Business Schools Must Drive Inclusive Growth, Says HEC Paris’ New Associate Dean of ExEd |

Business Schools Must Drive Inclusive Growth, Says HEC Paris’ New Associate Dean of ExEd

By Linda Mohamed

Updated December 7, 2020 Updated December 7, 2020

2020 has been an extremely challenging year for business schools worldwide, and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are expected to affect higher education well into 2021 and perhaps even 2022.

Nevertheless, as MBA programs worldwide continue to meet expectations despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, b-school faculty and staff believe the most recent crisis will foster growth within student communities and higher education as a whole.

TopMBA caught up with Professor Anne-Valérie Corboz, newly-appointed Associate Dean of Executive Education at HEC Paris, to find out what the future holds for business schools.

The transformative power of education

Prof. Corboz’s career didn’t begin in education. It was only after years of experience across sectors – including pharmaceuticals and sport – that she landed her first job with IMD as an Associate Director of partnerships, where she realized the transformative power of education.

She said: “I completely fell in love with the industry, one in which you can have a positive impact by working with individuals become their better self, better leaders.”

After 13 years at IMD, Prof. Corboz held faculty and executive roles at b-schools and global firms across the globe, including INSEAD, Singapore Management University, Duke Corporate Education and Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

Despite splitting her time between education and business, she says the years spent outside of HE allowed her to acquire the innovative flair necessary to foster change within business schools.

She said: “I believe all faculty should have a stint in the ‘real world’, because it’s the only way of confronting theory function to the complexity of reality.

“I was lucky to work in industry, in consulting as well as with business schools that were very industry-focused, because the variety of experiences allowed me to apprehend a breadth and depth of issues that were meaningful for our participants and clients.”

The importance of making mistakes

In March 2020, having returned to Europe with years of business experience in Asia and a newly-acquired PhD in Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation, Prof. Corboz was offered her current role of Associate Dean of Executive Education at HEC Paris.

She says the school possesses a unique “blend” of entrepreneurial spirit and innovation – two things she hopes to foster even more in the future by helping students explore their abilities in a stimulating environment.

She said: “A learning environment provides a safe space that enables accelerated learning, one which allows the participant to make mistakes, experiment and test. In addition, meeting peers from other companies and industries, and working with case studies expose the participant to issues and solutions, and provides insights that would take years to gain in the workplace. So not only do you have access to different functions and different roles and different problems, you're given frameworks and tools to work through solutions.”

She added: “I think we [higher education institutions] have a mission, an obligation and an opportunity to make the world a better place by helping people become better leaders.”

Driving inclusive growth through entrepreneurship

When asked what goals she hopes to achieve in her new role, Prof. Corboz said: “I think the goal of any business school right now is, really, to drive inclusive growth. There’s a mission around helping the fabric of society survive huge crises. But how do we support inclusive growth? How do we support small and medium enterprises, start-ups, large multinationals?”

Prof. Corboz says HEC Paris, one of Europe’s biggest hubs for entrepreneurship, is well positioned to drive innovation, inclusive growth and what she defines “purposeful leadership” – something she hopes to implement more in postgraduate degrees, such as MBAs and EMBAs.

She said: “Entrepreneurship is the beating heart of any societal and economic wellbeing. You need an entrepreneur to start a small business that might become a big company. We want entrepreneurs because we want innovation and creativity, we want people to think differently.”

Prof. Corboz adds that there is another element to driving innovation that b-schools must foster: the rise of circular economies, and the wide range of skills required to make them function.

She said: “Everything associated with sustainability, smart systems cities, data, AI – all these technologies will be absolutely critical. I see a drive in students to specialize in these topics, but they need to understand that they need to acquire versatility.

“The boundaries between industries are blurring, and business schools need to adopt an even greater transversal, cross-department, cross-specialization approach to learning.”

Prof. Corboz says she is “excited” for the future, both for HEC Paris and the wider higher education industry.

She said: “[This year] there has been a humanitarian crisis, a societal crisis, a medical crisis and an organizational crisis. But the silver lining is that we now know the dark side of things, and I’m excited to see if we will have evolved as people to be more human-centred and more trusting.

“I’m hopeful about the fact that all this will make us better people in the long run.”

This article was originally published in December 2020 .

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