The Dean's Corner: WPI Business School February 2024
One of my favorite movies is Ground Hog Day, where Bill Murray plays a self-absorbed weather man forced to endlessly repeat February 2, Ground Hog Day, until he lives the perfect day. That perfect day is one that is selflessly given to helping others. Believe it or not, this reminds me of business education.
When I was an undergraduate business major, I learned that the primary objective of business was to increase shareholder wealth and equity. After all, it was through the financing of shareholders that a given entity was able to function as a business. Therefore, strategic business decisions needed to be made to ensure that the shareholders’ interest was the primary focus and consideration. However, in 2019, the Business Roundtable, an association of more than 200 CEOs of leading companies in the US, noted that shareholders are not the sole constituency whose interests must be prioritized. In addition, businesses must:
Deliver value to customers.
Invest in employees through fair compensation, providing professional development and fostering a culture of diversity, inclusion, dignity, and respect.
Deal fairly and ethically with suppliers.
Support the communities in which the business operates, including protecting the environment by embracing sustainable practices.
Thus, the perfect day, even in business, is to selflessly give to positively impact society.
So, what are we doing in the WPI Business School that is in keeping with our commitment to ensuring positive impact to the constituents we prioritize? Given that our first priority is our students, we ensure that they are well supported and prepared with the skills necessary to be successful in their chosen fields of endeavor. Our Programs team devotes themselves to providing academic support and creating community for our students. They were instrumental in helping the Business School welcome 145 new graduate students this academic year, returning us to pre-pandemic enrollment levels. Faculty are embedding value creation concepts into their classes so that students understand the core competency of creating value in every initiative. We are also enhancing Business degree programs, further distinguishing us as a technology focused business school with STEM designated degrees, meaning that our degree programs have the critical balance of business and technology needed in today’s job market.
We prioritize societal impact, meaning that the work that we do makes a difference for those we serve, and our efforts are demonstrated through research. For example, undergraduate and graduate student researchers are working with Professor Adrienne Hall-Phillips to explore how social media can be effectively and ethically harnessed across various aspects of life. Professor Bengisu Tulu is the co-lead of a nearly $17 million-dollar National Institute of Mental Health-funded Center for Accelerating Practices to End Suicide. Her work is quite literally saving lives, as researchers are determining how to accelerate best practices into clinical care across a range of health care settings. Professors Soussan Djamasbi and Andy Trapp received a patent as co-inventors of a system that detects cognitive load using eye-tracking technology. This research has application in education, for example, as it makes it possible to determine whether students are learning or simply being overwhelmed. And Professor Kwamie Dunbar has published research focused on the role of predictability and hedging in cryptocurrency. By understanding investor behaviors and risk aversion, markets will be better able to determine cryptocurrency returns. Each of these examples helps us to further our knowledge and better navigate our world.
And of course, we care deeply about protecting our environment and embracing sustainability practices. Supporting the Green Team Club on campus, several Business School faculty members are involved in the annual Sustainability Series Seminar, an invitation that recognizes our deep involvement Sustainable Development Goals and Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG). For example, and with a focus on environmental sustainability, Professor Michael Elmes was part of the New Zealand Project Center team who documented the lived experience of the indigenous Maori people. Through this project, WPI students are helping to retain, restore, and educate so that the Maori people, their stories, and the practices that steward the land continues. In addition, Business School faculty are heavily involved in various social sustainability areas as well, such as research that disrupts human trafficking, the use of advanced analytics to provide refugee support, and advances that improve health and society.
As we recognize Ground Hog Day, the WPI Business School need not repeat the day in hopes of achieving selfless service and perfection. So much of what we do is focused on giving back to make our students and the communities in which we serve better. It is who we are, and what we instill as we fulfill our mission.
Rev. Debora Jackson, DMin
Dean, WPI Business School
Harry G. Stoddard Endowed Professor of Management