“Success will depend on the world that we collectively help construct.” These were the words of Michelle Bernard, MSNBC journalist, political analyst, and author, who gave the commencement address this year at the Ross School’s graduation ceremonies. As I listened to her speak, I was struck by the profound message she was imparting to our graduates.
We face extraordinary challenges today that span international politics, social wellbeing, and the economy. It is not just the social world and the public sector that shape and are shaped by these challenges. These challenges shape every aspect of how we conduct business. And business in turn shapes these challenges, whether through the creation of jobs, products and services, or wealth. Social issues and business are inextricably linked, and business is now a critical force (in some instances the critical force) for moving society forward.
The role of business schools in shaping leaders to address the most consequential issues of our time is something I am deeply passionate about. At the macro level, government and business leaders must effectively work together to identify the right policies that will improve our world. And at the micro level, we need to recognize the impact of our business actions on our communities – whether through hiring, investment, or environmental practices.
At Ross we take seriously the responsibility to prepare leaders with the vision, insight, and courage to solve the important issues of our time. We challenge students to think deeply and seriously about both problems and potential solutions so that as leaders they can challenge convention and status quo.
The impact of individual and collective action is learned no more clearly than through our MBA programs’ Multidisciplinary Action Projects course. As students collaborate to solve challenges in organizations throughout the world, whether with a nonprofit to advance a public initiative or a large corporation to devise a product launch strategy, the interdependence of the project, the team, and broader social contexts become highly real.
A wide range of offerings at Ross also highlight the interplay between business and society: Programs at the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise and the Nonprofit and Public Management Center, dual degree and cross-enrollment opportunities with the Ford School and the School of Public Health, the Washington Campus for MBA students, the Carson Scholars Program for BBA students, the capstone course for MAcc students, and the Zell Lurie Institute’s Social Venture Fund. As we look to the future at Ross, courses and programs at the intersection of business and society, including in health care, green operations, and development of educational organizations, will increase at all levels of instruction.
The spirit of collective action, responsibility, and opportunity is palpable at Ross. It is my goal to instill in students while they’re here that the opportunities in front of us to make a difference, not only for business but also for the broader world we all inhabit, are significant. And it is a source of pride for me to know that when they go out in the world they carry this knowledge with them wherever they go.