Business Schools Embracing Digital Transformation

Whitman Building

Business Schools Embracing Digital Transformation

It is no question that all aspects of professional life and the business world are affected by the booming digital age, but what about business schools? B-schools are finding new ways to embrace digital transformation to better prepare students for the future, as well as help them develop necessary skills through the incorporation of new technology in academic programs.

Digital transformation doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it extremely drastic. Rather, digital transformation is more about implementing the right technologies to achieve a specific purpose and shifting culture where appropriate. For business schools, it’s all about creating a competitive advantage so that students will have the skills necessary to lead such transformation in their careers.

So what skills do students need? Terence Tse, associate professor at ESCP Europe Business School, built his program, according to BizEd magazine, around three pillars—cognitive skills, technological understanding and transformation management. For both academia and organizations, these pillars emphasize the importance of application and implications regarding new technologies.

For instance, Tse, who also co-founded Nexus FrontierTech, an artificial intelligence company, says that while tech can do so many things, there are shortcomings, and students will need to have the proper cognitive skills to fill in the gaps and be able to develop interpersonal connections. Furthermore, new technology shouldn’t be implemented just because it’s available. Users should think about the social implications that surround it, along with considering possible constraints that might deter people from using it.

Similarly, Raj Echambadi, dean of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University, told BizEd that business schools need to prepare future business leaders in three distinct “literacies”—technology, analytics and human-centered. While mastery of technological understanding is crucial, Echambadi stresses the importance of converging such with the qualities and skills that technology lacks, such as creativity, entrepreneurial thinking and critical reasoning.

It’s apparent that many b-schools are beginning to incorporate more technology in their existing systems to aid in student learning and development of key skills when using new technologies.

The power of digital transformation has been even more evident in the school’s response to COVID-19. The Whitman School, along with the rest of Syracuse University and many other institutions of higher education across the country, has moved all of its courses online and supported staff in a shift to remote work as a result of the global pandemic.

“This kind of move requires an investment in technology, but it also requires a shift in culture—teaching online can be very different from teaching in a physical classroom, and faculty and students alike have to make significant adjustments,” says Kevin Bailey, the Whitman School’s assistant dean for marketing/communications and chief information officer. “And HR, budget, procurement, student advising, and administrative and technology support all have to continue, requiring staff to quickly adjust to connecting and communicating virtually.”

The Whitman School has begun to do so not only in academic and support programs but also in other areas of student-centered services, so that students can feel confident in utilizing new systems that work in tandem with the development of their professional skills.

With the growing popularity of virtual interviews, due to their cost-effectiveness and pre-screening ability, undergraduate career advisors in Whitman Career Services recently replaced a previous online interviewing platform and began using the platform Big Interview to keep up with employer needs, according to Emily Shaughnessy, undergraduate career advisor. The preparation platform allows students to go through lessons in a series of video modules, then record themselves to get feedback. While students may still elect to meet with Career Services staff in-person, Big Interview helps them to feel more comfortable with timed, video interviews that they will likely encounter at some point in their recruiting experience.

“It has become much more relevant now than ever and has replaced a system with more resources and enhancements to support our students’ professional growth,” Shaughnessy says.

In addition, Whitman’s IMPRESS Program has begun implementing new features on the community portal, where students can have a co-curricular transcript created for them to track their IMPRESS engagement and other involvements outside of the classroom. This can be used to build off of an existing resume, to provide tangibility of accomplishments or to reference professionals with whom students have networked, according to Kari Morrow, IMPRESS Program manager.

Another newer system being implemented is Whitman Connect, an online platform for student and alumni engagement and mentorship. “Whitman Connect offers an entry point for alumni who wish to start their engagement by sharing their time and career perspectives,” says Alison Kessler, director of alumni engagement. “The platform is also a great avenue for alumni who are already engaged in other ways to have direct contact with students, which is key to establishing a sense of inclusion in the Whitman community. Students on the platform are able to search for alumni not only by major, career and geography, but also by their selection of preferred engagement options, such as formal mentoring, resume review, mock interviews and job shadowing.“

Connections made on the platform provide insights into how Whitman courses translate in the workplace; the skills and knowledge needed to perform the responsibilities of positions across many roles and industries; varying cultures from firm to firm; and other aspects of the Whitman education experience and life after commencement,” Kessler says. “As well, career connections are often made through student-alumni mentorship, as alumni help students find and secure internships and full-time positions within their firms. The possibilities are endless and the value exponential.”

Since introducing these technologies, Whitman has been able to expand its reach to allow for strengthened networking opportunities for students. “Successful mentorship has a profound impact on the personal and professional development of our students as they pursue their career goals,” says Kyle Danzey, assistant director in Career Services. “Whitman’s culture of mentorship has grown organically through the years, and with the launch of Whitman Connect, we hope to make alumni mentorship even more accessible to all Whitman students.”

Alumni who are interested in joining Whitman Connect should contact Alison Kessler

Julia Fiedler
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