In recent years, the realm of Master of Business Administration (MBA) programmes has experienced a significant metamorphosis, mirroring the evolving demands and opportunities of the business landscape. With the global economy in a state of constant flux and technological advancements disrupting traditional business models, MBA programmes have undergone adaptations to equip aspiring professionals with the necessary skills and knowledge to thrive in this dynamic environment.
In this article, we embark on a journey to explore the evolving landscapes of MBA education and the exciting prospects they present to individuals aspiring to enhance their career trajectory and make a meaningful impact in today’s competitive business landscape. From innovative curriculum designs to specialised concentrations and experiential learning opportunities, modern MBA programmes have unlocked a realm of possibilities, empowering graduates to excel in diverse industries and leadership roles.
Join us on an exploration into the transformative changes shaping the future of MBA education and uncovering the immense potential it offers aspiring business leaders. In an exclusive interview with Dr Raghu Tadepalli, the Dean of the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business at Elon University, we gained valuable insights into how an MBA can mould future leaders who embody thoughtfulness and community engagement. Dr. Tadepalli emphasised the importance of cultivating critical thinking skills and maintaining an open mind, revealing the essential qualities young professionals need to thrive in the business world and in life.
Q1. What motivated your decision to pursue the path of academia? Was it a long-standing aspiration or a journey you serendipitously embarked upon?
Ans. That’s an excellent question! In 1982, I made the decision to pursue my MBA at Arizona State University in the United States. Originally, the plan was for me to complete my degree and return home to assist my family, who owned a movie theatre in my hometown. At that time, my wife and one-year-old son were in India, so the idea was for me to finish my studies and then go back home.
However, during the first semester, a few of my professors took me out for lunch and raised the idea of pursuing a PhD, which had never crossed my mind before. They believed that I had the potential to excel in any PhD programme based on my performance. This got me thinking, and it was customary for MBA students to start job hunting towards the end of their studies. So, I attended a few interviews with companies while also following the advice of my professors and applying to some PhD programmes.
During a conversation with my wife, who was still in India at the time, she suggested that I should remain in the US and that they would join me there soon. This prompted me to consider my options, and the idea of pursuing a PhD started to intrigue me. Before long, I received acceptance into a PhD programme, although I must admit it wasn’t a thoroughly planned decision. Sometimes, you find yourself on a train and suddenly realise you’ve arrived at an unexpected destination.
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Q2. How would you describe the global business world? According to you, what are the three key trends that are shaping the year 2023 in the business world?
Ans: In my opinion, there are several key factors to consider regarding the future of the business world:
- The rise of artificial intelligence (AI): I strongly believe that companies will increasingly rely on AI to enhance productivity. In some cases, they may even replace human workers with computers or AI chatbots. This is an emerging trend that we have noticed.
- Globalisation and labour export: For countries like India, globalisation has brought about market growth and opportunities for labour export. If individuals can freely move to other countries to work and contribute to their development, it benefits both India and those countries. However, as globalisation progresses, there is also a fear among people in these countries of losing job opportunities. This is something to observe and be cautious about.
- The long-term impact of the pandemic: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound and lasting impact on the business world. In the US, for example, the work-from-home movement continues to be strong, and companies offering remote work have a competitive advantage. This shift towards remote work allows individuals to work from anywhere, bridging the geographical gaps caused by globalisation.
- Managing a dispersed workforce: With remote work becoming more prevalent, it becomes crucial to consider how to effectively manage a workforce scattered across different time zones and locations. Traditional management approaches focused on employees in the same physical space need to adapt to this new reality. It requires focused training and preparation of young talent to excel in managing remote teams and projects.
These trends and challenges highlight the need for businesses and educational institutions to adapt and equip individuals with the skills and knowledge necessary to thrive in an evolving and interconnected world.
Q3. In light of the changing business landscape, what, according to you, are the three unique advantages that an MBA offers to a student in the year 2023?
Ans. Having obtained my MBA and PhD in the US, I reflect on the valuable skills I gained from both degrees. My PhD equipped me with research capabilities, but as the Dean for the past fourteen years, my primary focus has been people management. In my role as the Dean, I manage individuals, shape the business school’s vision, persuade donors of our value, and influence my colleagues to adopt certain initiatives. These management and leadership skills are the ones I learned during my MBA.
When I advise my MBA students, I emphasise the significance of critical thinking over subjects like finance and operations. In a world influenced by AI, the value of an MBA lies in the ability to develop critical thinking skills and the aptitude to ask the right questions. For example, when using tools like ChatGPT, you need to understand how to frame a prompt, which is crucial for obtaining accurate results. Critical thinking and emotional intelligence (EQ) development holds immense value in an MBA programme.
While the MBA curriculum covers technical aspects and formulas, it becomes less about theoretical knowledge and more about practical problem-solving once you move beyond your initial job. This transition is an important aspect for me to acknowledge.
In business schools and MBA programmes, we often face the question of what we aspire to be in the next ten years—whether it’s a CEO, CFO, or CMO. I advise students to respond simply by expressing their desire to become good human beings. Focusing on personal growth and integrity is paramount, as it sets the foundation for success. Avoiding political games and excessive competition helps in the long run.
Additionally, an MBA can provide a valuable opportunity to consider how to give back. While an MBA can lead to personal success, my achievements are not solely individual. Therefore, contemplating ways to support the community, the college, professors, and fellow students becomes essential.
Q4. What are the three fundamental attributes necessary for an individual to thrive in an MBA programme?
Ans. Maintaining an open mind is of utmost importance to me. Prior to my current role as the Dean of the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business, I had the privilege of serving as the Dean at Babson College. During my time there, I had the opportunity to interact with numerous students from India. I found it fascinating to witness that even though some of these students possessed impressive GMAT scores, they tended to limit their focus and disregard fields such as marketing or organisational behaviour, favouring only a select few areas.
This experience served as a reminder of the significance of keeping an open mind and not hastily dismissing subjects or opportunities within an MBA programme.
Emphasising Learning as the Primary Objective
Making learning the primary objective is crucial when pursuing an MBA. It is vital to approach even familiar subjects with patience and avoid dismissing them too quickly. Every topic offers an opportunity for growth and deeper understanding, regardless of previous encounters.
Learning from Diverse Sources
An MBA programme provides a valuable chance to learn from a wide range of sources. While books, case studies, and projects offer valuable insights, engaging with classmates from diverse backgrounds is equally important. Their unique perspectives and experiences can broaden our understanding and enrich our learning. Actively listening to their insights and understanding their viewpoints becomes a crucial aspect of the learning process.
Developing Leadership Skills through Collaboration
Developing excellent leadership skills is a significant aspect of an MBA programme. Collaborative group projects often present situations where ideas are challenged, and no single individual holds all the authority. How we respond to such situations tests our adaptability and ability to work effectively with others. Learning how to navigate differing opinions, negotiate, and present ideas in an acceptable manner are invaluable skills students can cultivate during their MBA journey.
These skills are particularly important as you enter the workforce, where you will encounter a variety of individuals. Learning to give and take, negotiate, and communicate effectively are essential attributes that an MBA programme can help develop.
Q5. What factors led you to select Elon University for your career pursuits?
Ans – I chose this institution because, as the Business School Dean, I truly appreciate the value that Liberal Arts brings to the table. When I observe the MBA programmes and see some of the best MBA students coming from diverse fields such as English, Philosophy, or Spanish, it highlights the broad range of knowledge they have acquired. A Liberal Arts programme teaches you to think in a very comprehensive manner.
In my academic journey, I initially studied Mathematics in India before venturing into the field of Accounting. However, I recognised that Accounting can be relatively narrow, with problem sets that have clear right or wrong answers. What I admire about Liberal Arts is the absence of absolutes – there is no strict black and white, but rather a myriad of shades of grey. In life, we often encounter complex situations with no straightforward yes or no answers; it’s all about navigating uncertainty. That’s why I have always sought to be part of an institution that places a high value on Liberal Arts, which led me to the decision to join Elon University.
Q6. How has the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business adapted its curriculum to meet the evolving demands and expectations of the industry?
Ans. Every June, I meet with my five career services colleagues to discuss the employer feedback we’ve received. My main focus is understanding why some students, despite going through multiple interviews, don’t secure their desired jobs. We analyse these cases and make changes to our curriculum accordingly.
For instance, this summer, we are revising the syllabus of all our courses to incorporate modules on artificial intelligence (AI). We want to teach our students how to utilise AI tools like ChatGPT effectively. While they won’t become AI experts, they will gain valuable knowledge that can give them an advantage during interviews. This approach mirrors what we did with Excel years ago when we made it a mandatory skill for all students.
In 2013, we also aligned our finance curriculum with the CFA programme. We constantly update our syllabus, using the summer period to make necessary revisions. I have provided grants to several faculty members to integrate AI into their fall courses. Additionally, we maintain a strong feedback loop with the career cells, regularly meeting with board members and alums in cities like New York and Boston, where many of our employers are located, to stay informed about industry trends.
Q7. As the Dean of the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business, which leadership method or approach do you consider most effective in fulfilling your role?
Ans. There are two principles that guide my approach as the Dean of the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business. Firstly, I prioritise honesty and consistency in my interactions with colleagues. I avoid playing games or giving contradictory instructions to different individuals. Treating people as I would like to be treated is paramount.
Secondly, I maintain an open-door policy. Colleagues know that they can drop by my office at any time. Over the years, I have recruited nearly fifty people, many of whom visit my office to chat or seek advice. When someone comes to my office, I ensure that the focus of the discussion remains on them and their concerns.
Rather than telling them what to do, I follow my wife’s approach – I ask them about their options and help them think through the pros and cons. These are intelligent individuals who seek assistance in making decisions, not a directive. This process builds their confidence and empowers them to trust their judgement.
These are some fundamental aspects of my leadership approach. Additionally, three times a week, I set aside an hour to take my phone and visit different offices. During these visits, I focus on getting to know colleagues on a personal level, asking about their families and non-work-related matters. I want them to understand that I genuinely care about them as individuals, not just employees, as we often discuss work-related topics.
Q8. How would you define success?
Ans. For me, personal success boils down to something I mentioned earlier – being able to sleep peacefully at night. I firmly believe that differences of opinion are natural, and I often remind my colleagues that our disagreements are limited to specific issues. We can have opposing views on a particular matter yet still enjoy a cup of coffee, lunch, or dinner together.
Disagreement on one topic does not make someone a wrong person, nor does it make me one. So, as I mentioned before, the ultimate key to success is simply being a good human being. When people can describe someone as a good human being, it encompasses everything that truly matters.
About Martha & Spencer Love School of Business, Elon University
The MBA programme at Martha and Spencer Love School of Business, Elon University, offers a dynamic educational experience. With a robust curriculum and a focus on experiential learning, students gain practical skills and knowledge to succeed in business. The programme has an excellent placement record, with a significant percentage of graduates securing job offers within three months of graduation. Additionally, the school consistently ranks among the top business schools in US and is recognised for its quality education, faculty expertise, and student outcomes. Pursuing an MBA at Martha and Spencer Love School of Business provides a solid foundation for career advancement and professional success.
To learn more about the MBA at the Martha & Spencer Love School of Business, Elon University, click here.
To gather further details about the MBA programme for the 2023-24 academic year, please visit the website: https://www.pagalguy.com/mba. If you are interested in pursuing an MBA in India and preparing for the CAT 2023 exam, we recommend joining the CAT Prep 2023 community on PaGaLGuY. here, you can access CAT previous years’ question papers with solutions, read student reviews of CAT 2022, and find valuable resources to aid in your CAT preparation.