Connecting for Better: How Business Schools Can Create Positive Change

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Thursday, August 13, 2020
By Caryn Beck-Dudley
Photo by iStock
Through five key opportunities, business schools can take collaborative action to positively impact learners, businesses, and global society.

It is hard to believe that we have been in a global pandemic for almost nine months. In response, business schools around the world have reacted, responded, and innovated with astounding speed. We have changed pedagogy, rebuilt curriculum, revised rules, and made difficult decisions about what is essential and what is not essential. For example, admissions tests, grading, seat time, and exam proctoring have been upended and may never return to pre-COVID norms. Career development, internships, and faculty/learner interactions have probably changed forever. In addition, the b-school financial model, which was already under stress at many universities, is now being totally rethought.

While these issues are consuming much of the time and energy of business school administrators, faculty, and staff, we need to be sure that we keep our eye on the post-pandemic world. It is more important than ever for business schools to be part of the solutions to society’s present-day situation. With this view, and expanding on the ideas in its Collective Vision for Business Education, AACSB has identified five areas where business schools can create positive societal impact, even during a pandemic. Business schools can:

  • Connect business, community, and government to deliver results
  • Solve problems based on knowledge sharing and research 
  • Develop purpose-driven leaders with the vision to tackle the toughest challenges
  • Create hubs for lifelong learning to promote prosperity and elevate economies
  • Inspire innovations with the power to change the world 

How do these themes work in practice and ensure that business schools continue to create societal good?


Solving big problems requires the efforts of many different entities. Business schools have deep connections with businesses, community organizations, and governments. Often the leaders of these enterprises graduated from business schools, have kept close relationships with their alma maters, and have turned to business schools for the human capital they need. Convening individuals involved in these long-term relationships adds expertise and organization to solving some of society’s most pressing problems.


Business faculty also work on a variety of research topics and have excellent research skills. During the pandemic, many faculty have partnered with business and government to help solve supply chain problems, manage organizational health issues, and create new business models for a new economy. These efforts will continue as the needs of society evolve and will give us insights into problems that can be addressed through knowledge sharing and research.


Business schools have long developed purpose-driven leaders with the vision to tackle the toughest challenges. AACSB has documented some of these leaders in its Influential Leaders initiative. These leaders are found around the world, in for-profit and nonprofit companies as well as in education and government. Growing, nurturing, and supporting tomorrow’s leaders will continue to be a high priority for all business schools, and AACSB will keep engaging with schools to highlight the significant impact their alumni are having on global society.


Along those lines, solving today’s societal problems requires agility, innovation, and continuous learning. Business schools have always nurtured intellectual curiosity and have been the creators of hubs for lifelong learning. As the world continues to change rapidly, it is particularly imperative that its leaders have the ability and the opportunity to absorb new information and acquire the background to solve problems using current tools. By providing leaders everywhere with easy access to lifelong learning, business schools can help ensure the continual upskilling of the workforce that is required to promote prosperity and elevate economies.


Finally, business schools continue to inspire innovations with the power to change the world. Some of these are highlighted in AACSB’s 2020 Innovations That Inspire challenge. From serving as a matchmaker for rural business owners seeking to sell their business, to developing the next generation of biomedical entrepreneurs, to working with early-stage enterprises to develop and test ideas to strengthen the social ecosystem, business schools are seizing opportunities to help communities close to home and throughout the world. The innovation of their efforts is widespread and the impact amplified.

AACSB’s Collective Vision for Business Education encapsulates business schools’ role in improving society today as well as in creating our shared future. Its foundation continues to inspire new possibilities for schools to have impact, even as circumstances shift around us. Let’s continue connecting for better and in so doing change the world.

Caryn Beck-Dudley
President and CEO, AACSB International
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