The Benefits, and Challenges, of Teaching Mentorship – Cass Business School

Cass Business School in London has made a major investment in mentoring projects for staff and students. Mentoring and coaching is a key part of the school’s flagship programme as a UN PRME Champion institution sitting alongside their research work on responsible business (led by ETHOS), their ongoing commitment to teaching business in an ethical context and other projects including dissertation placements and work with Social Enterprise. The programme also links to their Widening Participation activity that sees students volunteering in the community as well as the award winning staff and student mentoring scheme. I spoke with Rob Compton and Paul Palmer about the importance of teaching mentorship as well as the challenges.

Why do you feel that mentorship is important for students?

People skills are essential for any manager and prospective leader in business, yet they can present a challenge for Business Schools and left for employers to develop in the workplace on a largely ad hoc basis.

We believe that Business Schools should develop knowledge and skills in this area to complement more technical or operational aspects of business studies and economics. Mentoring and coaching brings together many of these skills and can be presented in a format that undergraduate students can digest and relate to in a business context.

Also, these “life skills” can be presented in the context of other aspects of students’ lives and open up the opportunity to be practiced outside of their peer group and the University setting.

What is the mentoring project and how it came about?

The mentoring project started in 2015 and aims to develop our curriculum, enhance our teaching methodology and demonstrate a firm commitment to responsible management education.

The idea of using community engagement to develop skills and enhance the way undergraduate students learn as an accredited element in their study programme was a logical extension to Cass’s work over many years within its Centre for Charity Effectiveness and our placement projects with charities and social enterprise. The idea is to deliver social purpose through our core activity of introducing students to the very best critical insight from the world of business and civil society.

How do you teach coaching and mentoring in the classroom? 

Teaching mentoring and coaching is a challenge as it involves development of practical skills and is more naturally suited to an interactive workshop approach with relatively small groups of students. We do primarily use this approach with a high number of practice exercises and role-playing alongside a critical examination of the theoretical frameworks.

This innovative pedagogical approach is a new challenge for many second year undergraduates who have not previously experienced workshop learning. The module also requires a new (for Business Schools) assessment method that combines literature review, reflective essay and observation.

The main distinct feature is how the practical element operates with students either developing mentoring and coaching skills by working with pupils from London schools in deprived communities or supporting first year university students.

We currently work with four schools and have two options for supporting first year students. School activities vary, but focus mainly on helping 16/17 year old students plan for the next phase of their academic, vocational studies or work options. First year mentees from the Business School are either coached through a specific study module or more widely supported as they settle into the study programme and integrate into university life.

How do you measure the impact of your work?

We are committed to demonstrating the impact of the programme over time on our beneficiaries (in schools and university), our student mentor/ coaches and on the institution as a whole. This involves presenting evidence of the benefits over time (impact) rather than immediate outcomes through a longitudinal study over a minimum of 5 years following the Theory of Change model. A research-led evaluation function is integral to the design of the project.

The project is co-funded by the Sir John Cass Foundation, a three hundred year old Education Charity who require an evaluation report at the end of their initial funding commitment. To ensure longer term funding sustainability both from Foundations and the University there needs to solid academic evidence of the financial and social impact of the programme following Social Return on Investment (SROI) principles.

The range of stakeholders and timescales involved presents a challenge for empirical based metrics and we have had to utilise a number of impact evaluation methodologies to enable us to provide a practical evidence base to demonstrate the true value of the programme and its replicability.

What have been some of the challenges?

There have been many challenges in getting the project up and running including the time constraints of both the university and school timetables.

Specific points include:-

  • School partners are very busy and time poor with limited (and decreasing) resources for new projects.
  • Identifying the right key contacts within schools to influence and communicate the benefits to colleagues and pupils.
  • Developing the right assessment process to test the development of skills and meet rigorous academic standards including assessment by observation rather than examination.
  • Delivering a project outside of the core processes for the university that often doesn’t fit with established systems (e.g. may need to rely more on visiting lecturers with experience as mentors and coaches). We are not part of the Widening Participation programme and are different from other core teaching activity.
  • Additional cost involved in small group teaching and the development and delivery of sustainable external partnerships.
  • Time delay in seeing the true benefits of the programme. From project development to the first mentors in the workplace is c.4-5 years. For the first mentees in the workplace, this may be 6-7 years.
  • Developing appropriate impact evaluation methodologies

Successes? Have students reported benefits from this training in the post graduation careers?

We are starting to see evidence of the benefits to students, initially through feedback from their work placements and internships. The first cohort of students are now entering full time work although it may be some time before they are fully able to report the impact of their mentoring and coaching learning. We are committed to tracking this and will be reporting on examples of how students take this learning forward in the workplace.

More immediately, benefits to mentees in schools can be tracked in their academic progress as well as other actions they take to support their longer-term career development. For example, more informed decision-making as they progress into higher education and secure work experience.

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

It is best to order this under the three headings of internal and external stakeholder as well as curriculum or teaching:-

Internally, it was important to engage the leadership of the Business School by presenting the ethical (responsible management education) as well as the pedagogical case for the project. This appears a very “nice” win-win situation, but it is important to remember that this is new and requires additional investment.

This kind of project has to involve external partners. Charities and schools in particular will be understandably reticent about working with a Business School or indeed a private sector partner offering “in kind” rather than financial support. They need to understand how they will benefit and have a say in how the mentoring will work to benefit their school or charity.

In terms of teaching, the learning needs to clearly link into the curriculum at the right stage in the undergraduate pathway. We have found that this requires teaching as an elective module spread across the Autumn and Spring Term in the second year of the Management and Business Studies BSc study programme.

What’s next for the initiative?

Our focus now is on scaling up the programme to increase the numbers of students and beneficiaries of the programme by making it an option for all Cass undergraduates. This will mean setting up many more mentoring partnerships across more schools.

At the same time, we will start to report the impact of the project to demonstrate the long-term benefits and provide toolkit guidance and support for other universities looking to replicate the programme.

 

Sustainable Business Examples from Around the World – Australia, Malaysia and Ukraine

As businesses become more and 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 often hear about the same examples from the same international companies over and over again.

In an attempt to share some new best practice examples, 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. Here are some examples from Australia, Malaysia and Ukraine.

 

Nicola Pless, University of South Australia, Australia

Jurlique, an international luxury cosmetics company based in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia, has been pursuing an entirely sustainable production process based on biodynamic agriculture and an anthroposophic philosophy from its start. The company was founded by Ulrike Klein and her husband in the early eighties and is built on a vision to inspire people to well-being, through purity, integrity and care (for self, others, and the planet) – based on awareness and passion. 95% of their pure-plant based ingredients are grown on their certified biodynamic farms in the Adelaide Hills providing the basis for the purest and natural skin care for customers to enjoy.

 

Haigh’s chocolates was founded in May 1915 and is a boutique-style, high-end and iconic chocolate maker from Adelaide that grows sustainably with a vision to delight chocolate lovers around the world. Haigh’s is the only Australian bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer to have achieved UTZ certification, which stands for sustainable farming of coffee, cocoa and tea with better opportunities for farmers, their families and the planet.

 

Priya Sharma, Monash University Malaysia, Malaysia

Earth Heir is a social enterprise, that began with the desire to reduce the exploitation of craftspeople and help them prosper directly from their labour. Bringing humanity to business, Earth Heir helps vulnerable communities such as the Orang Asli (natives) sell their craft works fairly and ethically so that they may achieve sustainable livelihoods.

 

Biji-Biji Initiative is a pioneering social enterprise in Malaysia that champions sustainability. The organisation maintains a sharp focus on operational efficiency, people development, investment analysis, and building, partnerships across public, corporate and NGO sectors. It focuses on building valuable products from waste, such as bags from discarded seatbelts and championing sustainable living.

 

Svitlana Kyrylchuk, Lviv Business School of Ukrainian Catholic University, Ukraine

Walnut House is a social enterprise started by one of our alumni. The company offers catering services and a bakery and gives 40% of the income to the social projects of the Walnut House Fund and to support the Center of Integral Care for Women in Crisis. Over 90 women have found shelter in the «Walnut House», with over 80% managing to recover and make a new start in life.

 

Kormotec the a leading company of Ukrainian market of prepared animal feeds. Social responsibility is one of their core values. Since 2013, the company has implemented projects that teach humane attitude towards animals among schoolchildren and adults; provided support to shelters in different regions; promote professional development of Ukrainian veterinary healthcare system. Kormotech also develops infrastructure of the local communities around its production facilities.

Laska Store is a charity shop that sells clothes made by Kyiv designers as well as selling clothes given for charity by friends and friends’ friends. You can give any item of clothing driven by the idea of conscious charity. Laska was acknowledged as “The Best Ukrainian Social Project” in 2015. Also this project is in the top-ten business-ideas for sustainable development “STALO”.

 

Empowering Female Entrepreneurs in Ukraine – Lviv Business School


Lviv Business School
of Ukrainian Catholic University, Ukraine, launched a programme aimed at providing skills to female entrepreneurs. Their aim is to  develop new, or further develop existing female-led businesses across the country. I spoke with Svitlana Kyrylchuk who works at the Business School about this programme and the impact it has already had in the country. 

 

Why did you decide to start a Women’s Leadership Programme?

Ukrainian women own 22-23% of small and medium-sized enterprises and only 2% of big ones. As involving of women is fundamental for democratic government, it is important that these numbers increase. This means empowering more women to be able to start and grow their businesses. We believe that we can have a significant impact in increasing these numbers through educational programmes and public discussions on the topic of women’s leadership here in the Ukraine.

What is the Women’s Leadership Programme?

Lviv Business School of UCU (LvBS) and the Center for Leadership of UCU have developed an educational programme called «Women’s Leadership and Change Management». The programme is aimed at women-leaders from business, public and non-profitable sectors. This variety of students creates a special dynamics and synergy within one group and also establishes partnerships between different sectors.

The programme is based on the concept «Leadership based on character» that was developed by several researchers in Canada from Ivey Business School. According to this concept, leadership involves a character that is made up of 11 virtues and competencies. This can be divided into four categories: organizational, human, strategic, and business competencies, as well as commitment. The participants use this model to analyze their actions and behavior in order to develop their values and virtues.

The programme is practice-oriented and we focus on using case studies to teach the students. We believe that only through studying real examples can participations start to understand the role of a leader’s values to the utmost. The programme also includes several case studies from Ukrainian leadership research that has been undertaken by the Center for Leadership here which help students to understand the peculiarities of Ukrainian leadership and compare it to the leadership in other countries. For instance, according to this research, Ukrainian leaders mostly underestimate virtues such as accountability and humility, so in this programme much attention is focused on their study and analysis.

What do you hope to achieve through the programme? What have you achieved so far?

Throughout the programme we cover a range of topics including but not limited to character development, personal branding, networking and negotiating. The focus is on building the different competencies that are essential for a true leader. Since 2016 we have held 6 Women Leadership programmes that have involved 200 participants from across the country. In November last year the programme won the award of top 3 new management programmes at a Management executive and Professional Development conference in the US which we are very proud of.

What have been some of the challenges?

We didn’t have any difficulties with the program. The challenges are more focused on the difficulties for business women in Ukraine in general and what impact we can have on changing that. For example, recent research from the Center for Leadership of UCU looked at the differences of emotional intellect between men and women entrepreneurs. Preliminary results show that the differences in emotional intellect between men and women are minor. In particular, this is true when it comes to traits such as vocation, self-effectiveness and persistency. Despite this, Ukrainian women are seen as being less able to start and succeed in business than men. This is something we are hoping to change.

What have been some of the successes?

Among the program’s graduates there are successful women-entrepreneurs, administrators and leaders of social projects and non-governmental organizations. Some of our alumni include the founder of a social enterprise that recycles flowers from ceremonial events and uses the proceeds to finance charity projects called «Flowery Happiness». Another is the Chief Operating Officer of «Teple Misto», an innovative platform for creating opportunities and social transformations in Ivano-Frankivsk city. Other alumni have prominent roles at Transparency International, in national government and at the National Bank of Ukraine. One of the brightest, most active and determined participants of the program is Maryana Petrash, who is one of the co-founders of the initiative «Woman for Woman». This is a social project founded in 2017 to support and revive «The Walnut House» (Center of Integral Care for Women in Crisis). The project aims to raise money to restore the building in Lviv where the center for women has to be located and drawing more attention to its activities.

What’s next for the initiative?

As the program is in big demand, especially in Ukrainian context, we continue holding it twice a year.

What about female leadership in Lviv? What kinds of initiatives does your business school have and what is the state of women leadership within the School?

Sophia Opatska, the Founding Dean of Lviv Business School of Ukrainian Catholic University, is now UCU’s Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs. In the ten years since its founding, Lviv Business School, under the leadership of Sophia, has developed from a small start-up company to a truly successful institution with European values which is educating a responsible business community within Ukraine. Starting with only one program, the Key Executive MBA, in 2008, we have now developed to 4 master programs (Key Executive MBA, MSc in Technology Management, MA in Human Resources and Organization Development and MSc in Innovations) and up to 20 open-enrollment programs of Executive Innovation run every year in different cities of Ukraine. Much has been achieved so far and even more is to be done, but this time led by a new CEO, who is also a woman.

Empowering Refugees through training and funding – Monash University Malaysia (Part 1 of 2)

The School of Business at Monash University Malaysia has been actively engaged for several years now in programmes aimed at assisting and empowering Refugees through capacity building, funding and partnerships with multiple organisations. In this two part post, I spoke with Priya Sharma, Coordinator and PRME Ambassador at Monash University Malaysia to look first at the School’s programmes to educate refugees and in the second more about a fund to support refugee community-based organisations, both in collaboration with multiple partners including the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia.

Provide some background about the urban refugee population in Malaysia

Malaysia is home to one of the largest urban refugee populations. According to the latest UNHCR statistics, Malaysia hosts over 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Most of them (90%) are from Myanmar, and the others are from diverse countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan or Sri Lanka. Urban settings pose a host of real and difficult challenges for refugees, in particular refugee children. In Malaysia especially, refugee children and youth do not have access to institutionalized schools and thus obtain education via an informal parallel system of community-based learning centres.

What is CERTE and how it came about?

CERTE stands for Connecting and Equipping Refugees For Tertiary Education. It is a task force that aims to support young adult refugees in accessing tertiary education opportunities through knowledge and resource sharing, a bridge course, school readiness preparation, and mentorship. The task force is supported by Open Universities for Refugees (OUR) and UNHCR Malaysia and Teach for Refugees (T4R). It’s mission is to provide quality education to refugees globally and international universities in Malaysia. CERTE Malaysia was established during the OUR-UNHCR 3 C Forum-5/6 -August 2016- in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and is led by Jessica Chapman, Managing Director of T4R and Dr. Robin Duncan from OUR. The 2nd session for 2018 will be held at Monash University Malaysia in October and is supported by the PRME team in the School of Business.

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

The aim of CERTE is to identify refugees who can demonstrate the motivation and academic potential to access further education and to equip and empower them to gain a place at university or college. The course is run over 3 weeks, during weekdays so that the refugee students are exposed to university campus life. Through this course, students are equipped with the basic knowledge of the application process of higher education institutes; have a better understanding of areas of knowledge and different academic disciplines; develop basic research skills in writing and presentations. On the last day, a graduation ceremony is held and a certificate of completion is awarded to the students by Richard Towle, UNHCR’s country representative in Malaysia. This certificate not only endorses their participation but also serves as a unique stepping stone to future learning opportunities in Malaysia or elsewhere. In addition, students who successfully complete the course are given the opportunity to sign-up for a continued mentorship program that will provide continued support in their university application process.

Who are the students?

Fifteen refugee youth from different refugee communities across Kuala Lumpur are selected through an interview process. They are Rohingyas, Sudanese, Yemenis, Pakistanis, and Middle Easterns. They have completed their IGCSC or certain level of academic qualification from their home country but had to leave their country in a haste. Their education is abruptly halted and are unable to continue in Malaysia due to their status. Since this program, the students have taken part in other initiatives to improve their education, like online learning and education-focused projects initiated by T4R.

What have been some of the challenges? 

One of the major challenges is that the CERTE bridge course does not guarantee admission into universities. In addition, due to conditions by which the refugees leave their country, most often they do not possess the necessary documentation needed for access to education, informal or otherwise. One suggestion is to perhaps seek the assistance and collaboration of respective embassies to find ways to overcome this issue.

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

We think this is an important initiative. Having other institutions take on similar initiatives will have a strong impact on the community. It takes education to another level by engaging with a vulnerable sector of the community and offering it to children and youth. This is crucial as refugee children and youth most often have their education disrupted. A lack of education can disempower those who need an opportunity the most and can lead to extreme poverty for generations. Education is often a lifesaving intervention that offers protection and preserves their futures. Although a temporary predicament, providing education through workshops and trainings like these instill a positive attitude, gives them hope and prepares them for future opportunities. It is therefore crucial to supply them with information that will allow them to explore the world and use the full capacity of their brains while maintaining their interest and enthusiasm.

What’s next for the initiative?

We are continuing with this initiative for the next batch of refugee students and youth. Meanwhile, this initiative has also sparked a conversation and discussion within the senior management of the University on access to education through various platforms and scholarships. A working committee has been established to discuss ways of achieving this and overcoming the challenges and obstacles faced.

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.

 

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.

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. 

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