Redefining Boundaries in Business and Business Education



As we gather at Hill Auditorium Friday for commencement, we will be joined by founder Jeff Taylor.  Taylor’s joining us to deliver the commencement address is part of our year-long speaker series, “Redefining Boundaries.”

Taylor launched the concept of back in 1994, when what we know today of the world wide web was far from the imaginations of all of us.  Taylor recognized the powerful potential that the internet held to transform society, and he was one of the early pioneers in developing the social networking and crowd sourcing platforms which are a ubiquitous part of our society today. was the 454th registered domain on the web, and today it is one of the world's leading career portals with more than 30 million visitors monthly across more than 50 countries.

Taylor and his partners didn’t realize the success of within a silo.  In reinventing the way job seekers and employers connect with one another, they didn’t pursue just a business initiative, a human services initiative, or a technology initiative.  Like so many successful enterprises, Monster was a result of working within and across traditional domains to realize something new.

It has been a remarkable year at the Ross School.  During the past several months we have launched our new strategic plan and a series of significant initiatives designed to propel Ross graduates to define the next generation of business.  A key component of the strategic plan is the philosophy of being boundaryless, which Taylor embodies.  As leaders tackle the complex problems in business and society today, success will not come from any single sector, function, culture, or country.  It will require a new level of agility to work across traditional divisions to achieve something new.

Developing the skills and understanding to work across boundaries is a critical component for business education today, and at Ross we’re leveraging the unparalleled strengths we have across the University of Michigan campus and around the globe to offer students high quality and immersive ways to develop these skills.

At the University of Michigan, ninety-nine graduate programs are ranked in the top ten nationally1, and at Ross we are maximizing students’ opportunities to take advantage of this exceptional convergence of knowledge.   In addition to our more than 20 dual degree opportunities at the MBA level in such areas as engineering, law, medicine, natural resources, and public policy, students have extensive opportunity to enroll in courses and collaborate in programming across campus.  BBA students also have the opportunity to minor in another discipline, and we are introducing a business minor for non-Ross undergraduates.

Ross faculty work extensively with some of the world’s leading faculty across disciplines at the University to drive much of the innovative research and thought leadership which shape all facets of business and society.  U-M consistently ranks as one of the world's greatest public universities, and U-M receives more research funding than any other public university in the U.S., and the second largest amount of research funding among all universities2.  Through MCubed, for example, the University’s innovative new program to fund and promote cross-disciplinary research, nine Ross faculty are currently collaborating with faculty in a wide range of fields to advance novel, high-risk research projects with large potential to impact society.

Ross faculty bring their cross-disciplinary experience to the classroom during discussions exploring some of the most complex challenges of our business environment.  Ross’ signature Multidisciplinary Action Projects (MAP) deeply develop students’ skills in working across boundaries, and a wide number of elective courses fuse traditionally distinct areas of thought.  Our Master of Science in Entrepreneurship program, and programs through our Tauber, Erb, and Zell Lurie institutes also develop skills and expertise across functions and disciplines.

In addition, Ross’ expanding global footprint is enabling students to develop highly adept skills and the mindset to work across cultures and geographies.  In addition to our locations in Ann Arbor, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong, we now have exchange agreements with 14 business schools around the world for study abroad opportunities.  Our faculty are also offering a growing number of unique learning opportunities for students to work with them on projects in such places as Ireland, Israel, and Rwanda, and this month, BBA students will engage with faculty in immersive experiences in Australia, Costa Rica, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Shanghai, and Slovakia.  Our C.K. Prahalad Initiative continues to offer the world’s leading opportunities for business learning and research in India, and in November, I will travel with U-M President Mary Sue Coleman to further explore ways to expand the University’s work in the country.

As we look to the future, through these and other emerging cross-boundary opportunities, Ross will become the most collaborative and boundaryless business school in the world.  And as graduates this week leave Ross to embark on the next chapters of their careers, I am confident in their ability to lead effectively across disciplines, sectors, cultures, and geographies, and to drive the innovative solutions needed to make a positive difference in the world.

In the latest issue of Dividend Magazine, we profile four alumni who embody the elements of Ross’ new strategic plan.  Read more about Alejandro Quiroz, VP of Global Advanced Manufacturing for Whirlpool Corp., MBA ’07, who is leveraging a boundaryless approach to business to transform the company’s manufacturing practices.

1 U.S. News and World Report, 2012

2 National Science Foundation

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Alison Davis-Blake