Lessons in Preparing your First SIP Report from Reykjavik University

SIPReykjavik University in Iceland was awarded, at a special ceremony at the 2015 PRME Global Forum in June, a recognition for their Sharing Information on Progress report (SIP). In their first SIP report they created an engaging and reader friendly communication tool that brought together the work that they are doing at the Business School, while actively promoting the voices of different stakeholders. I spoke with Hrefna Sigriour Briem, Director of the B.SC Programme at the School of Business, about their experiences and lessons learnt preparing their first SIP report.

What approach did you take when preparing your first report and how did you go about putting the report together?

The report was an excellent opportunity to take a close look at what is already in place. We started by discussing with faculty what initiatives they were already taking in their teaching and research—we were pleasantly surprised by the fact that there was more going on than we had anticipated. The reporting process was a great opportunity to shed light on various activities that were already going on and illustrate them in a coherent manner. In addition we discussed the issue of responsible leadership and sustainability at various faculty meetings and a task force brainstormed for new ideas and initiatives, particularly how to get students more involved and how collaboration could be encouraged.

Is there a part of your report or the process that you are particularly proud of? What parts were, or still are challenging?

It was delightful to experience that faculty members and students were quite interested and enthusiastic. We are particularly proud of the fact that the report illustrates the work of a large majority of our people and the ways that responsible management education (RME) is exercised in our various programmes. Getting started was the most difficult part. What to report on and how to report was a challenge, and we spent considerable time discussing these issues.

How have you been using/communicating the report?

We have mostly used the report for internal purposes—communication to students has been our number one priority. We did however distribute the report to the business community, and the dean and programme directors have made a point of discussing the importance of RME both internally as well is in external communications such as interviews and commentaries. We do see further opportunities in participating in a dialogue with industry, particularly through FESTA, a local business network for promoting sustainability. Our report was sent to the 300 biggest organisations in Iceland and was also covered by various local media.

What advice do you have for other schools putting together their first report?

Start by looking for what is already going on. Get as many of the faculty members on board as you can, but don’t waste too much time on convincing the skeptics, the advocates are the ones that will make the change happen. It is also good to keep in mind that the report should be useful for the institution, we used the report and the process as means to take stock and set goals, that way you can refer back to it as you move along.

What plans do you have for your second report?

We will proceed with the discussion at faculty meetings and continue our task force meetings. By the time we deliver our second report we would like to have reached some of our goals set forward in the first report, particularly with regards to leading by example as an institution, increased student involvement, and measuring progress by surveying faculty and students on their knowledge and attitude towards responsible management and sustainability. We won’t change the format much, but will embark upon attaining more depth. There will be more emphasis on research concerning responsible management education. We will also create more discussion among faculty members, students, business and society.

What are some initiatives mentioned in the report that you are particularly proud of that you are working on at RU?

After we signed up to the PRME principles we came up with the idea of rewarding students for responsible and sustainable business ideas in our Entrepreneurship and
Starting New Ventures course. Reporting on this student involvement was particularly enjoyable. Taking count of students views and attitudes towards sustainability through a research initiative of two faculty members is a very important part of monitoring this constant improvement process, and we will continue this effort and report on it in our next SIP. Last but not least, we thought it was very important to demonstrate, in our SIP, the variety of research projects that our faculty are conducting related to responsible management and sustainability.

To read Reykjavik University Business School’s SIP report click here. A Basic Guide to Sharing Information on Progress was also launched at the Global Forum and is available here. For more posts on SIPs click here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next for the programme?

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

 

Using Online Tools to Engage Students in Sustainability – WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management

PrimetimeThe Sustainability Lab is a new course at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management in Germany, focused on taking on challenges for business in sustainability. One of the unique elements of this course is that it uses social media, blogging, wikis and a range of other online tools to further engage the students in the topic. I recently had the chance to speak with Prof. Dr. Christoph Hienerth, who runs the Sustainability Lab, about his innovative course.

 1.  Describe the Sustainability Lab and how it came about?

The Sustainability Lab at WHU is a course that emphasises gaining an understanding of theoretical and practical aspects of sustainability. During the course, students work on real projects provided by partner companies and develop thoughts and concepts on implementation. The course is partitioned into three segments. In the first segment, the students attend lectures focused on different topics relating to sustainability. In the second segment, students search for and collect data dealing with the respective thematic topic of the semester. During the third segment, students develop their thoughts and concepts and present their results to partner companies. Every year a theme is chosen for the course and this year’s is the question, ‘What is sustainability in packaging and how can it be measured?’ reflecting the difficulties of managing the many different aspects of sustainability and also creating concrete measures for outcomes.

2. Describe your use of online tools for the different segments of the course and why you chose to take this specific approach.

Throughout the course, students do a lot of the work over the internet. In order to communicate with each other and with the instructors we have individual and group wikis. Students are asked to search for and collect relevant data and present their research results on their individual wiki on a continuous basis. We use a web tool called Moodle, as well as a programme called ‘spacedeck’ to keep track of what was done and how well that was done. This platform also enables us to openly share teaching results with the public.

Another important part of the course is the public blog where students write blog entries on sustainability topics of their choice. Here we regularly post student thoughts about the themes being brought up in the course such as, most recently, posts on Critical Consumerism, Sustainable Packaging and Ingredient Marketing.

3. What have been some of the challenges of using these tools for a large part of the course? What about the benefits?

Students shy away from many new forms of teaching – they have to get used to a different system and experience it hands-on. That said, the platforms we use are not unfamiliar to the students as many of them are used on a daily basis outside the classroom.  We just started incorporating blog posts into the curriculum— providing bonus points for really good blog posts—and that has worked really well. So far the format has worked well, but we only had twenty students in this course. Starting next semester we will have a hundred, so we shall see whether this online format leads to frustrations or passivity.

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

I think it requires a lot of experimentation with various formats to see which one works best, and the flexibility to change formats or assignments in case something doesn’t work. It also requires very close contact with students. It is important to really show the students the relevance of a new format and the tools to use it, through this type of teaching innovation. Otherwise students will reject it. Even though students always say they want new formats, in the end they usually prefer to stick to classic classroom teaching.

5. What’s next for the programme?

We will continue to provide this course to more and more students. In about a year we plan to have the first part of the course (the lectures) available online – with short videos, challenges, cases, etc. – similar to MOOCs. Students will view the lectures ahead of time so that classroom time can be focused on discussions. This will also give us opportunity to get similar modules from international colleagues working on the topic. The goal is that within a couple of years, we have many of these modules from all over the world.

– Do you use online tools in your courses? Share your experiences in the comments section below. –

2012 Summary of Best Practices in Responsible Management Education (Part 2)

2012 has been an interesting year for sustainability and management education and through Primetime I have tried to share some of the incredible work that PRME signatories are doing to mainstream responsible leadership and management education around the world. Primetime has become quite a repository of examples and in the final few blogs of the year I wanted to summarize the range of resources and experiences that have been featured.

Getting faculty engaged

Faculty are key when it comes to bringing about change in sustainability on campus. Several blogs focused on how to get faculty on board with sustainability (9 April) as well as a range of examples from signatories featured in the Inspirational Guide (23 August). Faculty including those from Maastricht University (22 October – Outside the Classroom New ways to feature sustainability in business courses) and Kozminski University (16 January), have initiated a range of innovative courses around sustainability. Several have also initiated Certificates in Sustainable Business, taking a variety of different and innovative approaches (26 April).

We also focused on a range of methods for teaching sustainability, in particular the increasing number of tools available online for faculty to use in their courses, including lectures (19 March), discussion spaces (23 January) as well as online games developed by NGOs (27 February), the business sector (5 March) and universities (15 March).

Finally we focused on bringing out some of the favourite business and sustainability examples of faculty from around the world, including examples from the Dominican Republic, Tanzania and Slovenia (3 July), the USA and Australia (29 October), Poland, UK and the Netherlands (13 February), and Canada, UK and New Zealand (30 August).

Sustainable Campus

Quite a few schools are doing some excellent work around creating more sustainable campuses including looking at providing more sustainable food options (7 May – Sustainable Food on Campus Part 1 and Part 2) and encouraging bike use on campus (6 February – Creating more sustainable campuses: Bikes). Universities have come up with innovative ways to make their campus more sustainable including Aston with their Go Green Awards (21 August – Go Green Awards), Olin’s Sustainability Case Competition (17 September – Using a case competition to make campus more sustainable), the Student Green Energy Fund at University of South Florida (December -)  and Viterbo’s Metrics of Sustainability course (3 September – Engaging your students in making your and other organisations more sustainable).  We also looked at a variety of ways in which students are becoming more engaged in these discussions whether it be through conferences (9 January – Responsible Leadership in China), Board Fellows Programmes (2 January –  Board Fellows Programmes) or through a range of contests (19 November – Contests for Business Students in Sustainability). As signatories are getting engaged in more and more activities across campus they are also exploring how to better communicate these activities and other sustainability programmes both across campus and with other stakeholders (30 July – Communicating your work with stakeholders).

Exploring specific themes

Quite a few schools are doing some excellent work around specific topics and, in particular around Rio+20, many of them were featured here. In May, we had a focus on Water, both on campus and in the curriculum (21 May – Creating a more sustainable campus: Water Part 1 and Part 2). We have also had blogs on the topic of Microfinance (20 February –  Teaching Students about Microfinance) and social entrepreneurship (5 November – Innovations in Social Entrepreneurship Courses Part 1 and Part 2).

We finished off the year with a three part series focused on the UN International Year of Cooperatives, which took part throughout 2012, with an overview of the year (26 November – Introduction), a range of examples of cooperatives around the world (10 December – Business examples) and finally some examples of schools providing teaching and programmes around the topic (24 December – Business School Response). In 2013, this focus will continue with a look at how to incorporate cooperatives into business education programmes.

2013

In 2013 we will continue to provide a range of best practices around mainstreaming sustainability and responsible leadership into management education globally. Some new features for 2013 will include a dean’s corner and a continued focus on how to incorporate the 6 Principles of PRME into your work.

Primetime is all about featuring the work that you are doing at your schools in the area of management education and sustainability/responsible leadership. If you have an interesting example that you would like to share with the community or if there is a particular theme that you would like to see explored, please do email me at gweybrecht@thesustainablemba.com.

Happy New Year!

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