In this exclusive interview with team PaGaLGuY, Prof Andrew Gemino, Associate Dean, Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University, talks about his experience in academia, effect of pandemic on education, and the future prospects in the field.

  1. You are an award-winning academician, co-founder of a software company, a bass & piano player. What has been your driving force and how has your journey been so far in the education domain?

I don’t believe there is necessarily a single driving force for me. When I think about the careers I have pursued and the things I’ve done, my mind leads me to three things that move me. First, I have a real fascination towards innovation. I believe this comes from my years of playing in a rock and roll band. That also helped in developing a student centric approach and I try to deliver what students are looking for. Third, I have a value-based approach where I try to find potential areas where I can add value to a challenging situation or difficult problem.


  1. You took over as the Associate Dean at the Beedie School of Business (BSB) at a very critical time during the ongoing pandemic. What have been your key priorities since you took over and what specific challenges did you face?

The first thing that I focused on was keeping the people at our school – faculty, staff and students – intact and safe. This very idea of community helped me to move forward in these testing times. 

Second, we had this goal of not laying anybody off, and that we could continue all of our students forward in their education as best as we could. I am really proud of the fact that we were able to achieve this goal. These two things were the most important for me to achieve during the ongoing pandemic.


  1. What are the USPs of the programmes at BSB?

It is the idea of being innovative and responsible in all aspects – socially, globally, and environmentally. Thereon, to adopt a global perspective is also important. I think if you look at our unique selling proposition, you would see our city and country plays the most important role here. We are located in Vancouver, which is a beautiful, relatively diverse, and internationally recognised Canadian City. This in itself plays as a huge advantage for our School.


  1. How is the curriculum at BSB being reshaped to address the increased focus on environmental, social and governance concerns, and diversity and inclusion?

Yes, I think you’ll find almost every university is moving in that direction. We have new VPs at a University level being developed and newer sections of administration being introduced. These mechanisms will work towards creating equity, and introduce policies and procedures concerning diversity and inclusion. The focus would be to not necessarily enforce them, but encourage them. Then the challenge will be to sustain this work. In a nutshell, it comes down to, taking a step in the right direction, reinforcing it, and not letting it go.


  1. You’ve won numerous accolades for your innovative approach to teaching. Are there any pedagogical changes implemented by you post the COVID breakout?

What we’re finding actually is, it’s a lot different when you go online than it is face to face. So we have invested in things like class discussions and trying to improve the connection., for example, is a platform for engaging in more effective discussions. We have also implemented more asynchronous work, which means we prepare lectures ahead of time to get students enough flexibility to participate from where they are in the world. Students can then view the lectures online and can get the information they want, and they can also look at stuff that they didn’t understand, and further redo it. We definitely have other upcoming ideas of synchronous discussions where we are utilizing more class exercises and discussions.


  1. How has been your admission cycle for this year? What major challenges are you still anticipating?

We’re very proud to say our classes have 19 different time zones from all over the world, Africa, Latin America, Europe, Asia, India, Middle East. So, we’re very proud of the fact that we’re able to get a global representation in our MBA class. What we found is that our applications have continued and actually got higher this year. Now is the time when students are taking the opportunity to get as much education as they can, so they will be ready to take on fantastic growth when we’re finally able to get past this pandemic.


  1. What are the opportunities for someone who takes up a program at SBS, especially during the ongoing pandemic?

In some sense, it’s almost like we need to develop certain kind of entrepreneurial mindset, regardless of what field one enters into because in near future, organizations around the world are going to need people who can easily adapt to things and drive innovation. This, in a way, can also mean taking a job in an organization that might be a little bit lower than your original expectations, but it offers the opportunities to grow personally and professionally. This is where, according to me, role of education comes into play. 


  1. What is it that you look for in a candidate?

When I think about wide array of candidates, we particularly look for someone who can keep up and be successful in our educational and academic oriented environment. We are looking for people who can collaborate, and people who want to be a part of the solution. We’re looking for students who want to contribute to community, we want students who have potential to make a difference. When students come to our school and they have that attitude, it works really well for both of us.


  1. Finally, what would you want this generation to learn from the COVID pandemic?

I believe that we are in very good hands with the current generation all around the world. I think they are more connected and they understand more things. Considering their wide array of knowledge, I always find myself at a juncture where I have a lot to learn from that generation. In my opinion, therefore, we should all be learning from the experience of the pandemic. It has brought us together while sometimes driving us physically apart. All of us need to understand our similarities, our basic needs. Harbouring on these similarities further, we can act upon and help each other during this pandemic. We, as a human race, have a lot of potential and if realize our potential, we can make great strides forward together.

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