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Adapting Business Education for Tomorrow’s Challenges

Prof. Dr. Bala K. R. Balachandran is a distinguished professor of accounting and operations management at New York University Stern School of Business, where he has been teaching since 1979. With expertise spanning management accounting, control systems, and financial accounting, he is renowned for his research in areas such as service systems optimization, incentive contracts, and transfer pricing determinations.

Professor Balachandran’s scholarly contributions include over 65 articles in top-tier academic journals, and he serves as the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Accounting Auditing and Finance. Before joining NYU Stern, he held academic positions at the University of Wisconsin and the Georgia Institute of Technology, and contributed significantly to institutions such as SDA Bocconi University and the International University of Japan as a visiting professor.

Professor Balachandran holds an MS and PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and actively engages in international conferences and advisory roles, including membership in the Asian American Advisory Council and the International Advisory Board of the Indian Institute of Finance Business School.

In a distinguished conversation with The Interview World, Professor Dr. Bala K. R. Balachandran emphasizes the role of business schools in equipping students with collaborative and inclusive skills to tackle the complexities of the VUCA world. He also delves into the nuanced contrasts between Indian and American business education and highlights the transformative influence of technology on the educational landscape. Below are the salient points from his insightful interview.

Q: How does your business school effectively prepare graduates to thrive and contribute positively in a collaborative, inclusive global environment?

A: To begin with, the first step involves forming groups, with students not tasked with creating their own. These groups comprise individuals from diverse backgrounds, encompassing various countries, genders, and cultural perspectives. This diversity is essential. Because successful businesses require a multitude of skills, spanning beyond just mathematical or behavioral expertise, to include finance and more.

By bringing together such varied skill sets, integration within the group is facilitated, promoting effective collaboration. This collaboration mirrors the dynamics of real-world workplaces, where individuals collaborate across borders and cultures. Therefore, the experience gained from working in such diverse groups prepares students for the globalized professional landscape. Eventually, they will encounter after completing their education.

Q: What are the key distinctions between business studies curricula and practices in the United States and India?

A: In my perspective, the United States stands out as a hub for diversity, offering ample opportunities for cross-cultural interactions. The academic environment is enriched by the exceptional brightness of its student body, with a significant representation of Indian students further enhancing this dynamic. Unlike India, where assembling diverse groups can be challenging, the US fosters an atmosphere conducive to blending individuals from various backgrounds effortlessly.

Although occasional collaborations with American universities bring foreign students to Indian campuses, such initiatives remain sporadic. Similarly, Europe experiences similar challenges in fostering diversity. However, the natural diversity observed in America remains unparalleled, embodying a mosaic of cultures from around the world.

Q: What strategies and methodologies does your business school employ to equip students with the skills and mindset necessary to navigate and thrive in a Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity (VUCA) world?

A: Our management teachers are gearing up to tackle the unpredictable nature of global business economics. To stay informed, we must keep abreast of the latest news. This involves understanding the dynamics in numerous countries, including emerging ones like China and India.

Professionals in our field must diligently monitor these developments. Additionally, our lectures and luncheons serve as valuable platforms for knowledge exchange. During these sessions, professors share insights gleaned from their research abroad. This collaborative learning approach extends beyond student-teacher interactions, enriching our understanding and preparing our business graduates to navigate the complexities of the modern world with confidence.

Q: What impact do emerging technologies have on education, and how are they influencing the trajectory of the future educational landscape?

A: The rapid adoption of emerging technologies in education is truly remarkable. Currently, we can educate students across various countries and engage in real-time interactions. Witnessing such technological advancements is incredibly fascinating to me. The question arises: will this facilitate students’ growth and collaboration, or will it foster competition, potentially leaving those without access behind?

Access to technology is increasingly widespread, with a large portion of the population now equipped with devices. Take India, for instance, where almost everyone owns a cell phone and can connect to the internet. This trend is expected to continue, reaching even more diverse geographic regions and becoming more accessible in the future. In essence, the learning opportunity will become more inclusive. Learning is a fundamental right, bestowed upon us by a higher power. We all possess the ability to learn and expand our knowledge. With technology, the dissemination of information will become more effortless, cost-effective, and accessible. This, in my view, aligns with the natural course of progress and should be embraced.

Stern School of Business, New York University
Stern School of Business, New York University

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