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Dean DeRue Predicts What’s Ahead for Business and Business Education in 2021; Shares Three Big Goals for the New Year


As the new year begins, Scott DeRue, Edward J. Frey Dean of the Ross School of Business, shared his predictions and resolutions for 2021 with Poets&Quants, including the need for innovative leaders who are able to adapt and pivot amid the pandemic.

DeRue said he believes there will continue to be significant challenges and disruptions due to the pandemic that will be felt both in business and business education. In business, he predicted that the pandemic’s impact will continue to be uneven across industries.

The difference, in my mind, is whether leadership is forward looking and embraces this moment as an opportunity to inspire innovation, be bold and take smart risks, and build more sustainable and resilient organizations. The pandemic is not our first challenge; it will not be our last challenge, possibly even in 2021; and we need leaders who know how to ready their organizations for the unexpected and lead during uncertain times.

Scott DeRue, Edward J. Frey Deanof Michigan Ross

As for business education, DeRue believes that the pandemic has forced every school to embrace new modalities of education, build new capabilities and technologies, and rethink traditional business models of education.

“In 2021, we will see some schools be bold and take major strides toward using these new capabilities to offer more accessible, flexible, and personalized models of education.”

The future of digital education in business school

Mike Barger, executive director of digital education and Ross Online at Michigan Ross, also shared his predictions about the growth of online learning in 2021 with P&Q. 

“In the year ahead, I predict that academic institutions will determine that elements of remote participation are desirable going forward — perhaps even necessary, not only for future crisis readiness, but also because we have learned that expert-facilitated synchronous discussion can be remarkably effective even in hybrid and fully virtual classrooms”.

Barger said that remote participation mechanisms have made it easier for outside experts and guests to virtually join students and faculty to share experiences and guide discussion, which has resulted in richer and more engaging learning.

“In the year ahead, I believe discussions will not focus on reducing digital technology in the classroom, but rather, on how much more should be invested should be invested in it. At Michigan Ross, our experiences with remote instruction this past year already have program administrators testing out how digital technology can address questions related to access, diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

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A year of hope and renewal

Poets&Quants also featured DeRue’s resolutions for the new year in an article alongside other top B-school deans. DeRue said that he has three big goals for himself and Michigan Ross in 2021: create a more accessible and inclusive business school experience for all students; be even bolder and more courageous; and to find joy in every day.

In addition, DeRue said despite the unprecedented tests of the past year, he is optimistic about 2021.

“The past year has tested every leader, whether you are in business, education, public service and government, or within your local community. It has been a challenging year for everyone, and yet as I look forward to 2021, I am filled with hope and optimism,” he said.

To do that, DeRue plans to create a more accessible and inclusive business school experience for all students — not just at Michigan Ross, but across business education.

“This fall we hosted a wonderful panel of deans from across the country in a discussion of race in business education, and how we as deans can lead the way towards a more diverse and inclusive business community. It was inspiring, and I resolve to continue this work with an unwavering commitment to progress in 2021.”

On a personal note, DeRue shared how he plans to find and inspire joy in every day.

“Looking back on 2020, it’s been a year of challenges, stress, long days, and simply not enough joy, not enough fun. We all need more joy, laughter, and fun in our lives. So, my final resolution is to find joy in every day for myself, but even more importantly, to bring joy to others. If you’re like me, you miss the social connection and the joy that is at the heart of our most meaningful relationships. If I can find ways — big or small — to bring joy and happiness to others in 2021, that for me will be living a life of purpose.”

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