The DBA: Integrating Business Education With Practice

Jacob Chako, former dean of the College of Business Administration at Abu Dhabi University and now dean of the Clayton State University College of Business, has a conversation with AACSB executive president and chief officer for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Tim Mescon, on the development of Abu Dhabi University's DBA.


Timothy Mescon: [00:19] One of your bold initiatives when you came to Abu Dhabi University as dean was the consideration, the conceptualization, the development of a DBA program. Would you talk about that a little bit?

Jacob Chacko: [00:30] The reason for starting a DBA is very logical and much needed, because in a country where the citizens account for about 15 percent of the population, everything that is knowledge-based is brought in the country by expanse.

[00:48] This is a country that is going through a transition, like all the oil economies of the world. They have a lot of oil, but the world is turning away from oil, and there is the other kinds of sources of energy, that they need to develop leaders, thought leaders.

[01:05] When we started thinking about the DBA, we said we were going to focus on corporate practitioners, not really academics. We said we were going to focus on developing thought leaders of UAE. It was a very simple mission, and with that, we've been true to that.

[01:22] We have just admitted the seventh cohort, and the idea is very simple. They come with a problem that they face in their company, in the industry. They have to prove to the interview committee that they are passionate about it and they really believe in it, and that's how we select them.

[01:43] We have been fortunate to have a pool of about 100 to 120 each year to select from. It has really become the program that our chairman of the board calls the jewel on the crown that is Abu Dhabi University.

Mescon: [01:59] As you well know, we say the best business schools in the world operate at the intersection of theory and practice. There's no better reflection of this than bringing these people back to the classroom.

Chacko: [02:13] That's true. One of the other unseen benefits of all of this is the corporate connection for the business school. These folks are corporate leaders, government leaders, policy leaders.

[02:25] Once they graduate, they get this affinity towards academics, and they feel that they can be the bridge between industry and academics, and, of course, they come back to us and say, "We have this project. Can we have a group of faculty work with us?"

[02:39] To me, if somebody asks, what should the business school do to take it to the next level, I would say, how can we enhance the stakeholder experience, how can corporates work with universities, how can universities work with other universities, and how can we connect to the schools, etc., etc.

[03:01] I think that connection is very important, and if business schools are not connected with one another, how can we expect to connect with the rest of the community? I think that's the logic.

Mescon: [03:13] One of the great assets, part of the DNA of AACSB, is really the sharing culture. I think it surprises a lot of new deans who join to see how willing colleagues are just to share information.

Chacko: [03:28] That culture is tremendous, and I think AACSB, to me, is a great equalizer. What do I mean by that? Especially from the MENA [Middle East and North Africa] region where business schools have a very important role to play, but these are all new business schools.

[03:46] These are not the hundred-, 200-year-old business schools in Europe or U.S., you see. When we want to build partnerships with some of these iconic business schools around the world, the one currency we can show them is we are AACSB accredited.

Filmed April 2017 on site at AACSB's International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM) in Houston, Texas, USA.