Honoring our Past and Fostering our Future
Dear UNICON colleagues,
It is my privilege to be serving as your incoming UNICON Chair! I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on our past, emphasize key events and initiatives we are enthusiastic about in the coming year, and share some insights and actions to foster our future.
- Proud of our past
As the industry’s primary organization focused on university-based executive education, UNICON has an outstanding history that initiated with its first meeting back in 1972. Several events took place back in those years, including trade fairs and the engagement of corporate executive-development officers that were invited to some of them. The first international conference was held in 1986 at Ashridge, while the organization’s first Board and its Chair were elected in 1988. The name was changed to the University Consortium for Executive Education in 1991 and the first Executive Director was engaged in 1994 to handle operational work of the organization. The consortium’s first hallmark in the digital world took place in 1997, when its website was launched.
Up to date, UNICON has organized over 90 conferences and events in 75 locations and 17 countries worldwide, where our members have been able to meet, network and discuss relevant topics of shared interest. In the same vein, over 60 research and benchmarking projects and reports have been conducted over these years, supporting analysis and decision-making within our member institutions.
A crucial and vibrant part of our consortium are the prime representatives and individuals engaged in it. UNICON has 49 emeritus Board members up to date, who have fostered the university-based executive education landscape throughout these years. While speaking about talent, it is also worth to highlight more than 700 job postings that our member institutions have shared through our website in the last 10 years. Most recent, our Leadership Academy was launched three years ago and already accounts 43 participants from 30 member institutions worldwide.
- Enthusiastic about our present
We started the 2019-2020 term through a great annual workshop titled Unlocking the ROI on Executive Education, hosted by Rutgers Business School. The team development conference hosted by the University of Santa Clara in Silicon Valley at the end of November will be a great opportunity to meet and share experiences with peers from around the world. Looking further, we have an exciting directors’ conference planned for Spring of 2020 at the Tsinghua University PBC School of Finance.
During the upcoming months, our Research Committee will conduct some activities to enrich our research process and possible themes. Our Benchmarking Committee already released this year’s membership survey, including additional and relevant topics related to technology, teaching methodologies, on-line contribution towards revenue, marketing and advertising overall budget and methods, among others. Our Membership Committee is actively involved in engaging other institutions, with a focus on specific regions that expand the consortium’s scope. Our Leadership Academy is ready to initiate its fourth cohort later this year, with an enthusiastic group of individuals from different member institutions worldwide.
As shared in the last letter sent by Peter Hirst, outgoing Board Chair and Senior Associate Dean at MIT Sloan School of Management, we will continue to invest in our website, social media channels, webinars and innovations such as “Coffee Breaks” (small group facilitated conference calls on topics of mutual interest.) We will continue to foster and facilitate dialog where there is a clear collective interest and need, as we did with the FT regarding their 2019 ranking survey process and, most recently, exploring opportunities for strategic alliances such as AACSB.
- Strategic direction to foster our future
Continuity on core activities is necessary and important for any organization; but sometimes, especially when a volatile and dynamic context is faced, may not be sufficient. While keeping this in mind, our Board of Directors agreed on five strategic drivers to enrich the value that UNICON provides:
- Generate opportunities for networking and discussion among our member institutions
- Provide timely and relevant data, information and insights to support analysis and decision-making
- Support talent attraction and development
- Facilitate sharing information about tools and technologies within the executive education ecosystem that support the learning experience and operations
- Promote and strengthen the value of university-based executive education
While our committees will be considering potential initiatives associated to these strategic drivers, we would also be delighted to hear about any ideas you may want to share associated to them. The Chair role implies being a facilitator of ongoing improvement and success, so I would be strongly interested in learning about any thoughts you may have on this vein.
Our consortium’s branding is crucial for the fifth strategic driver described above, which is why a survey was conducted earlier this year to learn about our member’s perceptions on this topic. The insights obtained should help us think not only about ways to strengthen the branding strategy for our consortium, but also to define actions to foster our processes and operations.
- Collaboration and trust
One of my key responsibilities as Associate Provost at the University of Chicago is to work with its Schools and Divisions to design and deliver our distinctive and empowering education to executive, professional and corporate audiences. As you may realize, this requires building collaboration and trust between different parties and stakeholders involved. A similar situation takes place on an external basis when some of our member institutions decide to partner on specific programs or initiatives, while taking advantage of their corresponding strengths. Beyond our academic core, some of our member institutions already partner and collaborate with specialized organizations such as on-line program managers (OPMs), CRM-related organizations, among others, to support their outreach, operations and scope.
While thinking of this, as well as the challenges that our industry faces and the strategic drivers described above, a couple of questions come to my mind: what initiatives should UNICON conduct in the near future? How should our consortium be organized and operate to foster and enrich the value we create for our members? It is true that our institutions have divergent characteristics, strategies, priorities and needs, but there is something that unifies all of us through: our motivation to strengthen university-based executive education. And this requires collaboration and trust within and between our institutions – where the later is precisely what UNICON is about.
Our consortium has an outstanding past and great initiatives already in place, but we should think and act beyond that to foster our future and the way we want to achieve it. I feel honored by the trust you have placed in me to serve in this important role, and I am excited to be helping continue to build on UNICON’s legacy, ongoing impact and value created for you, our Members, colleagues and friends!
Marco Serrato, Ph.D.
UNICON 2019-2020 Board Chair
Associate Provost, The University of Chicago