Shortly after learning that I would become the new dean, I began writing down all of the things we needed to do to take the Mendoza College to the next level. No matter how much and how fast the world is changing, we must always keep in mind that everything we do begins and ends with our unwavering mission.
As I wrote a lengthy list of names, programs, ideas for programs, challenges and opportunities, four themes serendipitously popped out: Mission, Academic Excellence, Globalization, Innovation. MAGI. These are our four major pillars. The four critical goals to build our future on.
Now, I have been reminded on occasion that in the Bible, there were three Magi, or wise men, who brought gifts to honor the birth of our Lord Jesus, not four. And for sure, they brought different gifts than suggested by the four pillars of MAGI. But in fulfilling the important mission of the Mendoza College, we are in a sense modern-day Magi seeking to bring gifts in service to our Lord.
My hope is that in all we do, He finds these gifts are worthy of His creation.
Mission Since the last recession, an increasing number of business schools have adopted “business for good” as their tagline, which is great. We welcome the growing awareness that values and ethics must be at the center of business education. At the same time, the trend presents us with challenges in maintaining the distinctiveness of Mendoza. Our mission is not a tagline. It’s not born of a trend. It is the expression of our deepest beliefs and of the founding principles of the University. It is the compass we give to our students to navigate the future:
To build a premier Catholic business school that fosters academic excellence, professional effectiveness and personal accountability in a context that strives to be faithful to the ideals of community, human development and individual integrity.
For what use would it be to provide students with a toolbox of business skills and knowledge, but fail to teach them to consider the impact of their actions on the human community? Or vice versa—to inspire within them a heart for serving the greater good, but insufficient knowledge of the essential business skills so vital for effecting sustainable change?
Therefore to distinguish ourselves, we must raise the bar. We must challenge other schools claiming this same mission to demonstrate a steadfast commitment to educate future business leaders to consider ethics and societal impact. In part, this means sharing thought leadership in areas where we’ve developed innovative, signature programs, such as Business on the Frontlines, and Foresight in Business and Society. It also means continued leadership in ethical business. Therefore Mendoza has been designated as a champion of the UN Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME), an initiative seeking to establish a process of continuous improvement among institutions of management education in order to develop a new generation of business leaders. So our intention is never to be the only business school focusing on “business for good.” The more the merrier. That is how we change the world.
Academic excellence Measuring academic excellence often is thought about in broad terms—rankings, accreditations, awards. But at Mendoza, we measure it differently—one person at a time. Excellence is the faculty member who made an effort to look after the well-being of our students, or who contributed research to his or her discipline in a way that benefits the world. It’s our alumni, who share their expertise and experience. And of course, it’s our students. They truly are remarkable people, worthy of our pride.
Now, it’s not to say that rankings aren’t important, but they are not the reason why we set high expectations for academic achievement. We are here to provide the best possible education for our students, and to do so, we are devoted to recruiting and retaining faculty members who are able to teach, and to continuously improve our curricula. And while we strive for excellence by providing a comprehensive business education, we also realize that we must develop thought leadership in specific areas. This means that we must compete for faculty members who are top experts in their disciplines, which is a challenge considering the high number of impending retirements of professors who have contributed so significantly to make Mendoza what it is today. We also face increasing competition from other institutions of higher education for top-notch faculty as business education accelerates globally.
Another significant part of academic excellence has to do with the services we provide not just to our students, but to the community and even the world. If we were to measure our successes only by what happens in the classroom, we would fall far short of our mission. That is why we offer experiential learning opportunities such as our problem-solving courses, where the students go out into the local community and work with its leaders on real-life problems. It’s why we send our Executive MBA students abroad to work in teams in Africa or South America. It is vital to send students out into the world where they can be of service, learn through experience, and show by example how to employ the tools of business toward societal good.
globalization There is no such thing as a domestic marketplace. Everything we do relates to the rest of the world, so we must be aware of the bigger picture. Our curricula must recognize the global nature of business and cannot be U.S.-centric. Our faculty attends international conferences and collaborates with foreign researchers. Since most major corporations are multinational, jobs may be found anywhere in the world. We must work with recruiters on a global level. And we will continue to recruit the best and brightest international students to admit to our programs here.
Looking to the future, we increasingly will be exploring opportunities to take our programs overseas. In May 2013, we launched the College’s first dual-degree program with Renmin University in Beijing and our Master of Nonprofit Administration. This was a remarkable effort for a number of reasons. China’s recognition of the necessary role played by nonprofit organizations within its national economy and its society is fairly recent; whereas Notre Dame has a concern for the underserved among us as a foundational part of its mission. We have much to share in knowledge, experience and best practices.
We plan to create more of these dual-degree programs, and to make use of the global gateways that Notre Dame has in various countries. We also plan to introduce a global Executive MBA, where our executive students will visit various countries to learn about their cultures and business practices. For our undergraduates, Notre Dame offers one of the best study-abroad programs in the world. We would like to expand on that opportunity by offering Global Education Programs, or the GEPs, that create cohorts of ND and international students and allow them to experience several countries.
innovation It’s an understatement to say that the world is changing rapidly. And rapid change requires an attitude of constant innovation. Where historically Mendoza offered the traditional one-size-fits-all MBA, the College now must meet the increasing demand for customized, one-year graduate business programs. In June 2013, we sat our first class of Master of Science in Business students. The MSB is an 11-month program for individuals with non-business undergraduate degrees and no work experience to teach them business fundamentals. But even this brand-new program is facing stiff competition as our peer schools launch similar programs. That’s how fast the landscape is changing.
We have other specialized degree programs in development so that we can stay ahead of the curve. But we must also consider the infrastructure needed to support the new programs—how we might configure admissions offices, as well as career and student services to gain synergies while retaining the programs’ distinctions.
We have ambitious goals and we cannot accomplish them alone. As our stakeholders consider along with us the four pillars of the MAGI vision, we invite them to join us in working to make the vision a reality. There are myriad ways to help—by providing externships and internships; by sharing professional expertise in the classroom and through our speakers series; by endowing fellowships and scholarships; by recruiting our students. In all that we do, we must remember that our calling is not just business education, but to be a standard-bearer in the challenge to use business as a powerful force for good in the world. This is the calling is that is worthy of our faith.