It is the last week of November. In businesses across the country, preparations are being made for the end of the year. At the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), end of November is when the final requirements for graduation are submitted and the Institute gears up for graduation.
The end of November is a time for anticipating endings.
The word deliberate can be an adjective or a verb. As an adjective, it invokes intentionality, planning, thoughtfulness, rationality, and care. As a verb, it can be used to describe both singular and collective activities. It involves the act of thoughtful and careful consideration. As a collective activity, it includes the process of discussing in an unhurried and rational manner. There will normally be reference to both objectives, history, potential consequences and other decision criteria.
In business, when managers deliberate, it is typically about creating a plan or making a decision. These discussions are always grounded by an analysis of the current situation, the short-term and long-term goals of the business, and the potential consequences, both short-term and long-term, of the outcome of the deliberations.
In the academe, deliberations concerning graduation are just as thoughtful. They are similar to business decisions that affect individuals—such as hiring, regularization, salary action or promotion. In business, one key question concerns how well the individual will continue to perform in the proposed position and how this will affect the company. This is especially true for decisions concerning key positions—the appointment of a CEO or CFO, for example. By contrast, decisions concerning students primarily affect the student. The effect on the school is largely indirect and long-term. From one point of view, this can mean that business decisions can be more practical and involve clearer decision factors – especially when it comes to decisions about current employees. Each employee has a clear job description. There are individuals that have the primary responsibility for overseeing and evaluating them. There is clarity about any proposed future jobs. By contrast, a school’s knowledge about students is distributed across many professors and the school cannot have any assurance that it knows what the student will be doing in the future.
When a school puts a student in its roster of graduates for a certain degree, it is essentially saying that that student fulfills al of the requirements of that degree. The degree is essentially a seal of approval. If a student receives a degree in medicine, it is expected that he has the ability to engage in medical practice, that he can diagnose common diseases and prescribe treatment. Moreover, in the professions, the expectation is that the graduate will exhibit the ethical behavior expected of the profession.
When a school graduates a student, it will send multiple signals. The first signal is a matter of minimum compliance. A graduate has satisfied the school’s minimum requirements. While every school would love to be evaluated only with respect to its best students, the reality is that employers, parents and even students look to the minimum in order to determine the quality of the school. For example, does the school have a 100% pass rate in professional examinations? That is one indicator of what the minimum requirements allow a graduate to achieve. The second signal is one of specialization. Is the student certified in a particular area of practice? Specializations give a graduate an edge over those who have a generic degree. Certifying specializations, of course, requires that the school have a second set of minimum requirements. Finally, there is the signal of excellence. This happens when a school hands out honors during graduation.
In fact, school deliberations concerning graduation are very similar to business deliberations concerning products, services, or customers. The reality is that the output of a school is embodied in its graduates – what knowledge, skills or attitudes they gain and how they use these as they move forward in their lives.
When any student (or parent) decides on a school, or program, they will look at the curriculum, the faculty and the facilities, of course. But the final test of how well a school has performed is always going to lie in how well its graduates perform.
As we finish this week of deliberations at AIM, we discuss situations and individuals. We review reports and examinations. We reference requirements and standards. Through all of the discussions, I remember Gaby Mendoza, AIM’s first Filipino Dean and President who gave me one of my most important touchstones for this critical decision. He told me this: “At the end of the day, Maya, there is one question and one question only. Will you be proud to claim this student as an AIM alumnus?” Will he be able to represent what the AIM community, its alumni, faculty and partners, believe in? Will he exhibit the competence and ethics we expect of an AIM alumnus? Will we be happy to claim him as one of our own?
To this day, every time I map out a course, prepare for a class, mark a paper or send back a report or spend nights explaining what still needs to be done, that is the thought in my head. Am I doing everything I can in order to make sure that this student, this potential graduate will make all of us, the faculty and alumni and staff, proud? Am I giving students the opportunity to try hard enough, to learn as much as they can?
The reality is that, while we can provide guidance while students are in school, they must be able to manage their own lives and careers after graduation. There will be no professor to review reports or catch them doing something wrong. So this ending is really about deciding that these students are ready for a new beginning.
This week, as we anticipate graduation, I add my other question to Gaby’s. Are our graduates ready? Have we done enough?
For more information on AIM’s new programs, please go to www.aim.edu. Readers can email Maya at [email protected] Or visit her site at http://integrations.tumblr.com. For academic publications, Maya uses her full name, Maria Elena Baltazar Herrera.
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