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Summer 2012 Update

In September 2008, just a few months after becoming President, Shahid and I circulated a paper to faculty and staff with our thoughts on a singular opportunity before the College: to cement and extend our position in entrepreneurship in ways that other colleges and universities would not be able to replicate. Our idea was to further shape our strategy around our competitive advantage—building on what is essential to the Babson experience and accelerating our efforts to strengthen the core of the College, our undergraduate and graduate schools.

By the spring of 2009, after a series of conversations across campus, we reached a community-wide consensus to pursue this opportunity with a new mission for the College—to educate entrepreneurial leaders who create economic and social value…everywhere. We also developed three specific goals: we want to be known as THE educator for Entrepreneurship of All Kinds™; we want to extend our capabilities to the world; and we want to ensure a fully sustainable financial model for the College. Every major institutional initiative and action over the past four years has been linked to at least one of these goals.

Other business schools are aggregators of functional specialties or are wedded to general management. We offer something unique—a method known as Entrepreneurial Thought and Action® (ET&A) that applies to and connects all of our curricular and co-curricular offerings. This method, which extends the context of entrepreneurship to Entrepreneurship of All Kinds, is critical today in organizations of all types and sizes. That’s why we’ve taken steps to share ET&A to impact the world beyond our campus through our programs, initiatives, and actions, often with global partners.

For the past two summers, we have engaged in college-wide conversations in departmental work groups about our progress in achieving the strategic goals for the College. We have seen significant gains in our academic reputation and financial position and we have achieved much greater global visibility for the College. We have excelled in external surveys measuring peer and market recognition and internal surveys measuring student, parent, and alumni satisfaction.

Still, being the recognized leader in entrepreneurship education today does not ensure that we will have a sustainable advantage in the future. In an environment of rapid and unrelenting change in higher education, technology, the economy, and society, being a leader requires continual renewal. We benefit from having an intentional strategic agenda with a clear mission and set of goals. At the same time, we need to be constantly renewing what we do and how we do it—creatively finding ways to generate more value so that Babson gets even better… faster. We have framed our aspirations accordingly—we want to be not just the best at what we do, but the only.

We have some great assets in aspiring to be the only. One of the most important is a tradition of rethinking what we’re doing in ways that few institutions have. Another institution would likely have taken five years for major curriculum change; we did it in both our graduate and undergraduate programs in less than two years. Another institution would not have embarked on campuses in other sites—in our case, San Francisco and in Boston’s Innovation District—in an entrepreneurial way, taking small steps, learning from what worked, and building incrementally on what was learned. Another institution with an executive education program would not have integrated ET&A into many of its program offerings. And, no other school has developed a global network of institutions as the means for bringing its DNA to the world as Babson has with the Global Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education (GCEE). These are only a few examples, but they tell a much larger story about how we pursue an intentional strategy that is distinctive to Babson.

Another asset—our most important—is our people. We have an outstanding faculty and staff who are devoted to Babson and are committed to delivering an extraordinary educational experience. According to our latest Great Colleges To Work For survey results, approximately three out of every four employees agree the vision for the College is clear, and more than 80% of employees understand how they contribute to the College’s mission and feel that overall, Babson is a great place to work. This pride is evident in how employees do their work and in their commitment to the institution.

Given these and other assets—including excellence across all our academic disciplines, our strength in innovative pedagogy, and an action-oriented culture that encourages experimentation—how are we advancing our strategic goals and how can we successfully build on what we have accomplished so far?

Goal #1: We want to be known as THE Educator for Entrepreneurship of All Kinds

Babson continues to be at the center of the entrepreneurship education universe; in fact, we have never been in a more prominent leadership position. Even more than in the past, schools from around the world are beating a path to our campus… they’ve read about us, they’ve heard about us, and now they want to see for themselves how we do what we do so well.

Examples abound of how members of our faculty continue to extend and refine their work in ET&A: the widespread use of The New Entrepreneurial Leader (co-authored by 23 faculty members) on campus and by our peer institutions since its publication last fall, the success of our faculty in influencing their respective fields and business schools with their work, keynote presentations at influential forums and conferences, and other forms of recognition for the ways in which they are applying ET&A across multiple platforms.

On campus, a renewed graduate school curriculum was rolled out last fall in the two-year program and has now been implemented across all our graduate programs. The environment for MBA-granting institutions is especially challenging and, as the turmoil in the graduate education market continues, we have to better understand how to respond to it. Dennis Hanno, the new Murata Dean of the Graduate School, is currently leading a strategic review of the entire portfolio of programs—focusing on more effective positioning and delivery, as well as identifying new program options. Recommendations will be ready for the community later this fall.

In September, we will begin rolling out a new undergraduate curriculum that more fully integrates liberal arts with management, and that has an increased focus on creativity and ET&A, as well as Social, Environmental, Economic Responsibility and Sustainability (SEERS). The FME business project process has been completely redesigned in order to integrate cutting edge and creative concepts such as design thinking and to allow additional time for a deep dive into ET&A. Greater emphasis will be placed on learning from experimentation, action, and reflection as integral to the process of opportunity identification that ultimately leads to a business that creates social and economic value. We are introducing new themes that will help students better understand themselves, their place in society, and their shared values. We will also place greater emphasis on the corporate social responsibility theme that we introduced in a pilot last year. For the first time in FME’s history, we are seeing the emergence of service organizations and we expect that trend to continue. Finally, we expect that these themes will be integrated into other courses in the foundation liberal arts and management curriculum.

In both the undergraduate and graduate schools, ET&A and SEERS will extend well beyond the curriculum. Students spend only 14 hours a week in classes and 154 hours outside the classroom. There is great potential for living and learning entrepreneurially by developing a more robust array of co-curricular activities with links to classroom and practiced-based learning. Moreover, our collaboration with the F.W. Olin College of Engineering and Wellesley College enables us to capitalize on the strengths of each school to offer a wider array of curricular and co-curricular activities to all our students. One of our major initiatives involving the three schools was the undergraduate Certificate Program on Sustainability launched last fall. Faculty and staff participated in a 3-college retreat last month, offering a boatload of new ideas for future collaboration that will be explored during the year.

We are still in the early stages of empowering students to live and learn entrepreneurially. In her new position as Vice President for Student Affairs and Program Strategy, Betsy Newman is exploring with her team new ways to help students be even more involved in the living and learning process.

Our Centers and Institutes on campus reinforce experiential learning through their activities—ranging from the Blank Center’s one-of-a-kind Butler Venture Accelerator and Summer Venture Program, the Lewis Institute for Social Innovation’s Ashoka Changemaker program and student placement on not-for profit boards, the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership’s entrepreneurial networks for women students, and the Cutler Center through the Babson College Fund and its student clubs, to name just a few of the opportunities.

Goal #2: We Want to Extend Babson’s Capabilities to the World

Our impact globally continues to grow in more ways—offshore courses, hands-on projects in all regions of the world, student and faculty exchanges, Babson Executive and Enterprise Education (BEEE) offerings, and global entrepreneurship research programs.

Babson Global projects also have become a major conduit for diffusing ET&A and the Babson brand around the world, especially by bringing like-minded institutional partners (currently from eight countries) to Babson through GCEE; participating in the growing market for new schools in new markets (Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia); funding innovative research projects like the Entrepreneurial Experience Lab; and teaching entrepreneurship education to small business owners in (seven, soon to be nine) U.S. inner cities through Goldman Sachs’s 10,000 Small Businesses program.

The revenues from these projects are generating direct support for the work of the College. The projects are also paying other dividends—enhancing Babson’s reputation and helping to bring new learning back to the College in the form of research and case studies focused on business in the countries of our partner schools.

We also are bringing a broader and more globally diverse population to campus in our core programs, opening ourselves to more opportunities to interact with others who have different perspectives. But the presence of a more diverse population alone doesn’t foster multiple perspectives. We need to maximize the interpersonal learning opportunities arising from being a community of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff from over 100 different countries. As our new Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Sadie Burton-Goss will be exploring ways we can use the ET&A method to enable everyone in the community to get the most from their relationships with one another as well as from their overall Babson experience.

Goal #3: We Want to Ensure a Fully Sustainable Financial Model for the College.

We had a solid financial performance again this year—the sixth year in a row that we were Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) positive. Our increases in revenue have come primarily from tuition growth at the undergraduate school. We also are benefiting from growing revenue streams from GCEE, BEEE, and better utilization of the campus, especially during the summer months. Looking ahead, our five year financial plan forecasts continued operating surpluses.

The successful completion of the Babson Rising campaign in December, raising more than $216 million, was a cause for celebration. While materially more cash from the campaign is not available to the College to spend now, the funds that were raised will be significant for investment in the future.

In addition to fundraising, our budget surpluses and projected growth in diversified sources of revenues will be critically important as we look towards Babson’s Centennial in 2019 and undertake these substantial and ongoing new investments:

The Master Plan provides a blueprint for investing in our physical plant to meet the needs of our programs and community, as well as to address environmental challenges. The Plan will create more spaces in the center of campus for faculty, staff, and students to come together (what I call maximizing the opportunities for spontaneous human collision), build flexibility in our learning spaces, provide great recreational facilities for the entire community, improve the first year living/learning experience... and much more. We have been working on the Plan for the last 14 months with input from constituents across the campus and it will be presented in the coming months to the Board of Trustees for its review and approval. The first project—which is currently being designed—is the new first-year undergraduate residence hall as part of the Park Manor quad. You’ll be hearing much more about our progress on the Master Plan throughout the academic year.

Technology will be embedded in everything that we do. Whether it’s about our commitment to being the best place-based institution of its kind, embracing a dramatic expansion of hybrid learning through the graduate program, or our ability to offer courses for our students wherever they are in the world as part of an uninterrupted educational experience, all learning on and off campus will increasingly become technology-enabled. We are working to ensure that technology-mediated learning creates a more personalized experience for students and a strong sense of community.

One of our greatest human resources challenges is how to develop the “faculty of the future.” Because of the rapidly-changing global marketplace, our faculty will need additional skill sets and will be engaged in different kinds of scholarship and technology-enhanced research and teaching. We are building a strategy around creating, sustaining, and renewing our faculty. Carolyn Hotchkiss, Dean of Faculty, is working with faculty and staff across campus on systems, strategies, and mechanisms for recruiting the next generation of faculty and helping faculty develop new skill sets.

What’s Next?

Earlier I emphasized that in an environment of constant change, continued leadership requires ongoing renewal. That means change in almost every aspect of the way we operate—the way we design and deliver our curriculum; how we use technology; the way we recruit, hire, and develop faculty; and how staff undertake their work. All of us will not only need to be effective in how we work individually and with our immediate teams, but also in collaborating with colleagues across the College.

Of course, there are many examples of collaboration that are underway. A few of these are:

  • Phil Shapiro, our Chief Financial Officer, was asked last year to become an integral part of the faculty position allocation process; he has since become fully conversant with how positions are allocated and the underlying rationale for each one. As a result, Phil can approach requests holistically rather than exclusively from a financial perspective. This kind of collaboration is unusual for a college where the financial function is typically separate from the faculty position allocation process.
  • This year Bob McDonald, Director of Marketing for BEEE, and Cheri Paulson, Director of the Graduate Center for Career Development, began to collaborate on corporate relationships on an ongoing basis. Each of their departments works closely with companies and so they have begun to create their own mechanisms to share information and accounts—all with the goal of becoming more aware of opportunities with their respective clients and contacts and identifying synergies on both sides.
  • Public safety officers—considered among the best observers of students on campus—will be working in new ways with other staff, faculty, and students. Jim Pollard, Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police, is pursuing a community-based model for public safety officers that goes well beyond their traditional role of providing incident reports. They will be working with staff, faculty, students, and other community members in a new form of collaboration to identify issues, establish partnerships, and improve communication while solving problems together.
  • In January 2011, the graduate school and undergraduate admissions, Alumni & Friends, the undergraduate and graduate CCD, and College Marketing worked together to launch an unprecedented networking event in Miami—Babson Connect—on a scale that exceeded anything that had been done previously outside the Northeast. The idea was initiated by graduate students from Latin America interested in getting help networking. The graduate school responded quickly, moved into action, and brought in others on campus to make it a more impactful event. Since then, it has been replicated in New York City and San Francisco (several times) with great success.
  • Founder’s Day used to be a stand-alone event with different staff working separately on their activities without considering the impact on other parts of the campus. Each year Founder’s Day has become increasingly complex. Jaime Doherty, Director of Campus and Community Events, was asked to oversee the Founder’s Day experience to ensure that it is more than the sum of its parts. Jaime brought together colleagues and partners from Alumni & Friends, Development, College Marketing, the Blank Center, the President’s Office, Events Management, the Bernon Center/Student Life, and GPSA to help imagine and execute the activities of the day. The Global Advisory Board also played a significant role in the experience this year, with members hosting Founder’s Day celebrations in cities around the world. It’s a great example of collaboration towards a shared “big picture” goal with high impact strategic results for the College.
  • Community Learning Day was designed, developed, and launched by a cross-campus committee in June 2011 to provide ongoing learning opportunities for employees. The idea was the result of informal feedback from faculty and staff, as well as from responses to the Great Colleges to Work For survey. The 20 or so learning sessions give participating staff and faculty (most participants have been staff) an opportunity to invest in professional and personal development that run the gamut from new professional skills to wellness. What makes the program successful are presenters from across the campus with diverse talents and skills who volunteer their time and the cross-campus team that organizes the day.

We want to find ways to make the kind of partnering in these examples the norm, with staff working entrepreneurially with each other and with faculty to find opportunities to collaborate.

In preparing for our upcoming strategy discussions, I am asking that you give some thought to how you and your work group can engage entrepreneurially and collaboratively with others across campus in ways that are not routine for you; that is, to experiment and try something different—take small steps, learn from what works, and build incrementally on what is learned. This will strengthen the Babson community and the way its members think about each other, moving us even closer to becoming not just the best, but the only.