Dean Freeman in Bloomberg Businessweek: Consider the Student a Customer

in Dean Freeman, News
December 5th, 2013

Engage the entire organization in creating a memorable mission and translate it into an actionable strategy

Allen Questrom Professor and Dean Ken Freeman shares his thoughts on how to build a better business school in a piece for Bloomberg Businessweek, in which he stresses motivating faculty to work as a collective force, one that carries out a mission dedicated to enhancing the student (or, customer) experience. Highlighting the School’s commitment to its own mission—”to create value for the world”—he notes the transformation of the undergraduate and graduate curricula, launched during the School’s centennial, as well as innovations to teaching and learning that will better prepare students for a world that faces massive economic, commercial, and social challenges.

Excerpts from Bloomberg Businessweek:

After leaving the for-profit world three years ago to become Dean of Boston University’s School of Management, I observed to one of my new colleagues that our students are our customers. “No,” he said, “they are our products.” At first, I thought I must have a lot to learn about academe. Now, as the School of Management launches a complete transformation of its undergraduate and graduate curricula during our centennial year, I believe my initial instincts were correct.

Business schools increasingly face the same powerful forces that have confronted law schools in recent years: application drops, employers questioning the utility of the degree, alternative education models, and doubts about the return on investment as tuition rises in a weak economy. These new realities will induce many business schools to make sweeping changes that fundamentally alter management education and the “customer experience” it provides.

As business schools seek innovation, I believe the chances of success can be greatly increased by applying the core principle of transformation that companies have long used to remake their businesses: Engage the entire organization in creating a memorable mission and translate it into an actionable strategy. And, as with the best business transformations, schools should not only respond to market forces; they should respond in ways that matter far beyond the narrow interests of their own institutions.

Engaging the entire organization can be particularly difficult. Faculty members typically make their mark through outstanding individual work and eminent reputations that attract students and expose them to the best of management thought and practice. Rarely, however, have faculty been motivated and mobilized as a collective force to work across the boundaries of their professional interests to reshape an entire institution. This is not tinkering at the margins of a curriculum—their active engagement is critical for creating a coherent, collective mission that is genuinely transformative.

Read the full piece here.