Photo of AACSB incoming CEO and president, Caryn Beck-Dudley

New CEO Beck-Dudley on Business Education’s Future

AACSB’s new CEO shares her views on the future of business education—where it’s headed, how it needs to evolve, and how AACSB can help propel it forward.

Recently we announced that Caryn Beck-Dudley will serve as AACSB’s new president and CEO, following an extensive, months-long global search. As a seasoned business school dean, an expert on disruption, and a long-time AACSB volunteer, Beck-Dudley already has astute perspectives on the state of business education and forward-looking ideas for its continued transformation. Here, she discusses some of those views with us.

What are some current challenges in business education that you hope to influence as AACSB’s CEO?

I see two major challenges. One is the relevancy of the business curriculum, and the other is the impact of research generated by business schools. AACSB, and in particular the Business Accreditation Task Force and our member schools, have spent the last year working on these two issues. The proposed 2020 business accreditation standards specifically require schools to address and include impact in their teaching, curriculum, and research.

With regard to the curriculum, I look forward to continuing the discussions about what a relevant business education includes in a rapidly evolving world. Our hope is that there will be significant curriculum innovation and then subsequent sharing with our community. There will also be a necessary evolution in appropriate and effective pedagogy, and AACSB should help facilitate those discussions.

AACSB can partner with the academic disciplines as well as with businesses, governments, and other higher education entities to facilitate the discussion and work with others to chart a path for ensuring that business school research is relevant to our various constituencies.

Entering a new CEO role is a momentous event at any time in a person’s career but particularly during a pandemic. What unique concerns do you anticipate dealing with as a result of COVID-19?

Many of us, including myself, have led through a number of economic downturns. A global pandemic, however, creates a uniquely challenging environment since it has not only financial ramifications but also physical and mental health impacts. All of our member schools are affected to varying degrees. This means that past data that has been used to make decisions may not be relevant to the future and cannot be relied on for planning purposes.

Many of our member institutions are now working to rebuild from scratch in a very short period of time, with only historic data to draw on. This rebuild includes new financial models, new pedagogies, new staffing models, and new career development models, to name just a few. Today’s circumstances create not only serious financial, staffing, and student issues for our member schools but also upend the higher education industry in general. How AACSB supports and helps our member schools through the global pandemic and beyond is our most important task.

You are coming from Silicon Valley, a region known for its constant technological innovation. How has that environment influenced your perspective on business education and its future direction?

Because of my experience in Silicon Valley, I am very familiar with disruption and have indeed written and spoken on the topic numerous times. Of course, I thought the disruption in higher education would come through technology, and it is not lost on me and others that today’s disruption is occurring because of a virus, and currently there is no technology to “save” us.

What I have learned, however, it that with disruption comes huge opportunities for those willing to see and embrace them. I have learned that relationships are the most important “tool” people have in their “toolbox.” Relying on relationships, embracing change, being agile and forging ahead, and not fearing failure—these are really the hallmarks for future success. If business schools use these as guideposts, they will be different than in the past but they will also thrive in the future environment.

What will you miss most about being a business school dean?

The students, faculty, alumni, and business partners.

What are you most looking forward to in your new role?

Working with our global members and partners to forge a new future for business education. It is all very exciting.

Five years from now, what will you be proud to have accomplished with AACSB and its global network?

We are an important convener, facilitator, and innovative partner in the global business ecosystem comprising business schools, universities, businesses, governments, and related professional associations. AACSB has created and utilizes the most meaningful relationships essential for supporting our members.

Lee DavidsonLee Davidson is the managing editor for digital content at AACSB International and is based in Tampa, Florida.