At LFGSM, You’re Out in Front

Dr. Bryan Watkins

Friday, February 02, 2018

Strong roots in the business world put us ahead while others play catch-up.

There’s a trend in the business school world to bring more of the “real world” to students. A Wall Street Journal article titled “A New Push for Real-World Lessons at Business Schools” discusses a new directive released by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the largest academic accreditation body, that urges business schools to spend less time on academic research and more time “helping businesses solve current problems.” Businesses are calling for MBAs who can keep up with the pace and complexity of business, and academic institutions are taking note. In today’s global marketplace, the need for students to be able to confront challenges head on with the right knowledge and tools is critical. Many business schools are trying to address this by adding successful business people to their faculties, which, to this point, have mostly consisted of full-time academics.

Finding more current, innovative faculty members is the right move, but for many business programs it means implementing a major cultural change, which takes time.

Luckily, while other schools are slowly re-plotting their paths, Lake Forest Graduate School of Management (LFGSM) is already in the lead. Our ties to the business world run deep, and our Business Leader Faculty® have been bringing their expertise to classrooms for more than 70 years.

But why is it so hard for other business schools to change course?

The Higher Education Academic Model is Hard to Shake

Most higher education organizations follow a well-established tenure-track faculty model, in which academics – mostly PhDs – are hired as professors. These professors work for a specified number of years to achieve tenure, which is essentially a permanent job contract that generally stays in place until the individual professor retires.

The concept of tenure was originally conceived to promote and protect academic freedom, giving the tenured scholar the opportunity to express different views than the institution without fear of getting fired. Today, though, the practice doesn’t seem to make as much sense. In a typical business, an employee who doesn’t contribute to the organization’s success would be let go. But in the academic world, tenured professors don’t have to worry about losing their jobs. It’s easy to see why some professors might not have too much motivation to keep their teaching current and relevant.

Many of today’s typical business schools are well stocked with tenured professors – professors who aren’t easy to let go or replace. So, even schools motivated to hire more business-savvy professionals can only move as fast as their tenured faculty retires over time.

The Advantages of Learning from Business Leaders

At LFGSM, students are immersed in the business world at every point of their journey. They learn how theories work in a variety of situations; what could go wrong, and how they can employ tools and strategies to be flexible, agile, and work at the speed of business. Our school and students benefit from working directly with leaders who have been there, done that, and they’re still out there, every day, solving problems and moving businesses forward.

There will always be a place for academic business faculty. Our programs depend on useful resources from academic institutions, such as research and case studies. However, real-world business leaders help students interpret that research against the backdrop of the issues they face in their own organizations and those of their students. They bring the research to life.

Our Business Leader Faculty® members don’t teach the same thing over and over. They thrive on change. They know there’s no single answer to a problem, and that no business can survive by standing still. They’re not only experts in business – they’re experts in developing leaders who can also anticipate change and innovate solutions.

There’s no need to play catch-up at LFGSM. We’re already in the lead.


Bryan J. Watkins, Ed.D.Dr. Bryan J. Watkins, Ed.D. is Chief Academic Officer and Vice President at Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. Bryan has a breadth and depth of experience in multiple higher education institutions that includes direct responsibility for accreditation, faculty relations, and program and curriculum design and development, as well as virtual, hybrid, and face-to-face program delivery, admissions, marketing, and sales. He is a member of the School’s Leadership Team. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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