• Learning

New York Smart; World-Class Ready: Executive Education in the Big Apple

A conversation with Fenwick Huss, Willem Kooyker Dean of Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College, and Clayton Shedd, Executive Director of Executive Education


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As a college in the centre of Manhattan, Baruch College is a unique institution, and Zicklin School of Business, the largest school in the college, exemplifies this uniqueness.

Zicklin, which celebrates its Centennial this year, has a proud history as a pioneer in broadening access to public higher education, which continues today through its commitment to fostering social mobility, through its provision of value, excellence, and relevance in its programs, and through its impact in the community.

Offering undergraduate and post graduate degrees, Zicklin has recently taken advantage of its high reputation and its location close the global headquarters of many major companies and non-profits to expand further into executive education.

“Our tradition has been as a vehicle for social mobility – which will continue. But to do that we have to constantly innovate” says Dean Fenwick Huss. “Expanding what we're doing in executive education will not only benefit that enterprise, but will also benefit broadly what we're doing in the academic programs. The insights that we gain from working closely with companies, helping them address the challenges that they're facing, relates directly to what we're preparing our students to do.”

The student body and the faculty both reflect the diversity of New York City as well as its energy. “We are a very non-traditional school in the sense that if you walk through the lobby of our building, it's like being at the United Nations” says Huss. “Just a variety of people represented, which is what really makes it exciting.” Indeed, over 160 countries are represented at Baruch, with students who speak 111 languages.

Our tradition has been as a vehicle for social mobility – which will continue. But to do that we have to constantly innovate

Baruch College is part of the City University of New York system, which ensures Zicklin is relatively affordable. Located in Midtown, and adopting a flexible curriculum, the School is also accessible to students travelling in from the 5 boroughs, particularly for first generation college students, for those from immigrant communities, for people who can't afford to go outside of the State. However, entry standards are high and it is certainly not an easy place to get into.

With a high proportion of students from immigrant families there is a great work ethic. “Our students work incredibly hard and when they enter the workforce, and this is what I hear from organizations that do a lot of recruiting from Baruch, they're ready to work and make a difference” observes Clayton Shedd, Executive Director of Executive Education.

Huss is also proud to explain how this this work ethic is reflected in employability “Employers like our students because, of course, they're very bright, and they're well trained, but they have a work ethic that is unparalleled” he says. “There was a period in our history where in the major financial institutions a lot of our graduates went to back office jobs. That has changed over time. We're now placing them in front office, client-facing positions. And that's required a fairly substantial investment on the school's part in developing ‘soft skills’ – communication and leadership skills.”

Situated close to Wall Street, finance and accounting have always been key areas for Zickin and remain so. However, today with 200 full-time faculty the School has bench strength in a variety of areas that are highly relevant to the executive community. “For example, in the Information Systems group, a number of faculty focus on cybersecurity” points out Huss. “And in our marketing area, we have traditional marketers, but also digital marketing expertise. In our law group, we have traditional law courses, but also law courses related to cybersecurity, data privacy as well as emerging topics around artificial intelligence. We have a distinguished lecturer in our law group who was the chief risk officer for Barclays Bank. So, we have a lot of different expertise and our goal is to capitalize on it.”

Helping students and client companies navigate the complexities of a fast-changing world is central to the School’s purpose. To do this continuous innovation is critical. “We're literally changing things semester to semester, and in some areas, such as in our IS group, technology is changing so fast that we update the syllabus as we go along” says Huss. This presents an interesting challenge for the faculty, and offers, through its close connection to the New York business community, a number of ways through executive education that the School can share this developing expertise.

At a time when there's been a growing atmosphere of anti-business and a perception that the market economy system is going the wrong way, Baruch College has strong story to tell as an institution very much focused on positive community impact, and on sustainability. “Our tuition is very modest, so most of our students leave without college debt. And also, our students are very interested in all issues around sustainability” says Huss “We have a number of research centers that are doing work on corporate responsibility, an area our students are increasingly interested in.”

As far as the development of executive education at Zicklin, at this stage the focus is on custom programs, offering services primarily to the New York business community the School is so well connected to. Quoting the business school watch-word ‘We bridge theory to practice’, Clayton Shedd says “It's absolutely critical here. It fits with the work ethic of our students and faculty, and also translates into the executive education offerings that we're building.” Looking ahead he also highlights the opportunity he sees for developing executive education more internationally. “We are making an impact in this international way: Because so many students are from families with roots elsewhere in the world, we are touching the international community in a way that only a school in New York can do.” This something he is beginning to exploit working in collaboration with overseas business schools.

In conclusion Dean Huss asserts the real goal of the School is to support lifelong learning. “Lifelong learning as a concept through both academic programs and executive education is absolutely critical” he says. “For example, a number of our students do an undergraduate program, then they do a master of science program in a specialized area, whether it's technology, or marketing, or tax. And then after working a few years, when thinking about moving to a leadership role, they come back for an MBA or executive MBA. Then once they reach a senior position, they come back for an executive doctorate, which is a very applied research degree. I really see this as the opportunity for business schools: to be a builder of capital throughout one's career.”

In 1930 Zicklin Business School welcomed its first female MBA students and in 1937 the first African-American woman earned an MBA from the School. As an inclusive institution dedicated to social mobility, Zicklin has always been ahead of the curve. It now brings this ethos to lifelong learning and to executive education.”

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