Contextualising the MBA with an Indigenous Focus – University of Waikato New Zealand

Waikato graduation

The Waikato-Tainui MBA from the University of Waikato Management School, delivered in partnership with the Waikato-Tainui College for Research and Development, aims to foster Māori values and Indigenous ways of doing business. Unlike other MBAs, the Waikato-Tainui MBA has been contextualised with an Indigenous focus within a supportive Māori environment at the College’s premises in Hopuhopu. It allows participants to explore real world business challenges that involve and are relevant to Indigenous business and industry. I spoke with Ed Weymes, Pro Vice Chancellor International of the University, about its innovative and award winning programme.

What role do Indigenous students/leaders/business currently play at Waikato?

The University of Waikato stands out from other universities because it embraces its strong Māori identity and heritage as key features of its distinctiveness. The Māori student and staff communities on campus are vibrant and welcoming, and there are many university programmes and activities that are dedicated to Māori student achievement and success. This is set to remain a high priority through the years ahead.

What is the Waikato-Tainui MBA and why did it come about?

Since 2011, we have delivered the Waikato-Tainui MBA in partnership with the Waikato-Tainui College for Research and Development. The driver for the development of this programme has been the aspiration for a greater number of Māori leaders well prepared to grapple with the challenges of global business. These future Māori leaders (participants) come from various iwi (tribal) organisations engaged in major commercial programmes as well as Māori-operated education, health and social service facilities in addition to small to medium sized businesses. The Waikato-Tainui MBA is based on the traditional campus-based Waikato MBA, delivered from the College’s Hopuhopu premises, and has been enhanced for relevance to Indigenous Māori. It has Māori teaching faculty, contextualised Māori content and primarily uses Māori case studies.

This programme prepares future Māori leaders to lead in an environment of complexity while preserving their unique culture and values. It has several key objectives:

  • To develop inspirational Māori leaders for the private and public sectors who are able to lead value creation and sustainable practices within their organisations;
  • To foster Indigenous ways of doing business that focus on collective benefit rather than individual benefit;
  • To facilitate a waananga (living and learning) environment that fosters cultural values;
  • To facilitate participants working collaboratively with each other and with Māori businesses; and
  • To meet the academic and professional requirements of the Waikato MBA.

What makes this programme unique?

The uniqueness of this programme is its mode of delivery. It is delivered in ‘waananga,’ or residential mode, from the College’s premises in a rich cultural environment that provides a holistic and collaborative atmosphere for participants, which is conducive to the way Māori learn. Participants meet every second weekendon Friday afternoons and Saturdays, similar to many other MBA programmes. However, in addition, whaanau (family) of the participants are invited to attend a number of events during the programme, allowing friendly and collective whaanau interaction.

A feature of this MBA is the International MBA Study Tour. Past international MBA study tours have seen participants travel to North America to nurture Waikato-Tainui tribal links with other Indigenous nations (e.g., Native American tribes) as well as to Asia to nurture closer ties with their Indigenous businesses and global economic communities. The study tour provides participants with global insights into doing business offshore within an Indigenous context.

Our faculty members are complemented by prominent guest speakers who provide the Indigenous context. Participants are also supported by a strong network of Māori MBA alumni, who are mentors for the programme, ensuring the distinctive Indigenous perspective is reinforced. All participants have access to a network of mentors who are MBA alumnus, ensuring the distinctive Māori/Indigenous perspective of this programme is aligned to the outcomes of the Waikato-Tainui MBA.

What have been some of the challenges? 

Contextualising the programme has been an evolutionary process. Initially, contextualisation within the Waikato-Tainui MBA was limited to the waananga style learning with guest presenters. Contextualisation was provided by using Māori case studies and guest presenters provided real life examples of how the various functions of management worked from a Māori World View, but it was more of an overlay, rather than embedded from the outside in. We were upfront about this with the initial cohort of participants, as we believed contextualisation was something that would evolve through delivery over subsequent intakes. We now have a number of papers that have been designed specifically for this programme, like, International Indigenous Business and Governance, Sustainability and Indigenous Business Development, for example. The aim is to have a programme that is fully contextualised with Māori and Indigenous frameworks and approaches embedded throughout delivery and curriculum.

Another challenge has been working through the funding of the waananga style of learning. It is more expensive than the traditional delivery mode, so how this is funded has been an ongoing challenge. We have also had challenges finding enough Māori academics to deliver the programme and have had to recruit academics and practitioners who can bring a Māori or Indigenous perspective from across New Zealand and Internationally.

What about successes? 

Many Waikato-Tainui MBA alumni are in highly powerful Indigenous, corporate and government roles. Promoted either during or after completing their qualification, they act as positive role models for Māori generally and lift the credibility of the brand of Māori business.

In 2011, the Waikato-Tainui MBA won the inaugural Association of MBA Innovation Award for developing a programme with a vision to bring Māori people, New Zealand, and the world together in order to support and advance Māori and Indigenous aspirations at local, national and international levels

How can business schools integrate Māori business topics and issues into their programmes? Why should they?

The relationships between the Māori and Pakeha (New Zealand European settlers) is now one with both cultures residing in harmony. However, the Pakeha culture is very “western,” vested in our Greek forefathers, while the Māori culture is more “Eastern,” with similarities to Confucianism and Dao. Both cultures respect the other and it is important that business achools and educational institutions ensure that their curriculum provides participants with an understanding of the differences.

SDGSDG4SDG10SDG11

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: