BEI Survey: Engagement in Business Schools: What Did We Learn?

Engagement imageWe conclude our BEI research series on the topic of engagement with a recap of the key findings across all six reports, which explored the results of our national survey of business school deans, associate deans and program directors.

Part 1: Importance and Levels of Engagement

  • Policymakers universally view stakeholder engagement as essential to business school success.
  • Four stakeholder groups were seen as critically important in terms of having high levels of engagement: full-time faculty, students, associate deans/program directors and deans.
  • Levels of current engagement suggest significant room for improvement (i.e., opportunities for increasing engagement). The largest of these gaps were seen for alumni and business community leaders.

Part 2: Engagement Tactics

  • Schools use a variety of tactics to boost engagement. Among the most heavily used tactics were involving business professionals in the classroom, alumni-student networking, guest speaker series, student competitions, student professional development workshops and extracurricular activities (e.g., finance club).
  • Rarely used tactics included involving alumni in the recruitment process and offering training to faculty on how to best promote student engagement.
  • The most often considered tactic—involving business professionals in the classroom—also was seen as the most highly successful tactic. In contrast, alumni-student networking and professional development workshops were highly used, but not widely seen as highly effective.

Part 3: Creating an Engagement Climate

  • Student engagement is widely recognized as essential for developing a positive overall educational climate.
  • Activities outside of the classroom are viewed as critical for a richer educational environment and for having more successful students.
  • Descriptions of educational climate frequently included features such as academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, quality of relationships, student-faculty interaction and on-campus support.
  • Descriptions of educational climate that were rarely used by respondents included words such as “developmental,” “enriching” and “career-focused,” perhaps explaining the obstacles around using extracurricular experiences to promote engagement of part-time MBA students.

Part 4: The Role of Admissions in Engagement

  • Student engagement appeared to be an important concern even prior to admission. For example, most schools indicated that time is allotted during the recruitment process for “helping students determine how a graduate degree in business can contribute to their success.”
  • Actual indicators or evidence that potential students will be engaged are rarely considered (e.g., professional association membership, undergraduate extracurricular activities).
  • A significant disconnect exists between the importance of selecting applicants who are likely to be engaged and the kind of information collected during the admissions process that would allow for improved inferences about future engagement.
  • Recommendations to integrate engagement into the admissions process include examining relevant data (e.g., extracurricular activities), collecting evidence of a proclivity toward engagement, developing and communicating clear expectations for student engagement during the onboarding process, and aligning engagement activities with the school’s unique mission and strategy.

Part 5: Engaging Adjunct Faculty

  • Current levels of engagement among adjunct faculty were seen as quite low.
  • Given that adjunct faculty often make-up roughly 20-25 percent of faculty composition, this means nearly one-fourth of faculty are minimally engaged.
  • Recommendations to boost adjunct faculty engagement include increasing full-time faculty accountability to support adjunct faculty (e.g., “mentors”), better socializing adjunct faculty into the business school culture and increasing social recognition of adjunct faculty.

Part 6: Overcoming Student Engagement Barriers

  • Student work-family demands are believed to be the most critical issue to address in order to bolster student programmatic engagement.
  • Programs neither lack a set of clear expectations for student involvement nor provide consistent feedback with respect to engagement in activities outside of the classroom.
  • Counteractively, recommendations to increase student involvement necessarily involve raising expectations, including discussing expectations prior to enrollment, socializing and educating students as to the critical nature of co-curricular activities, tracking engagement and providing ongoing feedback, and supporting engagement through faculty rewards and involvement requirements.

Click below to read this survey report as a PDF.

Business Education Insider Survey – What We Learned

By Erich C. Dierdorff and Robert S. Rubin, DePaul University Driehaus College of Business

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