Pushing Business Schools to Get Practical

Dr. Bryan Watkins

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Mark Twain once said, “I have never let schooling interfere with my education.” This quote perfectly captures the mission of Lake Forest Graduate School of Management (LFGSM). Most business schools today are not providing students with the proper tools to navigate and lead the ever changing business waters. At LFGSM, we believe the best way to do that is to bring in faculty who currently work as Senior Leaders, CEOs, VPs, or entrepreneurs to teach students about the business landscape as it happens in real-time.

For decades, Lake Forest has separated itself from many other academic institutions with its unique faculty model. However, a recent article published in the Wall Street Journal indicates that the tides may be changing as other schools recognize what Lake Forest has known all along. The 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 urge business schools to spend less time on academic research and more time “helping businesses solve current problems.”

This change is long overdue in the field of higher education. The AACSB has been holding on to outdated requirements that have excluded academic institutions like Lake Forest Graduate School of Management (LFGSM) that chose to employ Business Leader Faculty® who more often than not hold MBAs rather than PhDs and spend their time outside of the classroom as CEOs and entrepreneurs rather than publishing research.

It seems that the AACSB is finally listening to the business world – something LFGSM has been doing for 70 years. Using suggestions and observations from business and corporate leaders, the AACSB realized there was a necessary element missing from many business programs: real life learning. By including more practitioners as professors or guest lecturers and forming partnerships with corporations and startups, the AACSB is hoping that programs will better equip their students for the business world.


Historically, business schools have boosted their status with world renowned professors who published award winning educational essays and publications. But since its founding in 1946, LFGSM has taken a more functional, real life approach. We have spent 70 years firmly entrenched in the corporate community, utilizing business leaders to educate future business leaders. We use the apprenticeship model of education because we recognize that it takes a leader to build a leader. Some would say we’ve been prophetic in the way we have developed and managed our school’s approach to learning and applying business theory in the classroom, but I just think we’ve listened particularly well to the business world.

Books and lectures are very much a part of our curriculum, but we go far beyond the theories to provide our students with the relevant, practical skills that they need to advance their careers. While other business schools are “playing a game of telephone”, with information passed from expert to researcher to professor to student, LFGSM students get their information straight from the source – the CEOs, CFOs, Partners, Vice Presidents, and Entrepreneurs who are in their classrooms every day. Nothing is lost in translation. The judgement and skills of our Business Leader Faculty® have been tested by the most important exam: the market. A book cannot replace the successes, missteps, and day-to-day lessons they share with our students.

LFGSM laid the foundation for real-world learning years ago, and to see that our education model is finally being validated by the AACSB just shows that we were on the right track from the beginning. Which brings me back full circle to Twain’s quote. Perhaps 70 years ago our founders were not aware of the link between LFGSM’s business values and Twain’s belief of education over schooling, but today it rings true more than ever.


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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