Greg’s blog

18 June 2014
Sir Owen Glenn met with student club executives
Sir Owen Glenn met with student club executives when he visited the Business School in May

Do you remember your graduation day? I do. Every year I am reminded when I watch another group of excited graduands and their proud parents as we share breakfast in the Alumni Marquee on the grounds of Old Government House prior to our procession to the Aotea Centre.

It’s one of the really special “threshold” moments that we have in our lives. I think the 21st birthday is just about gone – our children can do everything by the time they turn 18 years old - so this is often the biggest moment of public recognition/validation in their lives.

I wonder how many graduands actually remember their graduation? They are usually so excited and hyped up that it probably passes in a blur. However, it is the years ahead that will pass faster. I recall a quote I read by Jerry Zucker, American film director and philanthropist at a commencement address at the University of Wisconsin, 2003:

“It doesn't matter that your dream came true if you spent your whole life sleeping. So get out there and go for it, but don't be caught waiting. It's great to plan for your future. Just don't live there, because really nothing ever happens in the future. Whatever happens, happens now, so live your life where the action is — now.”

This need to live in the “now” yet plan for the future is what I’d like to think we empower our graduates to do. It is something we as business teachers and business leaders constantly grapple with. Today the threat of disruptive technology is growing and here at the Business School we’ve had to be sharper and more responsive and listen to our customers, aka the student and business. This has informed our teaching and in turn helped us create an innovative teaching paradigm which we call “team based learning (TBL)”. Students no longer take part in the traditional learning model of the “sage on the stage”; instead they are interactive learners using technology, working with a facilitator, completing small group tutorials. It is a “work in progress” programme but we are already seeing some significant effects on learning and attitudes to engaging in learning. The focus is on the first-year students but we are also seeing how this can improve learning outcomes across the spectrum – especially in the new 18-month taught masters programme.

I am always pleased to acknowledge our supporters. This year one of our dedicated advisory board members, Bridget Liddell, was honoured as a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business. I am also always delighted to welcome visitors to the Business School. This quarter has been busy with three of our special supporters - Peter Gibson (Chairman, MAS Energy), Peter Rajsingh (Chair of the US Friends of the University of Auckland) and Sir Owen G Glenn spending some time with our faculty and students.

It is a privilege preparing for these visits and we try to develop a programme that meets their engagement needs.   

For example while in Auckland, Sir Owen took time to meet with the executive student leaders of the various Business School student clubs in a facilitated Q&A session lead by Brendon Potter, Director of Student Engagement. The students and Sir Owen traversed a wide range of topics from logistics to making a life from philanthropy. Sir Owen presented each student with a signed copy of his book Making a Difference.  

For Peter Rajsingh it was a chance to connect with the senior management team, meet with students and present one of the graduation speeches. “It’s been a long time since I was back in Auckland, so being able to get up to speed quickly on the key issues was vital to my understanding the future needs of the School and its students,” says Rajsingh. “I’ve promised it won’t be so long until the next visit.”

Peter Gibson’s visit was more complex as he brought a group of Chinese investors who are looking for new energy technology to invest in. Working with our colleagues in the Business School’s Energy Centre, UniServices and the Faculty of Engineering, plus our external business investment contacts, we helped craft a programme of engagement from academia to Government.

I really appreciate the mutuality of the relationships formed with you, our supporters. There is strength in the connections we bring to each other – and it starts right back at the beginning, in the classroom. Thank you.

Professor Greg Whittred