Time for change says Dana Brown, Dean of Sprott School of Business, Carleton University

Stephanie Mullins, Associate Director at specialist business education PR consultancy, BlueSky Education, spoke with Dana Brown, Dean of the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University in Canada, about the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the institution and the wider industry for an upcoming podcast.

“We don’t want to go back to the way things were, we want it to be better,” says Brown, who was appointed as Dean in July 2019.

“The conditions around the pandemic have almost immediately pulled us closer to our local business community and it became clear within weeks of us locking down, that we would need to be closer partners with these communities in the process of recovery, rethinking and re-strategizing for the future.”

Brown and I agree that it is positive to see partnerships being developed out of a situation that has caused so much unprecedented change. Business schools are full of fantastic minds that can really help and provide guidance for people trying to navigate a whole new world.

“To have a kind of positive outlook in the future doesn’t mean that we don’t recognise how hard this has been for small business owners. I think we are merely looking at how can we help, and add value to the future. There’ll be a rough road and I think as many minds that are on the challenges that we face, the better,” says Brown.

Since COVID-19 swept across the globe, there has been a significant impact on businesses and the economy. It was a fast-moving and unexpected crisis so, unsurprisingly, many businesses were not prepared to handle this, which means they have had to rely on the support of others to guide them through this time.

Universities have been key in helping businesses

As a result of this uncertain situation, an expert’s opinion has been sought more than ever to help people understand the impact, and how to react to it. Higher education institutions globally have been offering their support, by providing research and academic advice, as well as offering their students’ skillset to businesses.

At the Sprott School of Business, Brown says that the students have been “absolutely fantastic” when it comes to trying to make a difference for businesses, “we put together a crisis management and recovery certificate programme and matched the students with local business offices to help work on strategizing for the future.” Brown explains how the students apply the same kind of entrepreneurial mindset, the skills they use to leverage resources, and strategies in business to think through the challenges that we’re facing in the world today.

It’s an excellent initiative, and part of a positive impact that I hope will continue long-term. The pandemic has really highlighted the importance of partnerships and I think that we are going to see a lot of changes ahead, not just in the way business and in particular business education, is taught.

“Consumer habits are changing. I think overall society is reflecting a lot more on our ways of living, our values, what we consume, how we consume, where things are coming from. I think this will have a major impact on business practice,” Brown says, “I’ve long been an advocate for sustainability in business practices and responsible management and now I think this becomes kind of a core element of the way that businesses operate in the future.”

The future of business education will change

It appears that business schools are seeing a lot of movement away from teaching the standard shareholder value of business to thinking more broadly about sustainability and society. The new partnerships that have been developed at Sprott mean that students can have an impact, but also represent an opportunity for students to learn in a different way.

As a result of the pandemic, Brown also believes that there will be a lot more hands-on learning for students, “There’s no textbook that is going to tell us what the future looks like, right? So, we need to be in there to engage, reflect, and use our knowledge to influence the direction business are going and students will be a part of that. To me, that’s an exciting journey for students to go on.”

Brown left me with one last interesting point about the future of business education, one I think people will agree with.

“The classroom will no longer be the locus of education, I think that the world, the community, and the businesses, will become the places where education will occur.”