My predictions for last year centered around greater economic uncertainty, continuing geo-political changes, and shifting dynamics in the labor market. Once again, these topics present tremendous opportunities for business schools to collaborate across their universities to solve some of the biggest challenges of our time, prepare students to thrive in an environment of accelerating change, and provide a strong community to help graduates thrive. We saw these dynamics play out in spades and at a magnitude beyond what I think many of us anticipated. These underlying dynamics will shine an even brighter light on institutions of higher education and the business community in 2024 and the fundamental role they can play in shaping the future.
In 2024, I expect to see an acceleration in expectations for business schools to play an active role in addressing the grand challenges of our time, ranging from climate change to technology disruption and being engaged in the world around us.
For example, with regard to technology disruption, there have been endless articles on how generative AI will reshape the business and education landscape. Though I expect modest revenue gains to businesses from GenAI in the upcoming year as companies engage in early experimentation on how to use this technology, I predict business schools will take a larger leadership role in showing how this technology can be used responsibly and effectively. As one illustration, the University of Michigan developed a custom AI tool, UM-GPT, that allows us to control inputs into the tool. Our Michigan Ross faculty leveraged this to create a teaching assistant called Maizey that we piloted in Fall 2023 with 1,500 students. On average, per class, Maizey handled 350 questions per week, providing real-time support to students and allowing faculty to focus on more challenging concepts with students, resulting in improvements in learning outcomes. We are also offering new courses on how to use this technology and are incorporating it into existing courses. By including this in the educational experience, students are not only learning more effectively in classes but also seeing many different ways that GenAI can be used. This will help position our students to lead in a future where GenAI is more prevalent. I expect other universities to create similar tools, and these experiences will accelerate the productive and responsible use of GenAI.
I also predict that business schools will be more aggressive in providing courses, programs, training, and experiences to prepare students to thrive in the face of climate change. The El Niño weather pattern we are currently experiencing is making the impacts of the global temperature increases more visible, and students are keenly aware that climate is one of the existential challenges of the time. As an example, Michigan Ross is hosting the ClimateCAP summit in February, bringing together MBA students as well as business school and industry leaders from across the globe to exchange ideas and generate pathways to help address climate change and to work through how rising temperatures will impact economic sectors and society. This complements the many classes, joint degree programs, career internships, and accelerator programs for climate-oriented companies at Ross. I predict these offerings will also grow at business schools around the globe as student demand for tools to address this challenge grows.
Third, leading in the context of uncertainty has never been more important. I predict that students will increasingly seek out programs and experiences that prepare them to thrive in the face of uncertainty. We recently looked at the educational background of the Fortune 1000 CEOs. The University of Michigan is in the top five when you look at where these CEOs earned their degrees. In talking with some of these CEOs, they credit the breadth of academic excellence at U-M, the action-learning orientation of our curriculum, and the legendary “Go Blue” network and pride as critical to preparing them to lead in uncertain times. The business world is increasingly under the microscope with regard to how it responds to global economic, social, and political events, and requires leaders who can act with integrity in these conditions. Leaders who can create economic and social impact in the face of uncertainty will be even more highly valued in 2024.
NEW YEAR RESOLUTION: ELEVATING IMPACT
2024 will be an especially significant year at the Ross School of Business because we are celebrating our Centennial. As we commemorate a century of excellence and impact, Ross remains as committed as ever to its mission of building a better world through business. We have clear values that guide our actions and a deliberate strategy for achieving our mission. In 2024, we will double down on this strategy and refine our focus on several key priority areas.
One of our priorities is to further elevate and differentiate Michigan Ross in terms of our global visibility and impact. We will accomplish this by showcasing our student impact and faculty thought leaders on key topics and issues such as business solutions to environmental challenges, equity/economic inclusion, and technology disruption (e.g., generative artificial intelligenceAI) and its impact on business and society.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion will be another priority focus area. In 2023, we launched a new five-year DEI strategic plan to reaffirm and expand our commitments to continuing to advance equity, justice, diversity, inclusion, belonging, and accessibility in all that we do. In 2024, we will launch two new initiatives to address equity gaps in business education. The first, the Equity Opportunity Collaborative, will create collaborative opportunities to elevate and center equity-focused research. The second, the Embrace and Thrive program aims to build off of current initiatives and expand offerings to further address equity gaps in our undergraduate student experience. These along with our other DEI strategies are our living commitment to enhancing the student experience that prepares graduates to lead and thrive in a globally interconnected world.
Ross is known as a long-time leader in action-based learning, providing exceptional opportunities for students to learn by doing. This teaching approach is highly effective in preparing students to make analytical, well-reasoned decisions under conditions of uncertainty, with incomplete information, and in collaboration with others who have different kinds of knowledge. In 2024, we aim to further elevate our excellence in this area.
Taken together, these themes contribute to our ability to help develop those who are leading the business world, whether that is measured by the Fortune 1000 CEOs or founders of unicorn companies with degrees from Michigan. In the coming year, we aim to further elevate our impact through the knowledge we create and how we inspire and educate the leaders of tomorrow who create economic and social value.
Sharon Matusik is the Edward J. Frey Dean of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
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