Newly Accredited: University of Lethbridge on Earning AACSB Accreditation
Robert Boudreau, dean of the University of Lethbridge Dhillon School of Business, shares how the AACSB accreditation journey helped them solidify their identity, more fully appreciate their history, and engage a community of stakeholders.
In this blog series, AACSB is spotlighting business schools around the world that have recently earned AACSB Accreditation. We ask the business school leadership about their journey to accreditation and what the new achievement means to them. In this interview, Robert Boudreau, dean of the University of Lethbridge Dhillon School of Business, shares how the AACSB accreditation journey helped them solidify their identity, more fully appreciate their history, and engage a community of stakeholders.
Why was it important for your school to undergo the rigorous process of earning AACSB Accreditation?
The Dhillon School of Business has been committed to offering exceptional and innovative education since its founding in 1975, but it was important for us to implement the AACSB benchmarks because they come with a level of quality that gives external validation to our programs. With such a competitive postsecondary landscape it is vital to have quality throughout everything we do, and attaining AACSB Accreditation—with its comprehensive standards—validates that not only are we doing the right things, we are doing them well.
AACSB Accreditation is also important as it allows us to be part of a community of business school leaders. The accreditation gives us access to information, research, and insight on the postsecondary business landscape, which is beneficial not only for our school but for our stakeholders, as well.
What did you learn about your school through your accreditation journey?
One result of the accreditation journey was a heightened sense of camaraderie and collaboration. While it’s important to have a designated individual or established group to champion the journey, the process has to involve everyone. We engaged all our stakeholders, and it was satisfying to see how hard everyone worked as a team.
Because the accreditation process is vison- and mission-driven, it also allowed us as a school to be true to our values while ensuring we met the AACSB quality benchmarks. We came out with a better understanding of our identity and of the quality of our programming.
Finally, it was illuminating to catalog our school’s history. We were able to see the impact and engagement that has resulted from our endeavors over the years and also realized that we need to be constantly innovating. While the journey is not easy, it is well worth it.
What was the most challenging/rewarding part of the accreditation process?
While the results were positive, the most challenging part of the process was getting stakeholders involved with a sense of individual responsibility and understanding that AACSB Accreditation is accreditation for all. Since we are not a large school, it was challenging to see how a decision regarding a single faculty member could have such an impact on certain standards. This led to a realization that we needed to be more strategic in our decision making. We also needed to communicate that we did not need to change everything to achieve accreditation, but that everything had to be quality driven.
We needed to get our school’s individual members on board, but we also needed buy-in from multiple campuses. We needed the support of the overall university administration and an understanding that not only would AACSB Accreditation be beneficial for us, but the university as a whole would benefit.
The most rewarding part of the process was a direct result of that overall buy-in from our stakeholders and the culture shift that ensued. Faculty and staff are looking forward to the future, and most are willing to play a more active role in helping to shape that future. Students are proud that they are now graduating from an AACSB-accredited school—a factor that is enviable. This excitement is all based on the realization that we are offering high-quality education through our assurance of learning system and will continue to do so in the future.
It was also rewarding that the final stages of the accreditation process coincided with the naming of our school. It was great to have these two transformational events happen more or less simultaneously. Many people used to describe us as a “best kept secret.” We are no longer a secret, with our new name and AACSB Accreditation.
What impact do you hope to see from having achieved AACSB Accreditation?
The impact has already started. We now look at what we do through the lens of impact, engagement, and innovation. And now that we have AACSB Accreditation we are committed to developing it further through a process of continuous improvement.
Through heightened quality of teaching and research, we also hope to grow our global reputation and ultimately see higher enrollments, especially with regard to international students.
We look forward to the increased opportunities that AACSB promises, including greater employability and options for our students if they pursue graduate studies; a wider selection of highly qualified faculty and staff to join our team; and stronger joint research endeavors with other accredited schools.
What advice would you give to another school approaching the accreditation process?
Communication and connection is key. By utilizing AACSB resources, your mentor, and the AACSB community as a whole, you will have the support needed to succeed. We found it was essential to keep all our AACSB stakeholders connected, including the liaison, peer review team, peer review chair, and mentor, and essential to manage those relationships in conjunction with the school as a whole. Take time to educate the broader university community on how this will help not only the business school but the entire institution. Ensuring everyone is involved (with a team lead) will help you achieve greater success.
Preparation (and more preparation) is also key. We found doing a mock review was crucial to our success. If you can do a mock review, do it. Everything is open to evaluation, so be prepared to resolve issues or gaps you might not have known were there. Be as thorough as possible in your evaluation, don’t assume anything, and expect the unexpected.
Finally, once you’ve achieved accreditation, celebrate your success. The process is transformational and you’ll be better for it in the end.
Robert Boudreau is dean of the University of Lethbridge Dhillon School of Business in Canada.