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New Georgetown McDonough Dean Hopes to Build Community

New Georgetown McDonough Dean Hopes to Build Community main image

The Georgetown University McDonough School of Business aims to build upon its Jesuit roots, says new Dean and William R. Berkley Chair Paul Almeida.

As a 23-year veteran of the business school, his knowledge of its ethos can’t be denied. However, his understanding began while growing up in India, where he attended a number of Catholic schools which were often Jesuit.

In fact, he invited a priest to his wedding who gave a toast. Almeida recounts the priest said, “Today is a sad day because we all thought Paul would become a Jesuit priest.”

Almeida says his wife wanted to know who invited the priest, but all kidding aside, the tradition of Jesuit teaching had a profound impact on Almeida’s life. He says, “My idea of how education could change mankind was informed by the Jesuits.”

Now that he’s dean of a school he says immediately “felt like home,” he wants to draw on its foundation and strength to help launch the next generation of business leaders. Right now, business schools are provided the opportunity to act like the businesses they teach about, says Almeida.

“It’s not news that the business of business education is changing rapidly,” he says. But the future is calling for something different this time around. Schools, such as McDonough, will have to be particularly strategic, make smart choices, and reach for innovation, says Almeida.

The importance of strategy and innovation

Strategy and innovation are at the core of Almeida’s scholarship and teaching. Having held a number of positions at McDonough, including deputy dean for executive education and innovation, Almeida is a professor of strategy and international business. His research focuses on innovation, knowledge management, alliances, and informal collaborations across organizations and countries.   

Collaborating with others is a top priority as Almeida begins his second year as dean. First, he plans on maximizing opportunities to work with other schools, such as the School of Foreign Service (SFS), at the university. Almeida says, “Students can’t conduct business in silos; therefore, giving them access or exposure to other areas of study is important.”

In addition, the school must take advantage of its location in the nation’s capital Washington, D.C. Students have access to embassies, advocacy groups, multinational companies, government, and more; can attend events related to international business and the economy, such as those happening at nearby World Bank. Here students can have an impact at the intersection of public and private entities.

Almeida says, “No one can understand better than us how policy and the economy fit together.”

Another group Almeida aims to reach is the school’s international alumni. One goal he has is to establish lifelong learning for members of the community.

The school has already provided free in-person courses for executive MBA alumni, now it hopes to extend the program to others.

And under Almeida’s guidance, alumni in relevant fields are connecting with professors and coming to class to share their perspective and interact with students. He says, “We’re trying to create learning communities across boundaries, time, and campus.”

Changing teaching for the better

On the innovation front, the school must embrace change and teach in new ways, says Almeida. For instance, he says business schools must make their programs more flexible while also maintaining rigor and connecting students to each other and the greater community. It’s a challenge, but one Almeida says everyone must take on.

“We’re part of a 230-year-old institution, and we are anchored by values,” he says. “But we must continue to explore, we have to keep our eyes on the true North.” What he means, Almeida says, is he must make decisions about strategy and partnerships by considering what’s right for students and scholarship and fits into the school’s vision and budget.

Once he decides on changes, Almeida is certain on how to help the community buy into the plan. First, he must communicate the changes, second, he must inspire, and third, he has to incentivize people to make it worth their while, says Almeida.

The new dean aims to make improving the world more than just a part of the school’s mission as a Jesuit institution. He expects it to be a reality, he says.

“We can be the best in the world,” says Almeida, “and the best for the world.”  

Francesca Di Meglio

Francesca Di Meglio has written about higher education for two decades. She covered business schools and all aspects of management education for what became Bloomberg Businessweek from May 2004 to December 2013. Di Meglio was the consultant editor for the book Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting into a Top MBA Program (85 Broads Publishing, 2011), which was written by admissions consultant Betsy Massar. In addition, she is a family travel and parenting blogger at the Italian Mamma website

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