The Evolving Business Student and Her Place in the Work World

The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) held its annual conference this past weekend. This year the ACBSP focused on engaged learning in the digital age; ways to keep the business school students of tomorrow interested in the material and ready for the workforce.

Shirley Kleiner is a retired professor and served as president of the ACBSP from 2011-2012. She was also granted emeritus status in the organization. As the ACBSP is reaching its 25 year anniversary, Kleiner spoke of the organization’s contributions throughout the years and how it has grown.

“The first ABSCP conference I went to was in 1998 in Atlanta,” Kleiner said. “I think there were a little less than 400 people all together that were involved, and this year we had more than a thousand.”

With the growth came a change in philosophy for the organization.

Practical knowledge, not just theories, is what today’s students want out of b-school

Practicality is gaining precedent over sheer knowledge in business school classrooms around the world. Students emerging from business schools today have to back up their credentials with more than a high grade point average. In order to get jobs, graduates have to show they have the chops to actually handle the work hands-on, not just in theory.

Janice Stoudemire, also a former ACBSP president and educator, said, "We started using student learning outcomes,” Stoudemire said. “What can the student actually do?”

Many business schools have adopted this hands-on approach across the nation in the form of student projects and business plan competitions that count as real world experience, putting less emphasis on conventional tests.

“There are no multiple choice questions in the business world,” Stoudemire said. “Businesses want graduates that can walk in and start doing,”

Stoudemire said that this change in approach is recent — within the past ten years — and cites a combination of globalization and a shift into a more technologically-dependent culture as the cause.

She added that the shift is also at the demand of the students, who have changed over the past decade as well.

Today’s tech-savvy students are accustomed to instant gratification and want to see results in real time. “They are not satisfied with just knowing something, I truly think they want to use the knowledge that we give them,” Stoudemire said.

Stoudemire said that she thinks by making people apply knowledge, they are forced to use critical thinking skills, something she says she thinks “we kind of take for granted.”

The future of business education

“We have a different type of student,” Stoudemire said. “It’s not the student of 20 years ago.”

According to Stoudemire, ACBSP’s outlook on education will include an emphasis on what Stoudemire calls “soft skills:” globalization, critical thinking, and teamwork.

This type of business education encourages, “Getting your hands dirty, rolling up your sleeves, and doing things that you would be doing in the real world. That’s what employers are asking business schools to do,” Stoudemire said.

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