Economic inequality and the role of companies – ESADE

ESADEWhy and how can companies contribute to the reduction of economic inequality in the world? This is the question that ESADE’s Global Integrative Module (GIM) aims to explore. In partnerships with business schools from around the globe, the module engages students from a variety of academic programmes in proposing concrete solutions to businesses around this topic. The GIM is a proud awardee of the Ideas to Innovation i2i 2012 Challenge of the GMAC Management Education for Tomorrow (MET) Fund, which supports big ideas designed to improve management education. I recently spoke with Anna Inesta Codina, the coordinator of the GIM project at ESADE, about this innovative project.

What is the Global Integrative Module?

The Global Integrative Module is an innovative learning experience that invites students to work in online virtual teams to propose solutions to a challenge of current social, political and economic relevance, by applying an integrated modular approach—combining relevant knowledge from the fields of Economics, People Management and Social Sciences. Ensuring both academic and cultural diversity, online virtual teams are composed of students from different academic programmes, namely BBA, MSc and MBA students from the participating business schools, ESADE (Spain), NYU Stern (US), SDA Bocconi (Italy) and Sogang University (the Republic of South Korea). Each team is assigned a web-based ‘virtual studio’ environment, which is designed to enhance shared knowledge-construction and problem-solving among the members of the international teams.

The proposed challenge asks students to consider themselves part of a team of professionals who have been contacted in order to elaborate a consultant report, and to answer the question, “Why and how can companies contribute to the reduction of economic inequality in the world?” Students are required to go beyond reflection to construct a personal and yet conceptually and practically justified action-oriented position that takes the form of a report to propose recommendations for companies, organisations, and governments to make the difference in solving the challenge. Students submit weekly learning journals related to their project and experiences, three preliminary deliverables in varying formats, and a final report with concrete proposals for companies and business schools.

You work with a range of international partners. How does the partnership work?

The GIM is a joint project between the four above-mentioned international business schools. For ESADE and Sogang University, the GIM is included in the curriculum as an elective course, while at NYU Stern and SDA Bocconi it has been embedded as a project within existing courses. In the 2013-2014 international edition of the GIM, 74 students representing 24 different nationalities took part, with 39% of participants from ESADE, 31% from NYU Stern, 11% from SDA Bocconi, and 19% from Sogang University.

Project Leaders from each of the business school partner institutions were involved in the design of the 2013-2014 implementation of the GIM, and monthly online coordination meetings were held to make decisions on important aspects of the course – such as the topic, task-design and assessment. Furthermore, during the implementation of the module, each business school had an in-house tutor whose job was to provide academic support to their online virtual teams.

What have been some of the challenges?

Designing a complex task that was challenging but not too far beyond students’ capabilities in terms of time and workload was a challenge. Indeed, the authenticity of the task, albeit successful in engaging students in processes that are very close to the kind of authentic challenge resolution they will be confronted with in their professional activity, was very demanding. Not all students were willing to invest the kind of energy (besides the time and effort) that making the most out of this learning opportunity would require, perhaps due to their decision to prioritise other academic responsibilities.

Coordination was also a big challenge given the large number of stakeholders involved in the module (students, Project Leaders, members of the ESADE academic team and tutors) and international nature of the module.

What about successes? 

Students’ feedback collected at the end of the module via a final reflection paper and an end of course survey was very positive. Specifically, students found the learning experience to be an opportunity to better understand relevant global issues, develop global competencies, foster team building skills and work in an international environment where they have the chance to adapt to different challenges. It contributed to students’ understanding of economic inequality as a global issue and of the role played by companies in reducing economic inequality.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

Before deciding whether to implement a similar module, it is imperative not to underestimate:

  • The importance of institutional vision, as well as importance of personal networking to ensure the full commitment of the participating business schools: without the support of the corresponding departments at each of the schools, the fruitful partnership would not have been possible.
  • The value of true teamwork among the faculty participating in the learning experience: confidence, trust and flexibility are a must to ensure the kind of shared decision-making that is necessary for the project to succeed.

Moreover, when designing the learning task, it is important to:

  • Find the right balance between conceptual rigor and value-added practice
  • Reach a consensus as to the dates to start and end the project/course,
  • Agree on the kind and characteristics of the tools to apply to measure students’ learning

What is next for GIM?

Preparations are underway for the 2014-2015 GIM. We will be reducing the length of the course slightly to adjust to the academic calendars of all partner schools. The recruitment process will be more selective to ensure that all students are prepared and willing to dedicate the time and energy to the project. We are also working to strengthen the academic teams at each school so that students receive adequate support from tutors and professors.

All the changes proposed are designed to enhance students’ learning process and experience in the module, and they are not aimed at scaling up the module in terms of number of participating students. Given the challenging nature of the learning experience and the complexity involved from the coordination side, we are considering increasing the number of business schools participating as partners. This would ensure an even wider diversity of students’ profiles and, thus, an even more authentically international experience.

What Happened at the UN Climate Summit and Private Sector Forum

UnknownThe UN Climate Summit, which took place in New York City at the end of September, was the largest climate meeting yet, bringing together more than 125 heads of state and government officials. The event saw many countries reaffirming their commitments to secure a global climate agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), by the end of 2015 at the COP 21 in Paris.

Integral to the summit, the Private Sector Forum (PSF) brought the voice of the private sector to the intergovernmental debate, to address in particular how businesses across sectors are taking action on climate change. A large number of interesting commitments and partnerships took shape during this historic event, many of which make for engaging starting points for discussion in the classroom, and provide potential opportunities for business schools to get engaged at the local level.

Mayors from cities around the world came together to create the Compact of Mayors initiative, focused on undertaking a transparent and supportive approach to reducing city-level emissions, in order to reduce vulnerability and enhance resilience to climate change, in a consistent and complimentary manner to national level climate protection. The City Climate Finance Leadership Alliance was also launched, which aims to enable stronger private and public investment in climate-smart infrastructure in cities around the world.

Several statements and commitments were also made by governments, civil society and the private sector around forests, and the key role they play in tackling climate change. To be endorsed by countries, companies, indigenous peoples and civil society organisations, the New York Declaration on Forests lays out high-level goals to address deforestation and promote restoration. It includes goals to cut the rate of natural forest loss in half by 2020 and eliminate it altogether by 2030, restore 150 million hectares of degraded landscapes by 2020 and an additional 200 million hectares by 2030, and strengthen forest governance, transparency, and local and indigenous rights. Four major palm oil companies pledged to work in Indonesia to protect is remaining forests and peat lands, ensure community rights are better respected, and advocate for other companies and legal reforms to support and expand such commitments.

As a key player in climate change, the transportation industry launched several important initiatives including a Low-Carbon Sustainable Rail Transport Challenge to increase rail use for freight transport, meet efficiency targets and reduce emissions by 75% by 2050, and the signing of the International Association of Public Transport Declaration on Climate Leadership, which aims to double market share of public transportation around the world by 2025. The world’s eight largest multilateral development banks reaffirmed their commitment of $175 billion to sustainable transport. For universities, the upcoming Transport Day on December 7th provides an opportunity to explore how transportation can help to tackle climate change, and to take action on their campuses.

In terms of financing for climate action governments made large commitments to the Green Climate Fund, which is expected to become the main vehicle for securing and disbursing climate finance. The target is to reach at least $10 billion in the fund by the end of the year in preparation for the COP 20 in December. The Global Divest-Invest coalition focuses on shifting investments from activities driving climate change, to those that can help solve it, by pledging to take $50 billion of investments out of fossil fuel.

One of the key discussion points for the Private Sector Forum, as discussed in a previous post, was carbon pricing and specific actions that the public and private sectors can take to achieve an equitable and fair valuation of carbon through long-term strategies, investments and policies. Coordinated by the Caring for Climate initiative, the Business Leadership Criteria on Carbon Pricing invites businesses to integrate carbon pricing into long-term strategies and investment decisions, responsible policy advocacy, and communicating on their progress. More than 1,000 companies signaled their support to put a price on carbon pollution. Twenty-five of these companies including Nestle, Philips and Unilever, committed to pricing carbon internally in order to accelerate investments that reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions.

Parallel to this event, the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) continues to develop the set of goals that will replace the Millennium Development Goals set to expire in 2015. The proposal for Goal 13 focuses on taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. To ensure that these goals will be implemented and to explore how the private sector can be an active player in this, UNIDO and the UN Global Compact launched an extensive global consultation, resulting in the report entitled, “Engaging with the Private Sector in the Post 2015,” launched at the summit. To see the latest draft of the Sustainable Development Goals, visit the SDG site or read these previous posts on the process of developing the SDGs.

The UN Climate Summit and Private Sector Forum were video recorded, and can be viewed here.


PRiMEtime on this date..

In 2013: What happened at the 2013 PRME Summit – 5th Annual Assembly

In 2012: Graduate Certificate in Social Impact – Centre for Social Impact in Australia

Sustainable Business Examples from Around the World – USA and Morocco


Preserve As businesses become more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of examples of active companies. However, when I speak with students and faculty, they say that they repeatedly hear the same examples from the same international companies.

In an attempt to share some new examples of good practice, I asked a handful of faculty members from around the world about their favourite classroom examples of local companies that are actively involved in sustainability. Below are some examples from across the USA and Morocco.

Mahja NAIT BARKA, ESCA Ecole de Management, Morocco

BMCE Bank, a leading Moroccan bank present in more than thirty countries in Africa, Europe and Asia, stands out as a model in Corporate Social Responsibility. BMCE Bank was the 1st bank in the Maghreb region to join the Equator Principles, and the 1st bank in the MENA Region to be certified ISO14001 in environmental management. Four percent of the bank’s gross income is devoted to the BMCE Bank Foundation, which operates the programme, bringing together schooling and community development in rural areas of Morocco, Mali, Senegal, and Congo Brazzaville. To date, approximately 400 teachers have been recruited and trained, and 192 schools and pre-school units were built and equipped for more than 15,000 pupils. Six thousand adults have benefited from literacy training (80% of which are women and girls).

Maroc Telecom, the main telecommunications company in Morocco and signatory to the UN Global Compact, obtained the highest score in the VIGEO ratings, in the areas of business ethics and anti-corruption initiatives. VIGEO, the European leading supplier of extra-financial analysis, rated eight Moroccan Companies listed on Casablanca Stock Exchange, evaluated on twenty-two dimensions. In 2006, Maroc Telecom adopted a Code of Ethics that requires all employees not to accept “gifts, benefits, invitations and bribes, to preserve the integrity and reputation of Maroc Telecom.”

Centrale Laitière is another one of Morocco’s top performers in sustainability. Created in 1940, Centrale Laitière is a group of companies specialising in the milk and dairy product industry, in partnership with Danone group. The group is a signatory to the UN Global Compact, and is committed to respect its fundamental Ten Principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and the fight against corruption. Centrale Laitière is at the origin of a nutritional charter to promote local producers and provide a ‘Buyer’s Code of Ethics’ to stimulate appropriate governance and environmental responsibility (characterised by reducing carbon emissions and waste).

Michael Chmura, Babson College, USA

Preserve, a certified B Corporation founded by a Babson alumnus, is the leading maker of performance driven and stylish 100% recycled household products. Preserve is powered by the recycling efforts of individuals and companies collecting #5 plastic—such as yogurt cups and other common household containers—via Preserve’s Gimme 5 programme. The Gimme 5 programme collects and transforms #5 plastics into new Preserve products. All recycling and manufacturing is done in the USA.

Another good example is GreenerU, a mission driven company that collaborates with educational institutions to engineer sustainable solutions to energy and engagement challenges. Their unique approach integrates building system improvements with behavioural programmes to meet campus-wide sustainability goals. (Disclosure: The Sustainability Office at Babson College is staffed and operated by two GreenerU employees under contract at Babson)

Mayur Mehta, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programmes, McCoy College of Business Administration, USA

Founded in 2008, Sustainable San Marcos is dedicated to helping the San Marcos community move towards a more sustainable future. Their focus for sustainability is in five areas: food, water, waste, energy and transportation acted on through our committees. They host initiatives such as composting workshops, rainwater harvesting tours, relevant book review articles, blog posts, and more, in an effort to educate the San Marcos community.

The San Marcos Farmer’s Market Association provides an outlet for Central Texas farmers to market their crops, and a source of fresh, homegrown and homemade products for local consumers. Daily operations of each market are conducted under the supervision of the Market Manager, who is authorised by and responsible directly to the Board of Directors. Membership in the association is available to Central Texas producers who meet the criteria established in the association by-laws, and who have been approved for membership by the Board of Directors.

The mission of the City of Austin’s Resource Recovery Programme is to be the national Zero Waste leader in the transformation from traditional integrated waste collection to sustainable resource recovery. The Resource Recovery includes many programmes that are aimed at sustainability and protecting the environment. The Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Facility is open to customers to safely dispose hazardous waste such as household chemicals, paint, automotive fluids, etc. The facility then recycles and makes new products available to whoever can use them. For example, Austin ReBlend is a 100 percent post-consumer, reblended flat paint (with low VOCs) made from paint collected at the HHW facility

Opportunities and Challenges of Doing Business in Morocco – ESCA Ecole de Management

ESCA_Ecole_de_Management_Study_Trip_to_Casablanca3As the first business school in Morocco and French speaking Africa, ESCA Ecole de Management in Casablanca, Morocco has a deep commitment to educate a new generation of high potential, responsible managers and ethical entrepreneurial leaders in Morocco, across Africa and in emerging economies. The business environment in Morocco offers many opportunities but also several engrained challenges that ESCA aims to raise awareness about through its programmes. I recently spoke with Mahja Nait Barka from ESCA Ecole de Management about some of these challenges and opportunities.

Briefly describe ESCA Ecole de Management’s approach to sustainability and responsible management education.

ESCA Ecole de Management advocates responsible leadership and sustainable management and has committed to implementing the Principles of the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Management Education since 2013. We have thus embarked on a series of interrelated initiatives directed towards this end, through programmes, research and partnerships that support change in managerial practices and educate leaders who carry values for the modernisation of society and positively impact their environments and organisations.

You mention that corruption is one of the major challenges for businesses in Morocco. Could you provide some more thoughts on this?

The Moroccan economy, Africa’s fifth largest by GDP, offers some of the most attractive options for investment in North Africa and the Middle East. The country has become a model of stability and reform amid the uncertainties of the Arab Spring, leading the region in social and political progress, but corruption is prevalent in many levels of Moroccan society and rarely prosecuted.

Because of the lack of statistical data, it is difficult to assess the extent of corruption’s entrenchment in Morocco but the international anti-corruption organisation Transparency International (TI) rates Morocco at 37 on scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean) in its “2013 Corruption Perception Index.”

A 2008 survey by Transparency Maroc, the local branch of TI, reached a similar conclusion concerning regularly paid bribes to facilitate or speed up administrative procedures, or influence decisions on public calls to tender and state contracts. More than two-thirds of Moroccans surveyed called the judiciary, media, police, parliament and public officials “corrupt or very corrupt,” and questioned the lack for transparency and accountability of the public administration, which make it difficult to have access to services that are an inherent right.

However, the Moroccan government is committed to fighting corruption, and in 2010 established the Instance Centrale de Prévention de la Corruption (ICPC), Morocco’s national anti-corruption agency. Among ICPC’s accomplishments: the creation of a portal that allows small-to-medium-sized businesses to report corruption, and the drafting of a public sector code of ethics. The ICPC is also at the origin of a public campaign to raise awareness on anti-corruption questions, and the drafting of a bill to enhance the ICPC mandate and ability to prosecute corrupt individuals. These initiatives, coupled with the ‘Moroccan Code of Good Practice for Corporate Governance’ adopted by the anti-corruption committee of the CGEM (Moroccan Association of Entrepreneurs), are positively setting the framework to tackle corruption issues, and establish more transparency and integrity.

What role do you feel you as a business school can play to help with this challenge moving forward?

The concept of corruption is deeply rooted in Moroccan society’s DNA and in people’s attitudes. In Moroccan mentality, it cannot be considered as corruption, it is just help—paying for a service is a form of favour or friendly reciprocity. Raising awareness about the negative impact of corruption on the economy has therefore become absolute necessity and ESCA Ecole de Management is committed to sharing with students and stakeholders positive values, and promoting success as a result of hard work, effort and ethics. This position is strongly connected to ESCA’s initial mission: training managers to help them succeed and serve development. We educate future entrepreneurial managers who will be participating in economic development and society modernisation. We teach students how to create long-term value for themselves, their organisations, and their environment.

What are some of the ways that you are doing this?

In 2013, ESCA Ecole de Management launched an initiative with all its stakeholders to integrate a code of ethics in the School’s curriculum, to instill positive values and foster the emergence of a generation able to fight against corruption and restore the principles of integrity and accountability in the society.

The school also tackles corruption at its roots in “Business Ethics” classes, which teach students the negative impact of corruption, and influence of peddling on business integrity and development, while promoting the rule of law. Discussions are fostered by cases drawn from local current affairs, and special attention is paid to dilemmas and how to overcome them. We also encourage dialogue with ESCA Alumni and successful entrepreneurs, who are frequently asked to come and share their experience with our students during conferences and open chats. These testimonies promote positive models of upward social mobility through effort and hard work. Managers and entrepreneurs are also asked to mentor students on projects and act as role models. We also incorporated these lessons into our innovative Doing Business in Morocco and Africa programme.

What is the Doing Business in Morocco and Africa programme?

With a focus on the Maghreb Region and Sub-Saharan countries, the programme aims at appreciating Africa’s business opportunities from Morocco, which is considered a hub in Africa, as its rapid development and economic diversification has created opportunities in a variety of fields (banking, travel & hospitality, telecom, mining, etc.). As the Arab World is facing deep changes and difficult transitions, the kingdom has managed to build a different business model, and gain leadership within the North African Region as a politically stable and economically thriving country.

This programme is offered to MBA participants from ESCA Ecole de Management’s partner universities and business schools to help them learn not only about doing business in Morocco in a dynamic framework, but also to identify key winning conditions to maneuver successfully in the region. Participants are then able to develop better negotiation skills, create long-term connections, and avoid common pitfalls when dealing with multiculturalism and business uncertainty. The programme combines an overseas trip, cultural experience (guided tours, introduction to Moroccan history, culture and business etiquette), academic seminars (on Entrepreneurship in Emerging Countries, Multinationals’ strategies to target African Markets through Morocco, Free-trade agreements, etc.), company visits, and high-profile meetings with Moroccan emerging champions, local entrepreneurs and government speakers.

Eighty MBA students and academics explored Moroccan business and society in 2013-2014 within the framework of the Doing Business in Morocco and Africa programme, and particularly appreciated its mix of regional insight and cultural immersion. Participants included: Grenoble Ecole de Management (France), University of San Diego (USA), California State University Long Beach (USA) Stellenbosch University (South Africa). Participants from New York Stern School of Business are expected in Casablanca in November 2014.

What advice do you have for other schools working in environments with a lot of corruption?

Business schools are organisations. As such, they should set examples and be their own agents of change by promoting ethical governance, compliance systems and practices that prevent corruptive, nepotistic behaviours—for instance in the hiring of faculty or in the procurement of school resources. By inspiring good, responsible leadership, business schools serve as incubators of responsible future leaders.

What is next for ESCA?

In November 2014, ESCA Ecole de Management will host the 4th PRME MENA Regional Forum. This event, in partnership with United Nations-supported PRME, will bring together over 300 participants from 20 countries to explore approaches and experiences, and discuss challenges and strategies for improving responsible management education through syllabi, research, student activities, dialogue, and partnerships with stakeholders. Among the participants will be state ministers, senior officials, university and business school deans, academics, researchers, entrepreneurs and members of civil society from North Africa and the Middle East. This will be a fantastic opportunity for the school to spread best practices and advocate PRME on the south and east coast of the Mediterranean.


PRiMEtime on this date…

in 2013: What happened at the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit 2013

in 2012: Creating a Cross-Disciplinary Course in Sustainability, Bentley University

Implementing Sustainability Principles – Sharing Information on Progress

Every month, several new Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) reports come across my desk. These SIP reports are full of interesting and innovative projects aimed at embedding the Six Principles of PRME across campuses. In this series of blogs, I will feature a small selection of projects taken from recently submitted reports. This month we take a look at examples, as they apply to the Six Principles of PRME, from the Indonesia, Japan, USA, Columbia, Peru and Germany.

  1. Purpose: Faculty of Economics and Business Soegijapranata Catholic University, Indonesia

Soegijaprantata Catholic University’s Strategic Plan 2011-2019 focuses on the school becoming ‘Green’ in their organisational management, curricula design, and in the implementation of teaching, research and community service. They aim to actively participate in national and international organisations engaged in environmental and social issues, while educating students, business, government, society and other stakeholders. Their flagship event, an international conference focused on Greenpreneurship, takes place on campus every three years, and will next take place in September 2015.

  1. Values: Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan

Kwansei Gakuin University signed an agreement in 2006 with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Japan, whereby it admits 3 refugees chosen by the UNHCR to the university each year. Students admitted are exempt from all tuition fees. There are many cases of refugees who cannot enter Japanese universities because of the high cost of tuition and living, and the difficulty of getting a certificate of graduation from their previous schools in their home country. At KGU, their goal is to give these refugees a higher education and the specialised skills necessary to become leaders in contributing to peace and economic progress, working either in Japan, or in their home countries. The university also wants them to study together with Japanese students so that all involved can work together to solve such worldwide problems as persecution and conflict.

  1. Method: Cameron School of Business, University of St. Thomas, USA

Students in Cameron School of Business’s marketing and management classes take part in a Microcredit lending programme. Through this programme students participate in more than 50 loans to assist small businesses in more than 50 countries. The programme supports no-interest loans and so far the programme has achieved a 100% repayment record. Each semester students apply ideas covered in class to select loan recipients using demographic, psychographic and other data from Kiva, an international non-governmental organisation.

  1. Research: UASM, Universidad de los Andes, Columbia

UASM has been looking at assessing outcomes and/or impacts of internalising the Principles of PRME, to explore the extent to which academic programmes and research in this area influence students, to explore what differences alumni are making in the organisations they work for, and the impact on society as a whole. Each director of academic programmes was asked to evaluate what their alumni did post graduation, the effects of different teaching methods, and to assess how research has promoted responsible leadership and sustainable development in organisations. They will be reporting their findings through their SIP reports.

  1. Partnerships: IESA, Venezuela

IESA has been involved with bottom of the pyramid research in Venezuela, and is developing mechanisms to make this practical knowledge available, to encourage companies to develop products and services targeting these markets. They are exploring the purchasing decisions of this group of consumers by visiting their communities, markets, and surroundings to better understand their needs, aspirations, motivations and values. In partnership with the Metropolitan Mayor’s office in Caracas, IESA has also conducted two free workshops on Finance for Micro entrepreneurs for a group of more than 90 people from various sectors of the metropolitan area of Petare, a highly populated slum neighborhood.

  1. Dialogue: Escuela Universitatria de Negocios, University of Lima, Peru

Proyecto Biohuerto, led by the University’s Center of Environmental Studies, aims to raise awareness of environmental responsibility and in particular sustainable agriculture, in order to increase the quality of life of the inhabitants of the community of Emmanuel in the province of Huarochiri in Peru. Aimed at both adults and children, a number of workshops and events are planned around the topic—as it relates to the inhabitants of the community—by faculty as well as community leaders. A guide and audiovisual material is also being developed for use by professors at other institutions interested in putting in place similar projects.

+ Organisational Practices: Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, Germany

Having outgrown its current location, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management announced the development of a new campus in central Frankfurt. Along with the purchase of the new campus site it launched an international architectural and planner competition to submit designs focused on creating a “green campus.” The vision includes sustainable design features such as energy reduction, optimisation and production, and minimising the overall environmental impact of the campus, the need for artificial lighting, and costly heating and ventilation solutions, to name but a few. The campus is scheduled for completion in 2017.

More from PRiMEtime…

1 year ago: Social Entrepreneurship Project – EADA Business School, Spain

2 years ago: Using a Case Competition to Make Campus more Sustainable – Olin Business School, USA

Examining the Impact of Diversity in Business – McCoy College of Business Administration

Distinguished Lecture featuring Brian EastA growing number of schools are choosing yearly themes that expose students to issues important to the community and their careers. At the Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas in the US, their Common Experience programme chooses a theme that is explored thoroughly throughout the University, including in the McCoy College of Business Administration. Ms. Brittany Chrisman, Academic Advisor in McCoy College of Business and Coordinator of Business Leadership Week, explained a bit more about this year’s theme and how the business school has embraced it.

What is the Texas State Common Experience and how did it come about?

The Common Experience at Texas State University is an annual, yearlong initiative designed to cultivate a common intellectual conversation across the campus, to enhance student participation in the intellectual life of the campus, and to foster a sense of community across our entire campus and beyond.

The Common Experience programme brings students together to read and engage with a particular theme (changing yearly), and to explore this theme in University Seminar classes, write responses and reactions to the texts in writing courses, participate in related symposia with scholarly panels, hear renowned and respected speakers address the topic, see films related to the Common Experience theme, explore the experience through the fine arts, engage in informal discussions in residence halls and coffee shops, and extend the exploration via avenues of their own choosing.

For entering students, the Common Experience starts even before they begin classes at Texas State. The Common Reading book is distributed during New Student Orientation, and students are encouraged to start reading it and to become involved by way of the websites for Common Experience and the Common Reading Program. The Common Experience also casts a broader net, involving faculty, the San Marcos community that houses the university, and others interested in participating in a broad intellectual consideration of a different world-scope topic each year. The topics themselves emerge from the competitive ideas of our own faculty, staff, and students, which provides a dimension of ownership and increased involvement.

How has the university as a whole mobilised around this theme?

The 2014-2015 Common Experience theme is “Exploring Democracy’s Promise: From Segregation to Integration.” It is inspired by the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of Texas State University, known in 1963 as Southwest Texas State College (SWT). In January of 1963 Judge Ben H. Rice ruled that SWT could not deny admission to an African-American student based solely on race. After the ruling, in the fall of 1963, 18-year-old Dana Jean Smith, a graduate of Anderson High School in Austin, Texas, enrolled at SWT. The registrar personally assisted Smith in registering along with four other African American students: Georgia Hoodye, Gloria Odoms, Mabeleen Washington, and Helen Jackson. This year’s Common Experience event honored the five women as trailblazers and recognised their contributions to Texas State history. The event featured a conversation, tributes, entertainment, and a reception. Additional events include film screenings, art galleries exhibitions, guest lectures, a performance of Raisin’ Cane – A Harlem Renaissance Odyssey, the Leadership Institute Annual Conference, and Business Leadership Week, to name a few.

What is the theme this year and why that theme? Why is it important for business?

McCoy College of Business Administration related the Common Experience theme to business by selecting “Examining the Impact of Diversity in Business” as the Business Leadership Week (BLW) 2015 theme. Diversity is imperative to the success and growth of modern businesses. Students will have the opportunity to learn firsthand from business professionals how diversity impacts businesses in profound ways. The BLW is slated to feature guest speakers, a leadership panel, an interactive fair, keynote speaker, Bloomberg Businessweek Mini-Case Competition, and Etiquette dinner. The main events will feature speakers and topics directly related to the theme in an effort to continue the conversation started by the university through Common Experience.

What have been some of the successes of BLW? Challenges?

McCoy College of Business Administration students, faculty, and staff, along with the university and local community have enjoyed and embraced the event for the past six years. Each year the programme has grown, with attendance increasing from 393 in 2009 to 3,700 in 2014. The growth of the programme into an annual, anticipated event has been our greatest success. As with most programmes, our greatest challenge is securing adequate funding. We address this challenge by seeking and taking full advantage of grant and sponsorship opportunities.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

I would advise other schools considering a similar programme to include students in the planning and implementation process. For the past several years of Business Leadership Week, we have made a concentrated effort to involve students in the entire process. We invite student organisations to sponsor events by hosting networking receptions, introducing guest speakers, and assisting with the interactive fair by partnering with vendors as they arrive on campus. Students gain more from the week by being able to get to know the business professionals one on-one through these opportunities. The students are also more invested in the programme when they help to plan and run the events.

What’s next for the programme?

The Business Leadership Week planning committee is busy preparing for BLW 2015. Our planning tasks include reaching out to potential guest speakers, seeking sponsorships, submitting grant proposals for funding, seeking businesses to participate in the interactive fair, and designing the leadership panel and Bloomberg Businessweek Mini-Case Competition in coordination with our theme. The planning process for Business Leadership Week is ongoing year-round in order to make the programme as effective as possible.


Sustainability related MOOCs starting September and beyond (part 2)

MOOC Sustainability SeptemberSeptember has arrived, which means the start to a new school year for many students around the world. It also means the start of a range of new MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) available for free online, presented by Universities across the world. These courses are open to anyone with an interest in the topic, last between three and fourteen weeks, and take from three to eight hours of time a week to complete. Many also provide a certificate upon completion.

Here is a selection of fifteen MOOCs (seven in part 1 of the blog, and eight in part 2) starting in the upcoming weeks, and covering a range of topics from social entrepreneurship, to ethical decision making, greening the economy, and sustainability more broadly. To see the first part of this post click here.

8. Introduction to Environmental Law and Policy, organised by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explores the existing legal regimes governing pollution, water law, endangered species, toxic substances, environmental impact analyses and environmental risk. The course starts on the 8th of September and goes for 6 weeks.

9. Designing Cities is a 10-week course organised by the University of Pennsylvania, starting on the 14th of September. The course explores visionary and practical concepts of city design and planning, past and present, and how design can address such looming challenges as urban population growth, climate change and rising sea levels. Students will also be encouraged to make proposals for city design and development, starting with their own immediate environment.

10. Innovation: The Key to Business Sustainability is a 3-week course given by the University of Leeds starting on the 15th of September. The course will look at how individuals and organisations with a willingness to embrace change (to wonder ‘what if’), can challenge the status quo and work together to turn ideas into reality for the benefit of the business and, in many cases, the wider society, and the way we live

11. Delft University has a number of courses starting in September including Introduction to Water and Climate, Next Generation Infrastructures, Technology for Biobased Products, and Solving Complex Problems. Their course on Responsible Innovation will address the societal implications of new technologies and show how one can incorporate ethical considerations into technical innovations. The course starts in November and lasts 8 weeks.

12. Lund University is organising a course called Greening the Economy: Lessons from Scandinavia, starting in January 2015. The course will explore greening the economy on four levels—individual, business, city, and nation. It will look at the relationships between these levels and give practical examples of the complexities and solutions across levels, using Scandinavia as a unique starting point.

13. Generating the Wealth of Nations, organised by the University of Melbourne, gives a survey of the history of economic development in the world over the past 300 years through this 7-week course. In addition to dealing with what has happened, the course will emphasise what is known about why and which lessons from historical experience can provide understanding of how some countries today are so rich yet others remain so poor.

14. Ideas of the Twentieth Century explores how philosophy, science, art, literature, and history have shaped the last century and the world today, and how our understanding of the physical world is constantly being overthrown and reconstructed by thinkers and leaders of today. The course, organised by the University of Texas Austin, started on August 27th and will last 15 weeks.

15. Last but not least, University of California, Berkeley is putting on a course called The Science of Happiness starting September 9th and lasting 10 weeks. The course will teach the science of positive psychology, which explores the roots of a happy and meaningful life. Lessons will come from research in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and beyond. You can audit the course or pursue a Verified Certification of Achievement for a fee.


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