A Personal Perspective From the Business Education Alliance: McRae C. Banks

Mac Banks, dean of UNCG's Bryan School of Business and Economics and AACSB board member, talks about his engagement with AACSB, his perspectives on volunteering, and the impact of accreditation globally.

Over the last year, AACSB has been reaching out to members of its Business Education Alliance to get a better feel for how our network is influencing the development of business education throughout the world.

In this interview, McRae C. “Mac” Banks, dean of the Bryan School of Business and Economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) and member of the AACSB Board of Directors, talks about his long-time engagement with the organization, his perspectives on volunteering, and the impact of AACSB Accreditation on the global stage.

You have been very active with AACSB for more than a decade. What have been your biggest takeaways from your engagement with the organization?

Actually, I have been attending AACSB events since 1995, and my first presentation was in about 1998. Before I get into takeaways from engagement, let me speak about my philosophy. I learned long ago that it is important to give back and that, when one gives back, ultimately one receives in equal or greater measure. That has been true for me at AACSB, among other organizations I have been heavily involved with over the years. I feel that involvement has always improved me and I have been able to help create better opportunities for students, and in some cases for fellow faculty members and staff members.

In terms of engaging with AACSB, much of that came about because I wanted to learn more about the organization and how it worked, and the best way to do that was to engage in whatever way and capacity the organization offered.

When there were training opportunities—I am talking about in the late 1990s and early 2000s when there were not nearly as many training opportunities as today—I went through the trainings. I let the staff at AACSB know that I was interested in being more engaged. Some of that initially was part of earning our own accreditation at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), where I served as professor and head of the department (the business school) at the time, but some of it was preparation so ultimately I could be a peer review team member and give back in that way. If one does a good job as a volunteer, then one becomes known to others, and that has certainly been true in my experience with AACSB.

From that early involvement with AACSB, and now as dean at UNCG, what have you been able to take back to your institution and to your faculty?

The visits in particular are tremendously helpful from my view because I have always found at least one piece of wisdom in every single accreditation visit that I can bring back to my school. While I do not implement it the way that school implemented it, I take the germ of the idea and see what we can do with it.

The same thing is true in terms of reading reports from other schools. I find myself thinking, “Wow, this is really neat,” or “This is a really great treatment they provided of their AoL [assurance of learning] and we need to remember it so when we do our next Continuous Improvement Review Report, we can structure our AoL that way,” or something along those lines.

Being part of AACSB has also been helpful in finding out what training opportunities are available. We send our staff, faculty, and administrators to workshops, seminars, and conferences every year to help them improve their skills, but also so they can come back with ideas, as well as learn about the latest interpretations and questions that are arising around accreditation. Their participation also gives us the opportunity to provide feedback on different questions that AACSB is raising.

From a mentor’s perspective, what would you recommend to schools considering beginning their accreditation journey?

Schools have to decide why they want to be accredited by AACSB. What are they hoping to gain from it?

I admit that when we went into the initial accreditation process at WPI, it was simply because we wanted to be AACSB accredited. I remember going to AACSB meetings and they kept saying to the audience that AACSB Accreditation is not an end, but it is an outcome of doing all of the other things you want to do and doing them well.

That needs to be each school’s focus. Decide what it is you are trying to accomplish as a business school and then create strong, positive, high-quality systems and processes to ensure you are able to achieve those and deliver on the outcomes.

Accreditation itself should not be the goal. I came to believe that later on, after we were in the process and I saw what a difference it was making. What the standards helped us do was to focus on certain important aspects of our operation within the business school. They helped us develop sound processes and, in some cases, formalize processes we already had in place.

I do not want to diminish the external benefit of AACSB Accreditation. Prior to accreditation we felt that we had a very high-quality undergraduate program and very high-quality master’s programs, but schools that were accredited would say to prospective students, “Do you really want to go there? They’re not accredited by AACSB.” Achieving AACSB Accreditation removed that barrier and enabled us to be part of the conversation about quality business schools nationally and internationally.

More and more schools worldwide are starting the accreditation process. Given the challenges schools face in regions such as Asia Pacific and Latin America, for example, how should schools internationally look at the accreditation process? Will that enable more collaboration between universities worldwide?

Every school I have visited, and every dean with whom I have spoken, regardless of where a school is located, has been stronger and better after successfully navigating the AACSB Accreditation process. Is there any business school dean who does not want to improve their school? AACSB Accreditation provides the dean and the faculty with guidelines on how to do that, and it does not matter where one is located. As a result, as AACSB has expanded around the world, we have seen more and more of the top business schools internationally seeking and achieving AACSB Accreditation.

We know that accounting graduates of AACSB-accredited business schools perform significantly better on the U.S. CPA exam than students from schools not accredited by AACSB. Further, students at schools that have supplemental accounting accreditation perform significantly better on the exam than students at schools without supplemental accounting accreditation.

Regarding international collaborations, we have seen an increase in international collaboration since AACSB began its globalization efforts starting in 2001, officially, but unofficially prior to that. International collaborations are already happening, and I think they will accelerate.

It certainly gives me a great deal of confidence as a dean when an AACSB-accredited school approaches me about a collaboration. I know that school is concerned about the same elements and levels of quality that we are concerned about. That is a real plus.

One thing that schools should do in thinking about accreditation is actively seek out other schools that already have AACSB Accreditation, whether in their own region or other regions of the world, to talk about things that may be challenges and get those inside perspectives.

AACSB is striving to accredit the best business schools in the world. What that means is that the accreditation standards should be difficult for every institution worldwide. That speaks to the heart of something else about AACSB Accreditation—it requires schools to push for continuous improvement. We have to strive constantly to be better and better and better.

If schools are not willing to try to achieve at a high level, if they are not willing to improve continually, then maybe AACSB is not the right accreditation for them. But, I would hope that every school out there would indeed strive for that high quality and strive for continuous improvement.


McRae Banks is dean and Margaret and Harrell Hill Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina Greensboro's Bryan School of Business and Economics.