a unique position to more easily pick up virtual learning right when in-person activities had to stop. While technology is important, Bajeux was careful to point out that technology is not what should be driving business education. She said, “One issue is to make sure that pedagogy should drive the conversion, not technology. We need to remain focused on learning objectives, not the conduits. Technology is simply the conduit.” While technology is invaluable for the future, the content of education should still remain the focus.
Also, while technology allows us to reach more people, we must keep in mind that not everyone has the same access to the same technology. Bajeux said of the Tepper School that “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.”
Diversity and Inclusion
On the theme of diversity, Bajeux and Vinzi discussed the pipeline from middle school to high school in terms of recruiting. Bajeux said, “Universities have a responsibility to be able to provide businesses with a diverse body of talent. In business schools in particular, as we educate the future senior leaders, we have a deep moral obligation to ensure that students learn the behavioral skills they need to work with all types of people, regardless of race, gender, or background. I do believe the importance of these soft skills is at least equal to the fundamental analytical skills we are teaching. With remote work increasing, it will only increase our exposure and connection with people from different cultures, races, and backgrounds.”
The other panelists continued with a focus on soft skills future leaders would require under the lens of diversity as well as on both sides of the Atlantic. Ethics and values were important qualities for business schools to teach students, which can only really be achieved by bringing groups together from different backgrounds and cultures.
The panel discussion was lively, with solutions to the themes offered from diverse perspectives that represented both Europe and the U.S.
For more information about the event or panelists, visit the AmCham France website.