A Corporate and Academy Collaboration Done Right . . . and How it Can Inform the Student Experience

This is a guest post by Vicki L Baker, a contributor, along with co-author Peter Boumgarden, to the September-October issue of Academe. She is associate professor of economics and management at Albion College, where she teaches management, organizational behavior, and leadership courses.

PHOTO BY SNEHITDESIGN/VEER

PHOTO BY SNEHITDESIGN/VEER

As a business educator who has been in higher education for nearly 12 years, I am always seeking opportunities to enhance the learning experiences of my students – and myself. I am the management professor at Albion College (as the students so warmly refer to me) and I stress the importance of relationship building as foundational to any topic I discuss in my courses whether it be leadership, management, team building, or international management. Relationship building is predicated on two fundamental building blocks – collaboration and trust. Collaboration is a necessary action that helps build that trust which then supports the long-term relationship building efforts.

To illustrate these concepts, I have students read case studies; engage in team simulations, and read management and leadership books by the greats. TED talks have also become a more recent pedagogical tool that have supported my classroom efforts in a very significant way. However, it’s actual real life examples that students can see and touch that help to make these ideas more salient in their minds. I am fortunate that one such opportunity arose for me as a member of the faculty team assembled by the Michigan Colleges Alliance (MCA) to work with Shape Corporation (Headquartered in Grand Haven, MI) as they seek to develop their next generation of leaders through the inaugural Global Leadership Development Program (GLDP).

As my article, A Liberal Arts Perspective on Engaged Executive Education,” co-written with Peter Boumgarden from Hope College, states, we have been fortunate to be involved in the ground up development of the GLDP which I helped kick off in Shanghai, China this past May. It took nearly 18 months of planning (and re-planning) to get us to China and it was those work sessions that supported our relationship building efforts between the MCA faculty team and the amazing executive team at Shape. Their primary goal was to create an innovative learning environment that was to mirror the type of environment they hoped the next generation of leaders can further develop in their growing, global organization. It was our (the faculty members’) charge to figure out how to make that happen. Each faculty member worked with a Shape Executive to develop Shape specific content and mini-cases. We then pilot tested those teaching materials with Shape Leadership Council.

The result has been, what I would call, a model example of how corporations and the academy can engage in teamwork done right – built on collaboration and the development of trust resulting in a win-win for all parties. I so greatly value the relationship I developed with my Shape Peer (Doug Peterson, VP for Human Resources and the “brain child” behind the GLDP idea) given the outcomes have been the development of really strong case studies about teams, leadership, and mentoring as well as a friendship and colleagueship. Module 2 is also now in the books (Peter delivered content on Strategy in Prague this past August) and we have learned so much about how to make engaged executive education with a liberal arts learning approach mirror the type of learning environment that develops the skills we liberal arts college faculty members value so immensely. It is also nice to see that, as we liberal arts college faculty already know, that environment and focus on skill development transcends all learning environments – regardless of students’ age, experience, and end goals.

Our participation in the GLDP has also benefitted our own students. Several of us, including myself, pilot tested the readings and other case materials in our own classrooms with undergraduates. Those sessions have been supported by Shape Executives where our students can hear “what really happened” and the thinking that lead to the outcomes featured in the cases. I personally see a life-long collaboration with the Shape family – their organizational values very much align with our (liberal arts college faculty) approach to educating the next generation of professionals – regardless of career stage.

Articles from the current and past issues of Academe are available online. AAUP members receive a subscription to the magazine, available both by mail and as a downloadable PDF, as a benefit of membership.

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