The Dean Goes to Davos

Norean R. Sharpe, Ph.D., Dean of the Peter J. Tobin College of Business, Participated in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Norean Sharpe
January 28, 2019

Norean R. Sharpe, Ph.D., Dean of The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, was one of a select group of international business deans who attended a Business Roundtable hosted by the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) and Corporate Knights at the World Economic Forum on January 23 in Davos, Switzerland. The theme of this year’s roundtable discussion was Sustainable Finance and the Current State of Business School Rankings. Upon her return from Davos, Dean Sharpe sat down with St. John’s Business to share her experiences and thoughts on the future of business education.

What are your key takeaways from your discussions in Davos?

There is a need to break down barriers within our institutions in order to integrate the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into our finance curriculum. While many schools discuss the challenges and advantages of impact investing with our students, we must do a better job of educating all students in the areas of corporate, social, and financial sustainability. We understand that business schools and businesses can and must work closely together to transform the finance curriculum and educate future business leaders who understand that having a positive impact does not sacrifice financial returns. 

Did your group discuss sustainability in other business disciplines?

Yes, we also discussed the advances of sustainability in the area of accounting. In fact, Tobin is ahead of most business schools in this regard because our Accounting Department has already created a track in sustainability for accounting majors. However, we must do better in reaching more students in this area—both at the undergraduate and graduate level. As one of only 38 institutions to attain the distinction of being a UN PRME Champion, Tobin is committed to integrating sustainability into our curriculum.

You noted that another topic of discussion was the state of current business school rankings. Would you elaborate?

The focal point of this discussion was a report recently published by UN Global Compact, which was presented simultaneously to our group in Davos and a second group of business school deans in Shanghai the same week. This report analyzed recent rankings from the Financial Times, The Economist, US News & World Report, Businessweek, and Forbes, and provided recommendations to improve business school rankings in general. These international rankings were critiqued for overemphasizing salaries and not considering progress in the areas of sustainability, ethics, and teaching quality. Possible actions they recommended include eliminating salary as a consideration; incorporating criteria that measure progress toward including the SDGs in the curriculum and research; and rewarding schools that place students in jobs that have social value.

What other sessions did you attend in Davos?

I attended sessions on fintech and blockchain, and it is clear to me that our financial environment is evolving so rapidly that it is going to be challenging to keep our curriculum current. In addition to providing professional development for our faculty, we must also prepare our students to embrace change and be passionate about learning new technologies. When we hired our faculty over the past several years, they could not have imagined that we should be teaching artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Business education cannot be static. Rather, it is a moving target, and we must continually survey our employers and benchmark against other institutions to educate the business leaders of tomorrow.