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Organizational Excellence

From the Dean: The World is Changing… So is Poole

How do global trends impact the future higher education? Dean Buckless shares his perspective.

Dean Buckless

By Frank Buckless

Life today looks vastly different than it did even six months ago. Public health crises, climate change, social unrest and economic upheaval are changing life — and business — as we know it. At Poole, we force ourselves to lean into change, even when it’s uncomfortable. It’s our willingness as a college to learn, process, adapt and innovate that allows us to graduate student after student with the skills, knowledge and resilience necessary to change the world.

So what changes are we seeing? 

For the first time in generations, the populations of developed countries like the United States are stabilizing — even shrinking. Experts predict that by 2050, India will be the most populated country through the end of the current century. Accordingly, we must prepare our students for a different world than the one we grew up in: a world no longer dominated by Western culture. What will this mean for us as a nation? What will happen once the United States no longer has the world’s largest economy? How can we prepare our students to understand these shifts in global markets and to capitalize on them? 

Accordingly, we must prepare our students for a different world than the one we grew up in: a world no longer dominated by Western culture.

We are facing significant challenges in terms of our world’s climate and resources. Nineteen of the last 20 years have been the warmest in our history. Weather patterns are impacting businesses with unprecedented regularity. With these changes come significant upheaval in business operations. How can we help our students become more resilient in the face of disruption?

The change of pace in the world of technology is extraordinary. Applications of artificial intelligence are still in its infancy, but that’s going to change — rapidly. Are Poole graduates prepared for this brave new world? How can we challenge our students to not only withstand these changes, but use them to their advantage?

As the world changes, so must higher education.

We continue to see massive divides in economic and wealth distribution. Fewer people today can afford to go to college — at least without working to offset tuition costs. How can we achieve our mission to deliver a world-class education, the kind that changes the lives of the students who pursue it? We expect COVID-19 to make lasting changes to the way businesses operate. More people than ever are working remotely, which may challenge the urban-rural workplace divide as companies recognize employees can truly work from anywhere. These are just a few of the trends we’re continuing to watch in order to evaluate the potential impacts on the future of education.

We expect COVID-19 to make lasting changes to the way businesses operate.

Through it all, we’re committed to helping every student become resilient, fearless and adaptive to change. We want to graduate dynamic networkers, innovative thinkers and creative problem-solvers. Theoretical knowledge will not be our differentiator — a concept many institutions of higher education have a hard time releasing. Knowledge is now at the fingertips of anyone with a cellphone and Wi-Fi signal. 

The new questions are: Can you apply knowledge? Put theory to practice? Advocate for your idea? Withstand adversity? Recognize the shifts in the world and respond accordingly? 

As part of NC State, Poole plays a unique role as a connector across colleges and disciplines, from engineering to humanities. Our work in supply chain, entrepreneurship, enterprise risk management and analytics gives us the opportunity to create partnerships across campus where our students can solve real problems. We’re opening doors for our students to collaborate with peers and faculty from diverse backgrounds and skill sets to apply knowledge, springboard ideas and launch products. 

And the world is watching.

Last year, NC State and Poole were recognized in the top 10 of all undergraduate entrepreneurship programs in the country — and we’re just getting started. We continue to expand practicum opportunities for our students to immerse themselves in projects with real challenges and opportunities confronting organizations. Our students meet with C-level executives, pitch ideas, respond to challenges and learn to work as a team. Our Business Analytics Honors Program gives students the opportunity to partner with organizations to use data to better understand, predict and manage their business models. Meanwhile, our eClinic immerses students in an entrepreneurial ecosystem to observe and learn from startup founders.

We’ll spend less time on knowledge delivery and more on creation, collaboration and connection.

We continue to seek new immersive experiences to bring into the classrooms. We’ll spend less time on knowledge delivery and more on creation, collaboration and connection. That is, after all, what today’s businesses want to see. Our employers regularly commend our graduates for their ability to jump into new positions with the level of skill and confidence expected of employees with years of experience under their belts.

So we won’t stop. We’ll continue to push our students to think bigger, take risks, learn from mistakes and be tenacious about pursuing excellence in whatever paths they choose. Our graduates will continue to be the dreamers, disruptors and innovators who will change the world. 

And the world is waiting.

Always looking forward,

Frank Buckless
Stephen P. Zelnak Jr. Dean
Poole College of Management

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