Business Education's Post-Pandemic Possibilities

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Monday, August 10, 2020
David Timis, a 2019 AACSB Influential Leader, talks with Tim Mescon, chief officer of the Europe, Middle East, and Africa office, about the impact of COVID-19 on business education and the opportunities it presents.
Recorded July 2020.


Tim Mescon: [0:16] Hello. I'm Tim Mescon. I have the great pleasure of working with AACSB's Europe, Middle East, and Africa team in Amsterdam. It's even a greater pleasure for me to introduce David Timis, a very recent Master in Business Administration and Management graduate from the Adam Smith Business School at the University of Glasgow.

[0:41] David launched the Grow With Google digital online platform and offline caravan in Romania to deliver digital skills training to young people and entrepreneurs and help address the digital skills gap. Welcome to AACSB and this digital platform.

David Timis: [1:08] Thank you for the invitation, Tim. Thank you for your intro and, obviously, for honoring me and the Adam Smith Business School with the award you gifted me with, so to say. I think it was already a year ago or more than a year ago. Time flies, especially in COVID-19 times. [laughs]

Mescon: [1:24] It was. We're very proud of the work that you have done and the nomination we received from the University of Glasgow to recognize the impactful initiative that you launched and executed in Romania. Let me follow up in the pandemic. Let me ask you this, your real perspective here.

[1:51] Do you foresee any changes, David, in the way employers will value higher education degrees after the pandemic?

Timis: [2:05] Yes, it's a great question because I think the pandemic, the way I see COVID-19 is, first of all, as an opportunity. As much as obvious, it's been doing a lot of damage, both health wise and economically to a tremendous amount of people, unfortunately, but there's also an opportunity hidden in this turmoil.

[2:21] One of it is to have COVID-19 as a magnifying glass, which helps us realize what are the issues in our society. One of them which has been brewing for some years is rescaling. The disconnect between what you're taught in school via high school or higher education, university/college, and what the job market needs, what employers need.

[2:44] Glasgow, I was fortunate to be in the place where it was the avant garde of teaching, so I did get a lot of pragmatic and practical skills. Coming from a country like Romania with this Communist past, they saw a huge difference between what my peers were being taught in universities in Romania, which was definitely less practical done in Glasgow, and what I had the chance to experience.

[3:04] In the future, to answer your question, universities will have no choice but to be more connected to the companies and to value more skills more than the actual degree. Companies already, I think, put less emphasis on the degree itself but more emphasis on what skills you actually acquired and how you can prove your skills in an interview or in the first month in the job.

[3:25] That's how I see the future focus more on skills and on private public partnerships between educational institutions and big companies.

Mescon: [3:34] So well put, David. We agree with you completely. We've seen over the last four or five months, business schools continue to pivot as a result of this pandemic.

[3:47] It's really part of AACSB's rallying around innovation, engagement, and impact, needing to understand the needs and the demands a business industry and government, and how academic programs and business schools at the bachelor's and post-bac/master's levels need to respond to these demands. You've captured that wonderfully.

[4:16] Let me follow that up with a related question. What are some positive outcomes in business and/or society that you hope to see in the post pandemic world?

Timis: [4:35] There's plenty of benefits and opportunities hidden, as I said, in this in this crisis. One of the main one is the accelerated digital transformation, which both businesses and educational institutions were dreading. Now, they're actually forced to confront themselves with reality. We are living in a digital world.

[4:54] Then there were plenty of entities or organizations which are struggling, being on the fence about doing more digital work, or transforming themselves and becoming more digital. Now, I think this crisis is a good filter for what are the organizations which will be able to make this leap and those which are not willing or able to do so.

[5:14] There's this great benefit of completely transforming and going digital in the sense, but obviously at the same time, keeping what makes us human human.

[5:25] I finished a recent Master's in Public Policy at the College of Europe. The past three months where we moved everything from offline to online. I definitely saw the challenges of online learning. As much as I believe in digital transformation, I definitely see it when it comes to the educational side.

[5:42] There's plenty of more work to be done to actually make the digital transition more smooth and to not lose so much of the quality of teaching when you move online. Once in the business world, I think it is a much more easier transition to doing remote work, especially for people who are already working in big corporations, which we're used to doing this video call, and conference call, and so on.

[6:04] Education will definitely have to be re imagined, post COVID-19, to better incorporate this online model. The way I see this is pretty simple. It's a hybrid model initially to make the transition possible. We used to be on a face to face educational context. Now we're going to move to educational context, which is both online and offline.

[6:24] Maybe in 10 or 15 years, it's just going to be online. I don't know, but for the time being, it's a hybrid model for sure.

Mescon: [6:30] Fantastic. You've captured it so well. Higher education globally really responded very quickly as a result of COVID-19 and the pandemic.

[6:44] Now that everybody's taking a deep breath and immersed in this world, I think this focus on improving the quality of instructional delivery in this blended world, or digital world, or whatever it looks like in the month ahead. It's going to be a very keen focus of higher education.

[7:07] Let me let me finish, David, with one final question. You had some extraordinary academic experiences and the platform that was provided at the Adam Smith School at the University of Glasgow really helped launch you as an incredibly impactful, engaged, responsible leader.

[7:34] Let me ask you this. What does a business world filled primarily with globally responsible leaders look like, and how can business schools across the globe serve as conduits?

Timis: [7:50] It's definitely a very good question. As we just mentioned in our previous topic that the whole educational system is being changed, and business schools will also be changed some way or the other.

[8:03] I think in order to push for more ethical leadership, because I definitely don't think we can reach full ethical leadership in life, and you need a negative source who can appreciate the positive. It's never going to be just one way or the other.

[8:17] Let's say, have more than 50 percent of world leaders, both from business and decision making, to be more ethical, the business schools have to really transform the experience itself, to try to incorporate things from different topics.

[8:35] I'm now working a lot with digital policy, and I know there's a big debate in Brussels and around the world about ethical AI. Ethics should be a component in regardless of the subject you're being taught the medicine, law, business.

[8:49] I think that is the future, regardless of what's your degree in business or something else, having this ethical human centered component to it which will teach you, first of all, what are the principles you have to abide and if you want to be successful in that field, which are ethical and morally based.

[9:07] Also, what will make you as a human relevant in this field going forward because we see now we live in a world which is challenged by automation? You do have to see, regardless of the field you choose, what is the relevant thing to learn basically, what will make you relevant in the future?

[9:26] I think business schools will have to adapt to this and have the ethical component embedded in the curriculum they teach business students around the world.

Mescon: [9:36] That's a fantastic challenge to business schools and business education, as well as celebrating the experiential opportunities that you are provided in your programs that acknowledge while great things happen in the classroom, even greater things can happen in the world at large, and to meld those too.

[10:00] It was an extraordinary experience for you and the impact that you had with your initiatives, and that you will continue to make in your professional life will be something that we want to continue to follow. It's a great reflection of this interface between business education and the world of business.

[10:21] David, thank you again, for your incredible activities that led to you're being acknowledged as an AACSB Influential Leader. We wish you continued success and good fortune. We want to follow you and your career wherever that might take you, but we're sure it will be great places. Thank you again so very, very much.

Timis: [10:44] Thank you, Tim. Thank you for the whole team for setting this call and then for everything you guys do as an organization. Really appreciate it.

Mescon: [10:52] Thank you. Wishing you all the best.

Timis: [10:54] Thank you. Same to you.

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