When developing its Strategic Plan 2025, Dean Ron Anderson and his colleagues at Temple University’s Fox School of Business took a step back before looking forward.
With reflection and purpose, the strategic planning team saw an opportunity for the Fox School to address how changing technologies, practical research and innovative education can affect the next decade of business.
The team looked at how technology has impacted the world of business so far and saw two fundamentals that need to be met: one, the ability to understand and make decisions using data; and two, the importance of emotional intelligence.
Anderson explained the data-driven approach like this: “Take Amazon, making tens of millions of transactions a day. There’s information that lies in that data. Decision makers must know where it is, how to extract it, and then how to analyze it to make inferences and smart decisions.”
On the other side of the coin, it’s also imperative that business leaders relate to and interact with people. Making a deal, after all, isn’t just about the numbers; it’s often about building a human connection that breeds trust and loyalty.
Realizing that not every student will naturally possess both skill sets in equal measure, Anderson has worked with the business faculty across undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. programs to integrate data and emotional intelligence concepts into the Fox School’s curriculum.
While it’s easy to insert concrete data analytics work into the classroom, much of the people skills are learned face-to-face via interaction with the Fox School’s corporate partners. Anderson says that on any given day, four to five corporate speakers are on campus to interact with students, whether giving a presentation or offering mentorship.
“Turning our students into critical thinkers, that’s a skill set that will help them manage their careers,” said Anderson. “Adding in these new analytical skills and emotional intelligence concepts will make them productive, valuable assets to society.”
In another effort to modernize its curriculum, the Fox School’s Sudipta Basu, associate dean for research and doctoral programs, is bringing research into the spotlight.
The four key pillars of the school’s strategic plan are educational innovation, enhancing the school’s leadership in research, fostering an inclusive environment and engaging the local community.
“Academic research gets published and then stuck in a library,” said Basu. “It is not used to change how business operates. We decided to make our research more practical.”
Basu’s goal is not for students and faculty to conduct research for the sake of research, but to communicate their findings and make an impact on policy at the city, state, national and international levels. Basu feels the integration of data and emotional intelligence is of special importance when translating research into practice.
“We’re incorporating new data-driven tools into our workspaces, like Tableau, so that students can be competitive,” he said. “But it’s people who make decisions. It’s people you have to convince with research.”
Basu has already introduced a handful of hands-on approaches to escalate this conversation. The school’s Translational Research Center hosted a summit for deans from different business schools to discuss ways to make research more relevant and has held case writing seminars for faculty, turning these lessons into online courses. The center is also bringing in executives to share real-life problems from their practice and building faculty members’ capacity to write op-eds that bring research into the current cultural conversation.
Professor Bora Ozkan, academic director of the Fox School’s Online MBA and Online BBA programs, believes the Fox School is an early innovator in advancing online education, so he and his colleagues decided to see if virtual reality could play a role in closing the engagement gap.
“Currently, there are limitations with online courses,” said Ozkan. “You can’t recreate that intense, in-person discussion among students online.”
Over the past year, the team has whipped up an ambitious idea to offer a live, VR online MBA class, called “Fintech Blockchain and Digital Disruption,” in the spring.
“With VR, no matter how far apart they are physically, it can feel like the students are in the same environment, in the same lab,” said Ozkan.
The seven-week course comes with the delivery of a VR headset (to be returned afterward) for each enrolled student. During the two-hour classes, students will see and engage with their classmates’ avatars in a virtual classroom, as well as have full discussions on the future of business, finance and disruption.
Ozkan’s overall goal is to use the data his team collects from online courses fueled by advanced technology to understand students’ behaviors, satisfaction, learning outcomes and teachers’ effectiveness.
“I have a vision where we can use data and machine learning to understand learning behaviors and patterns at the individual level, leading us toward customized education,” said Ozkan. “We’re not there yet, but it’s moving in that direction.”
Educational innovation is one of the four key pillars of the school’s strategic plan, which was announced in the fall of 2019. Enhancing the school’s leadership in research, fostering an inclusive environment and engaging the local community are the other pledged commitments. The next and final phase is selecting which KPIs they will use to measure progress.
“It’s going to be a transparent process,” said Anderson. “People will be able to see what we’re doing and hold us accountable for executing on the strategic plan.”
A strong sense of community is an important part of the new strategic plan at the Fox School, inviting students, alumni and the greater community to engage with the business school in a variety of ways.
“Twenty years ago, you graduated and off you went,” said Anderson. “We want to develop a lifelong learning model. We’re working on building a suite of lifelong learning tools — some online, some face-to-face, perhaps bringing alumni in for TED-style talks. And it’s not just for alumni, it’s for the entire community.”-30-