Meditation in the Classroom (Part 1 of 2) – Chiang Mai University Faculty of Business Administration


Chiang Mai University Faculty of Business Administration in Thailand, is committed to producing social conscious students. They aim to instil sustainability in their students through a growing range of courses (for example a course on Accounting and Climate Change), sustainability assignments in all core courses as well as a focus on sustainability outside of the classroom in extracurricular activities.

But one of their methods is not traditionally used in business schools, although perhaps it should be. All students at the Business School are given opportunities to meditate in the classroom, either through daily practice supported by faculty of core courses or through a specific elective. I spoke with members of the team at Chiang Mai University about their how they embed meditation into the curriculum.

Why meditation?

According to our mission to produce socially conscious students and produce graduates with morals and ethics, our faculty realizes the necessity of meditation practice. Meditation leads to Samadhi (state of mindfulness) which, in turn, increases the power of mind. Through meditation, our students will be able to control their minds. They will also be wiser, more highly responsible, more deeply mindful, and more caring.

For business managers this is particularly important because of the fast paced business enviornment of today. With Samadhi, the power of mind becomes stronger. This benefits their self-interest and common interest. It helps create a peace of mind which enables managers to have better insight and decision.

How is meditation brought into the curriculum?

We have put in place a course called Meditation for Business Leaders (MGMT 330) that is based on Meditation for Life Development course developed by Venerable Viriyang Sirintharo, the abbot of Wat Dhammamongkol Temple. Venerable Viriyang Sirintharo is the one who initiated and disseminated meditation courses throughout Thailand and other countries and he is now the great meditation teacher.

The Meditation for Business Leaders course is an elective course for students majoring in Management and a free elective course for students in other majors. It is a three-credit course with 2 credits for theory and 1 credit for practice. The course content covers meaning, objectives, methods, processes of meditation. It also includes benefits of meditation and how to apply meditation to daily life, work and business.

What kind of meditation is practiced during the course?

Learning activities under this course include both lecture and practice. The practice includes walking and sitting meditation. Students have to do meditation practice for at least 60 hours, including 7.5 hours a month at home. The activities also include a reflective session at the end of the course.

How are students not part of the elective benefiting from meditation?

Our faculty is the first faculty that allow students to do meditation practice before class. The practice takes only five minutes. Different methods were used such as finger counting, 4-7-8 breath counting, and breathing. This was the foundation of meditation for our students which allows them to gradually practice. We have several videos that help guide students (see above). This practice helps students’ mind to be ready and prepared for upcoming lessons. Students had better concentration on lessons, which resulted in better learning. Many times students sign up for the Medication for Business Leaders course after experiencing and seeing the benefits of these daily meditation practices.

What have been some of the challenges? Successes?

Our main challenge is we are not sure whether our students regularly and seriously do meditation practice. If they do not, the objective of doing meditation cannot be achieved. Students will not attain Samadhi which causes them to be wise, mindful, responsible and kind-hearted.

At a reflective session at the end of the course, students gave positive feedback about meditation. They noted that their behaviours had changed in a positive way, that they were more focused, calmer and more mindful. Some students agreed to continue doing meditation practice. Many of our students recommended the course to other students which has led to an increase in numbers of students registering for the course.

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

We believe that all business schools should teach their students how to practice meditation to help enhance students’ learning effectiveness and prepare them to become effective business leaders who have high responsibility, reasonability, and kindness and can handle difficult situations with their peace of mind.

 

Creating a Truly Interdisciplinary Degree in Sustainability – Monash Business School

For the last post as part of our special series focused on Australia and New Zealand we travel back to Melbourne to speak with Susie Ho, Course Coordinator of the new Master of Environment and Sustainability at Monash University in Australia. This new Masters, currently in its second year, is a truly interdisciplinary approach that doesn’t just allow students to take courses in different disciplines but involves the active participation and collaboration of faculty across several parts of the university.

Introduce the new cross faculty masters and how it came about.

The Monash Master of Environment and Sustainability provides interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and specialist topics, plus real-world practice, all within a single course.

It was created by a range of senior University experts from different disciplines, from Arts, Science, Business and Economics, the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, and beyond. All recognised that challenges in sustainability require interdisciplinary discussion and multidisciplinary solutions, and future leaders with the capacity to span boundaries.

Young change agents of today are incredible – they are articulate, bold and passionate about improving the world around them for people, ecosystems, and economies. However, to do this, they will need to deal with considerable complexity and influence behaviour, organisations, and social systems. This course aims to provide the theory as well as the interdisciplinary awareness and hands on, real-world experience and 21st century skills to help foster their technical and personal capacity to help drive innovation and lead sustainability initiatives in Australia and internationally.

What are the key features of the programme and how does it work. 

The interdisciplinary springboard to the course provides a strong and broad foundation for understanding the nature of sustainability and global change – as well as the languages of different disciplines, cultures and sectors as required for effective collaboration. Students collaborate to examine and integrate different forms of evidence and diverse perspectives – as will be required in the complex work environment and the world ahead. The forward-thinking specialisations include unique perspectives and synthesis of emerging fields and trends in global change. Students critically examine and apply professional practice in Australia and globally in topics such as environmental security, governance, international development, leadership and corporate environmental and sustainability management.

Throughout, the course connects students with experts and influencers from across the many disciplines and industries of environment and sustainability – as well as one another – their future global work network. They can also select electives from across eight Faculties at the University.

How did you bring together the different faculties to put this programme together?

It was crucial to involve passionate educators from all key contributing Faculties at all stages. This meant collaborating on the overarching vision, to the curriculum design and skills mapping, to how the units would run on the ground. This degree is truly unique in involving all voices from the early stages to implementation. We are a tight team in regular contact to ensure that harmony persists. This goes right down to letting each other know how our students are responding to different content throughout semester. We also use a unified Course level Moodle page to communicate with students together at the course-level.

We knew from the start that a ‘patchwork’ degree was not on the table, and thus we used a broad variety of strategies to ensure cohesion and harmony as outlined above. Educators must be willing to get out of their comfort zones, and truly span boundaries themselves, just as the students will do.

A good example of our approach is our foundation units. We designed the core units, through true inter-Faculty collaboration, meaning they have the same features of interdisciplinarity, multiple perspectives, reflection, and a strong commitment to collaborative, active and blended learning. However, we were careful to be complementary rather than repetitive. So, one of our two core units explores perspectives on sustainability and develops transferable skills, appropriate for all careers, via critical analysis of conceptual frameworks (e.g. it has a social science flavour). The other focuses on evidence-based practice and sustainability science, developing transferable skills such as critical thinking, systematic review, and horizon scanning (e.g. more scientific).

What have been some of the challenges? 

Interdisciplinary – true interdisciplinarity – is challenging. For educators and curriculum designers, it requires the willingness and capacity to learn new languages and ways of doing things (methodologies), and to see the merit of new ways of looking at the world. You must be able to step right out of your comfort zone and your discipline. It involves constantly learning to approach task through new disciplinary and industry lenses. I would say that self-reflection is key, for both students and educators. How is my discipline, or other elements of my culture, narrowing my view – and how can I integrate and translate what I know to go beyond my niche? For me, this is the purpose of the United Nations SDGs, and of what we do in this course.

Successes?

Our students are just incredible. They are passionate, proactive, and bold change agents. For example, they come to us from 15 different countries, and with United Nations, industry, government, and other amazing professional experience. We are privileged to work with those coming in from the Colombian police force to those in sustainable fashion.

Another success of the course, noting it is only in its second year, is seeing how the course fosters careers and impact. Our first few graduates have come through, and it’s been incredible. One student has recently taken a position at Tesla. Another will lead up a Geographic Information Systems laboratory in the Colombian Police Force. Others are getting involved with the UN in their home nations, or moving into policy and consultancy.

What do your students do to prepare for post graduation?

Students are all different with different aspirations for their career ahead. Thus, we provide multiple practice options, including an internship, with many students based at E&Y and Melbourne Water over this summer, and an open project creating flexibility for students to follow their own passions. Our more academically inclined students are preparing for a PhD by commencing a thesis year. Research theses are on topics that align with the student’s particular background and passions. To provide an example of the range, one student is investigating water quality parameters and nutrient cycling while another is exploring green urban design in low socio-economic areas.

Our Course Director, specialisation coordinators, and lead educators, including Melodie McGeoch (Science), Annette Bos (MSDI), and Wendy Stubbs (Faculty of Arts), provide one on one course mapping, support, opportunities and contacts to suit specific needs. This is something that is rare and clearly deeply appreciated by our students.

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

As we know, an interdisciplinary offering – a true interdisciplinary offering – is much more than allowing students to take units from a range of different Faculties. It involves educators – and students – working very hard to harmonise and integrate different knowledge and perspectives to find new harmonised solutions. It involves an incredible amount of work to collaboratively develop and where possible co-teach students but it is the type of work that rewards and enriches all of those involved.

Interdisciplinary staff and students must be supported in this deep work, through educational training, time and resources. They need time to understand one another and to ensure their approaches are harmonised. The team must work together form the get go – and be prepared to learn a lot from different fields. This extends to administrators, who need to develop new administrative models to support the inter-faculty offering.

What’s next for the initiative?

We are absolutely thrilled to be offering a MSDI-led interdisciplinary industry consultancy project for the first time this year. In this unit, students are grouped into teams based on their complementary disciplinary expertise, and partnered with a governmental or industry group, with a real problem. Just like in real consultancy work, students must liaise to understand the client’s issue, write a proposal, form a solution or product, and present it.

New Approaches to Business Ethics – University of South Australia

Many schools have been teaching business ethics classes for years, some as electives, some as part of the core. The question is no longer whether or not business ethics should be taught, but how to best teach it. One school that has been testing out a new approach is the University of South Australia Business School. Here they have created a course that is not only part of the core, but is not textbook based. I spoke with Thomas Maak from the University of South Australia Business School about their new approach.

Introduce your new course on business ethics.

“Business ethics” is a new course for all post-graduate management students. Previously an elective offering, we decided to make an introductory course on the ethical challenges for businesses compulsory, demonstrating a long-standing commitment of School and faculty to research and teaching in the area of ethics, sustainability and corporate integrity. The course design is novel in that it focuses on the ‘grand challenges’ for businesses and their leaders rather than a textbook-driven approach. It is built on the understanding that in order to succeed in an environment of contested values managers at all levels need to understand the real challenges, develop skills, relational and ethical abilities, as well as moral imagination, and demonstrate responsible leadership.

How does the course work?

“Business ethics” follows a 10-week schedule (30 hours in total) and a highly interactive format. That is, following a short introduction into the topic students are then engaged in classroom discussion, short cases and some group work. The first session provides the context and identifies some of the key challenges and is entitled ‘Business in an environment of contested values’. Week 2 forces student to rethink their assumptions about the purpose of business and engages them in a discussion on purpose beyond profit, including social performance and hybrid organizations. In week 3 we review the history and significance of CSR and how its meaning has shifted over the decades. Subsequent sessions include social innovation and the advancement of human dignity; stakeholder management and resolution of stakeholder conflicts; how to deal with daily temptations and the weakness of will; and ethics and the (mis)-use of power in organizations. The last session of the course outlines the pathways to responsible leadership and a roadmap for students on how to become a responsible leader.

Hence, the last three sessions expose the students to the challenges of moral and financial corruption, the corrosive nature of power, and the intricate relationship of toxic leadership and institutional pressures. For example, we discuss the omnipresent practice of gift-giving and how it may lead to the corrosion of character – stressing the virtues of transparency and integrity; we explore the dangers of groupthink and organizational pressure and what leaders must do to ensure and enhance respect, dignity and well-being at work. While these themes are timeless the discussions with students from different cultural backgrounds and the discussions of current cases ensure an intriguing contemporary business ethics landscape.

What is unique about the approach you are taking?

The course is driven by the ‘grand challenges’ that business faces and the responsibilities that emerge from it. Literature and textbooks are used as reference and background only, not as a foundation. Instead, the course seeks to develop critical insights and reflective abilities, and guiding practical knowledge, such that students are equipped to master future ethical challenges in informed ways – through integrative thinking. To support that learning process guest speakers make the course and respective challenges tangible, up-to date cases illustrate the topics at hand and a weekly reflective journaling exercise helps to capture the key takeaways. In addition, students work in groups on a CSR character analysis, choosing a company and investigating its CSR performance and authenticity. They also present and discuss their findings in class.

What do you mean by ‘grand challenges’

By ‘grand challenges’ I refer to the challenges in a ‘vuca’-world and the aspirational objectives captured in the SDGs, in particular the ones focused on the environment, poverty, inclusion, equity, peace and dignity. The acronym “vuca” has gained traction in recent years because it captures the experience of many business leaders that the world in which they operate has become quite volatile and uncertain, that it is increasingly complex and that they have to make decisions under conditions of ambiguity, especially across cultures. Moreover, not only are businesses under more scrutiny than ever but stakeholders at home and abroad expect more: they want business to play an active role in addressing climate change; it is argued that business must do more to fight poverty and increasingly, we witness a call for businesses to accept their political responsibility as a company and contribute in conducive ways to peace, human dignity and above all, to the affirmation of human rights wherever a company or its subsidiaries operate. What this means in detail, and how companies should go about it, is of course contested territory and reflects the ambiguity of both, the shifting expectations of stakeholders and the changing nature of the role and purpose of the corporations in the 21st Century.

What have been some of the challenges? Successes?

The challenges are perhaps the most common ones for an Australian university. Many international students are exposed to business, ethics, and sustainability for the first time. Our practical as well as reflective approach – in light of the grand challenges – helps them a lot. Like in most places our course could be better integrated with the rest of the traditional curriculum, especially finance, economics and other ‘hard’ topics.

The course is now in its second year and its success comes in form of excellent student feedback making it one of the most highly ranked courses. Student applaud the fact that it is current, tangible, practical and in some cases, revolutionary. “This course changed the way I think about business”; “I wish all courses were as relevant as this one”; “The course opened a new world to me (…) I will choose the organization I work for more carefully…”, are typical statements we receive. The PRME initiative is now overseen centrally which may open up opportunities to foster more SDG-focused projects across the curriculum.

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

Follow an approach that is relevant, entertaining, and speaks to the current generation of students. Don’t become a victim of other people’s thinking, develop a customized approach toward teaching ethics and sustainability.

What other initiatives at your school you are particularly proud of in this area?

We developed short, customized video cases in collaboration with an award-winning film maker portraying local SDG champions such as Haigh’s chocolates and the cosmetics company Jurlique. These video cases will be available for faculty to be used in internal and external teaching as soon as the final edits are done. For example, the Haigh’s video captures the company’s history and values, its focus on environmental stewardship and the challenges and rewards of being true to one’s beliefs in steering a 100-year old icon into the future. It will be available on the Centre’s website from April 2018 for people to see.

We are also quite proud of the Responsible Leadership course developed by Professor Nicola Pless for the MBA program. The course integrates the latest knowledge and tools on how to become an effective responsible leader with customized 360-feedback and the introduction to, and practise of, mindfulness to strengthen self-leadership. In other words, it provides participants with the tools to become a resonant and responsible leader.

The 21 Day Challenge at University of Canterbury

In 2015 and 2016, students from across disciplines at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand have the opportunity to positively impact a specific community in the Asia Pacific region. The project, which takes place over 21 days, I spoke with Sussie Morrish, the project lead, about the challenge.

Introduce the 21 Day Challenge and how it came about

The 21 Day International Challenge is an initiative undertaken by the College of Business and Law. The initiative involves a group of students selected to work on a project over 21 days that positively impacts a community. The challenge was designed to align with the pillars of the graduate profile by helping the students in the competition to become globally aware; engaged with their community; employable; innovative and enterprising; as well as mastering their chosen academic discipline.

What are the key features of the programme and how does it work. 

Each team is made up of 5 students from a different College at the university. Students have to apply to be part of the project. They each have a business mentor to help guide them with their plan and have access to an academic advisor from each College to provide expert advice as well as a cultural mentor who knows the country and community well. Teams get to make a weekly phone call to the local community to help direct them. Over 21 days, groups of students work to identify critical issues, prioritise them, develop a proposal and present it. They decide themselves how they will drive the project and use the mentors. Throughout they are given quite a bit of information about the communities they will be working with.

After 21 days, each team pitches their plans to a judging panel. They are judged based on contextual and cultural sensitivity, community involvement and consultation and expert involvement, whether the solution is technically feasible in the time frame available for implementation and considers post implementation (training, maintenance, monitoring etc.). They are also judged on the potential positive impact, the students’ ability to consider both the negative and positive intended and unintended impacts as well as the budget.

What is the impact of this Challenge on the local communities?

The winning team gets to travel to the location and implement their plan. While there, they usually partner with local organizations such as local government and schools that are able to help them and also help monitor the projects and take ownership for them once the students leave.

We have had two challenges so far. In 2015 30 students were selected to devise an affordable and sustainable project for Tarong, a small village in Central Philippines that was hard-hit by typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. They were given a budget of $5000. Bee Team won for their environmental and commercial idea to reintroduce native bees to the area because many of the bees had disappeared after the typhoons. They partnered wit the University of Philippines to help with the training and monitoring of the project after the students left. Each student was also required to write a blog about their experiences.

A second team partnered with an elementary school in San Dionisio, Iloilo and Cabiokid for a Green Library project that involved planting a large permaculture garden with native edible trees and plants.

In 2016 the challenge was to assist the Niuean community to conserve, protect and sustainably manage its food supply with a view to becoming self-sufficient. The overall budget given was $10,000NZD. During this challenge student teams had access to engineers and project experts who were able to answer questions about the viability of their business ideas. The winners proposed the publication of a cookbook, the building of a traditional Taumafa kitchen with “umu” pits and engaging with organic farmers and community leaders to take ownership of the project. The students helped build the kitchen with community involvement. Primary school helped paint it.

Many of the teams go abroad. Are there any projects that focus on local challenges within New Zealand?

This initiative is an international challenge specifically to help our students become globally aware of issues outside of New Zealand. The university has different programmes that address local issues such as The Kaikoura Challenge which was in partnership with New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA) to help businesses and residents in Kaikoura that was badly affected by the earthquakes due to road and infrastructure damage caused by the 2016 earthquakes.

What have been some of the challenges? 

All the students that have participated in the challenge report that this is one of, if not, the highlight of their university study. Much as it would be good to have as many students participate and have the experience, resources are limited. It requires a high level of commitment for both staff, students and mentors in terms of time and resources. Health and safety considerations are also a concern given there is duty of care when taking students overseas.

Successes?

Business mentors and sponsors continue to show interest in being part of this project. The students get so much out of it. There was also a lot of media interest in both locations during the projects which was a great additional experience for the students.

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

For those thinking of doing a similar project, I recommend finding a champion who will have oversight of the whole project and given the appropriate support. No doubt the coordination of the many people involved in this type of challenge eats up a lot of work hours and require dedication.

Developing a Sustainability Disposition – La Trobe Business School

In 2008, La Trobe Business School in Melbourne, Australia was one of the first schools to become a Signatory to PRME. The Business School, which also has campuses in Sydney, China, France and Vietnam, has been actively engaged in both embedding responsible management within its school as well as contributing to the PRME network. They are starting their second term as a PRME Champion, Ten years on, they were selected to be a PRME Champion along with 38 other business schools from across the world who are taking transformative action on integrating the Sustainable Development Goals into three key areas: curriculum, research and partnerships.

In 2015 the School put in place a second year subject focused on Sustainability which is mandatory for all students enrolled in any Business Degree. Because of its focus on developing a sustainability disposition in students rather than just educating them about the issues, the course has been very well received by students and continues to be an exemplar of cross-disciplinary subject content within the School. I spoke with Dr Swati Nagpal about this innovative course. 

What is La Trobe Business School’s approach to sustainability in the classroom?

LBS understands the obligation as an institution to advocate for responsible management education throughout the school; in its four departments and its research centres, and by advocating and supporting responsible management initiatives and operations across the university.

A patchwork of subjects addressing Sustainability Education in Business degree courses at La Trobe was replaced in 2015 by a core second year subject entitled ‘BUS2SUS – Sustainability’, for all students enrolled in any Business degree. More than 2,500 students are now enrolled in this compulsory subject every year. This includes students from a range of business majors, including management, human resource management, marketing, accounting, sport management, finance, event management, tourism and hospitality, economics, international business, and agribusiness.

The subject is based on a blended learning design that allows for greater scalability across the entire portfolio of majors within Business and across all our campuses in Australia and abroad. With sustainability as the lens or context for change, students are introduced to systems thinking, tools for solving wicked problems, and the role of advocacy in managing change for sustainability.

How have you approached the design and delivery of this core course?

The process of embedding sustainability thinking into the core business curriculum presented a number of challenges, including distinguishing sustainability from related streams of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and non-financial measurement and reporting. The curriculum design was ultimately guided by the need for a future set of skills, rather than by identifying disciplinary content that business graduates might require. These skills include critical thinking, creative problem solving, ethical awareness and teamwork. For example, by working in small groups in class, and engaging with ‘wicked’ global sustainability issues such as climate change, global poverty and renewable energy, students are required to apply a systems lens to examining the true nature of the issues and potential solutions.

There is also an emphasis on creating a ‘safe space’ in classes to tackle often controversial social and environmental issues such as indigenous disadvantage in Australia, the refugee crisis and the potential for a sugar tax. This has required class teachers to be briefed and trained in pedagogical techniques that require reflexive practice and approaches to manage conflict.

The course puts a focus on developing a sustainability disposition. Why do you think this is important?

Research on education for sustainability, student surveys and teaching feedback have taught us that developing graduate skills for sustainability is not enough to create the impetus required for students to be change agents for sustainability, there also needs to be an emphasis on creating a ‘mindset’ change. This is enabled in the subject through use of a range of pedagogical design elements to create a learning environment that seeks to bring about this change. For example, through the use of case studies, examples and problem-based scenarios that require students to reflect on their underlying values base and question the status quo in management thought.

As such, this subject places a focus on both generic graduate skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, while also creating the disposition towards sustainability and ethical decision-making.

How are the SDGs embedded into this course?

Using the SDGs as a guide, students are introduced to the interplay between the social, environmental and economic pillars of sustainability, and the implications for ethically complex decision-making.

Ultimately, educating students new to the SDGs places us in a unique position as the entry point in their educational experience. We believe this is critical in developing their awareness of global issues and challenges so that they can enter the workplace fully equipped to advance and implement policies and practices that will contribute to sustainable business.

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

The question of whether business schools should approach embedding sustainability into core curriculum or as an elective has not been resolved to date. Our experience at LBS in taking the ‘core subject’ approach has been positive since we have the institutional support in terms of the University’s focus on sustainability and our historical emphasis and ethos of social justice. Therefore, gaining institutional support for furthering the sustainability agenda is key, along with the resources to make it happen.

The challenge in any modern business subject in sustainably is an emphasis on both the development of graduate skills and students’ disposition towards sustainability and ethical decision-making. This requires modern educators to span the boundary of the classroom and identify opportunities to engage with industry partners and other stakeholders to continuously produce innovative teaching materials and approaches that inspire and motivate students to pursue business ideas that align with the SDGs. 

What’s next for the class?

Next year, a major piece of assessment will focus on students (in groups) generating a business idea to be in contention for the Hult Prize. One of the challenges with a large enrolments in the subject are the limited options to create authentic assessments. An international student competition that requires students to develop an actionable and scalable business idea is both practical and allows for gamification/competitive elements to be built into the subject design.

What other initiatives at your school you are particularly proud of in this area especially in relation to the SDGs.

In 2017, LBS embarked on a series of workshops that brought together delegates from business, local government, education, not for profit and community sectors to discuss what the SDGs mean for them, and create opportunities for collaboration among the sectors towards implementation of the goals.

This outreach project on the SDGs is an international effort by our CR3+ network which includes LBS and PRME Champions Audencia Nantes School of Management (Nantes, France), ISAE/FGV (Curitiba, Brazil) and Hanken School of Economics (Helsinki, Finland). All four business schools have committed to hosting similar workshops in their countries.

Two Australian workshops were held in Wollongong and Albury-Wodonga on 15/11/17 and 29/11/17 respectively. In addition to the original aims as set out in the project proposal, the choice to focus on regional areas was two-fold; firstly, to develop our regional campus’ capacity to build and sustain cross-sector engagement and partnerships on the theme of the SDGs, and secondly, to focus on areas where UN Global Compact Network Australia presence is limited.

This post is part of a special feature throughout the month of February focused on schools in Australia and New Zealand. 

The SDGs at the University of Wollongong

Students at the University of Wollongong

In a past post I had the chance to speak with Belinda Gibbons, the coordinator of the Australia and New Zealand Chapter, about the Chapters transition from an Emerging to an Established Chapter as well as the specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are most pertinent to that region. I also had the chance to speak to Belinda about her other role, that of  coordinator of PRME activities at the University of Wollongong in Australia about what her University has planned around the SDGs.

How is the University of Wollongong approaching responsible management education?

While I am the AUSNZ PRME Chapter Coordinator, I also coordinate the responsible management education practices within the Faculty of Business at the University of Wollongong (UOW) where I am a senior lecturer for the Sydney Business School. A PRME signatory since 2009, the UOW Faculty of Business executive have always demonstrated significant support for responsible and sustainable education in curriculum and research. More recently we have modified our vision to directly focus on being a ‘ global leader in promoting the theory and practice of responsible business principles’. Backed by our mission ‘…….to promote responsible leadership and sustainable business practice, and contribute to a stronger economy and a more just society’. This change ensures that the key areas of responsible management are at the forefront of all decisions, actions and discussions.

How is the University integrating the SDGs?

While we have interdisciplinary subjects that are built upon the theoretical foundation of the UN Global Compact (UNGC) and map PRME and SDG education research across disciplines, some of the smaller initiatives at Wollongong are having a large-scale difference. Examples of these include; a PRME representative seat on the Faculty Education Committee to ensure responsible management is in all curriculum and assessment changes; PRME representation in all course reviews with the latest course reviews in 2016 ensuring responsible management in undergraduate and postgraduate course learning outcomes and assurance of learning practices; academic and professional staff hiring job descriptions now have responsible leadership and sustainable business practices in position descriptions alongside grant funding applications must show how they contribute and provide impact to the mission and particular SDGs.

What are some of your challenges moving forward?

The challenge moving forward is to instil the SDGs into the fabric of the University and not just the Business Faculty. More recently UOW signed as a member of the UNGC. This institution membership provides a path for SDG discussions beyond the Faculty of Business. Evidence of this occurred in November 2017 when UOW collaborated with Healthy Cities Illawarra and PRME Champion School LaTrobe Business School to bring together delegates from business, local government, education, not for profit and community sectors to discuss what the SDGs mean for them, and create opportunities for collaboration among the sectors towards implementation of the goals. A workshop was held as a breakfast event, with an impressive turnout of 120 attendees.

It is also important that we extend our collaborations across institutions internationally. Throughout 2016, Wollongong took part in the global WikiRate Student Engagement Trial. This trial enabled us to discuss processes and outcomes with a number of international PRME signatories and we volunteered to conduct an external review and research piece on the perspectives of different participants involved in the project. This research has generated insights that are feeding into the next phase of the project, and that help to ensure students, professors and their institutions are getting the best experience and learning.

Any tips for other schools looking to engage in the SDGs?

Senior leadership support and a culture whereby creativity and the ability to experiment is essential to deliver the change in higher education that is required to realise the SDGs.

 

Learn more about Wollongong engagement in PRME…

In their 2017 Sharing Information on Progress Report, UOW provides a chart that represents the Faculty of Business’ research grouped by Sustainable Development Goal. This was featured in a past PRiMEtime post on Reporting on the SDGs- A Visual Tour of Different Approaches. In 2016 UOW’s involvement in the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience was also featured. AIME is an Australia wide educational programme that supports indigenous students through high school and into University by pairing these students with mentor students form the Business School. Back in 2015 we spoke to Belinda about their experiences merging two approaches to responsible management education when the University of Wollongong merged with another Business School in 2013. 

A Focus on Australia/New Zealand

This past December the Australia and New Zealand Chapter, officially transitioned from an Emerging to an Established Chapter, cementing their commitment to realising the Sustainable Development Goals through responsible management education. Although they only just became an Established Chapter, the region has always had a very active PRME Signatory base, a group of schools that are not only active within the PRME network, but also actively engaged in pushing the agenda forward with a range of innovative approaches. Because of this, schools from this region are regularly featured on PRiMEtime.

The month of February will be focused on sharing examples of good practices around embedding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into management education from schools across Australia and New Zealand. To kick things off, I spoke with Belinda Gibbons, the coordinator of the Chapter as well as the coordinator of PRME activities at the University of Wollongong in Australia about both the challenges and opportunities for the region as a whole.

Tell us a bit more about the Australia/New Zealand Chapter.

Schools in this region have been active in PRME since 2008. Currently 53% of universities in Australia and 75% in NZ are PRME signatories with a growth rate of approximately 2-3 signatories per year. Amidst vast land distances between signatories (there is a five hour time difference between our Schools), PRME members communicate on bi-monthly conference calls, virtual state based gatherings and via more formal annual forums and regular emails.

The work and in particular the courses that schools in this region offer have an important impact both here and abroad because education is Australia’s largest service export and New Zealand’s second largest. Recent statistics reveal that of all Australian higher education courses completed in 2016, the field of management and commerce accounts for 19% for domestic students and 55% for our international students. New Zealand has similar high statistics with 27% of students studying management and commerce courses. Of that 1 in 5 are international students. These large numbers and percentage of diverse cultures offers us rich exploration for teaching and learning but also numerous challenges in the way to tackle all 17 SDGs in the curriculum, research and partnerships.

You officially became an Established Chapter at your most recent Regional Meeting. Tell us a bit about it.

The 5th PRME Chapter Australia & New Zealand Forum took place at Deakin University, a PRME Champion School, in Melbourne early in December 2017. The theme of the meeting was ‘Inspire, Motivate, Engage, Act’ in regards to realising the Sustainable Development Goals. Over the course of the day we went through the different elements of the theme. We started by celebrating and sharing the growth we have had as a region over the past 10 years, congratulating Latrobe Business School and Griffith Business School in Australia and University of Waikato Management School in New Zealand who were among the first to sign as PRME Signatories.  We also signed the MOU with the PRME Secretariat, officially becoming an Established Chapter. Each school had a chance to present their achievements from 2017 and hopes for 2018 and to share key resources and opportunities. We also had a number individuals join us for parts of the day including Alice Cope, the Executive Director of UN Global Compact Australia, Anne Swear who is the Head of Corporate Sustainability at ANZ, Sue Noble the CEO of Volunteering Victoria, Giselle Weybrecht who is a Special Advisor to the PRME Secretariat, Sarah Goulding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Soyuma Gupta, a current student at Deakin. The discussions were focused on how Australia is moving forward with the SDGs and how the schools that form the chapter can be part of those discussions and actions moving forward. For a full summary of the meeting click here.

What are some of the challenges that schools in this part of the world are facing and some issues that are particularly relevant in relation to the SDG?

While our research stimulates innovation and delivers solutions to economic, social and demographic challenges facing our nations we need to work closer with industry and government to support SDGs realisation. Our textbook and classroom cases can be routine in using global examples, which are informative, but the challenge is to bring an understanding of the SDGs back to illustrations from our countries, enabling our students and academics to understand just how global these goals are.

An example of this in particular pertains to human rights. In the latest Amnesty International 2016-2017 report, Australia’s commitment to human rights fails when it comes to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, especially children abuse and deaths in custody (SDG 10.2, 16.2). Asylum seeking processes and procedures (SDG 1.4, 10.7), disability rights (SDG 1.2, 10.2) and counter-terror measures (SDG 10.3), all of which put us on the Human Rights Watch List for the third successive year in 2016. New Zealand has similar Indigenous Maori challenges along with high rates of violence against women and girls (SDG 5.1, 5.2) and children poverty rates (SDG 1.2). Ensuring these issues are communicated and mapped across all disciplines in the management and commerce field requires raising awareness, conducting audit type processes alongside developing a mechanism for resource sharing.

What’s planned for the chapter moving forward?

The SDGs provide us with a framework for industry, civil society and government collaboration. In Australia, the Voluntary National Review (VNR) on SDG progress is underway with the report due mid-2018. It is essential that the higher education sector and in particular PRME AUSNZ contribute to this report and continue to build relationships for future research.

As an Established Chapter, we are forming a steering committee that will focus on the priority areas of student engagement activities and embedding SDGs in the curriculum, building communities of practices within Faculty and across university/universities, mapping SDGs across curriculum and research and research and cross sector collaboration.

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