As I wind down my projects at Illinois I have been giving a great deal of thought to the forces that will shape business education in the future. These are many, but of paramount importance, I believe, are globalization, technology, and the continuing and increasing need for lifetime learning.

All business today is global. How can we prepare our students to compete in these markets? Having the number one accountancy program in the nation and being recognized as a top-ten undergraduate business program, gives us a global platform. We must maximize this position by establishing a global product image for the school and attracting the widest possible range of students from around the world. Illinois must be perceived and recognized much more widely as a global leader in management education. Much of the growth in enrollment in master's and MBA programs throughout the world is coming from international students. International students are critical for enrollment. They also bring many strengths into the classroom — a wealth of cultural viewpoints and business insights that broaden the cultural knowledge and business education of their fellow students. Through our Study Abroad Office, the college encourages students at all levels to take a summer, a semester, or a year to enroll in one of the many exchange programs available at cooperating universities around the world. These exchanges allow students to learn about the culture, language, and educational system of another country while earning credit toward their degrees. Our advisors work with each student, starting freshman year, to build a schedule that can accommodate foreign study. The value of studying overseas cannot be easily expressed in words. Each participant comes back enriched in ways that might not even surface until much later in life. In addition to learning about different cultures, the students also learn to respect diversity. In years to come, more must be done to position the college as a global business school. Some of the ways to do this are to build and strengthen strategic alliances with leading business schools worldwide. We must take advantage of the global nature of our student population by increasing their profile in the classroom, and by encouraging them to share their experiences with the rest of the student body.

Technology is perhaps the most high profile force, because everything we do today is shaped by technology. These issues range from the mundane — keeping computer and Internet technology at the cutting edge — to developing a technology focus in learning patterns and team projects, as well as research projects. In fact, technology and Illinois must become synonymous. We already enjoy a reputation for cutting-edge technology through our engineering college and NCSA. The Technology and Management Program, jointly developed and administered by the Colleges of Commerce and Engineering, has just admitted its sixth cohort. This highly competitive program has the strong support of the campus administration, both colleges, students, and the corporate sector. During the coming academic year it is expected to become a university minor instead of a concentration. The MBA program is ranked as the number six Techno MBA program in the nation by Computer World magazine. Computer applications are widespread throughout courses and the university will soon be offering virtual degrees — it is possible that in the future we will be able to offer our Executive MBA program online as well as a master's program in financial engineering (four courses of which are now on UI-OnLine).

How we view education, how education is delivered to students — all this will change radically through technology. I believe there will always be a strong need for on-campus undergraduate education, because much of what students learn while at college is outside the classroom. During these four years students develop friendships that may last a lifetime, and become independent in their thinking and actions. These are years of maturation and character development. But for graduate education, especially executive education, online courses will continue to play a growing and, I believe, dominant role. Of paramount importance for every institution of higher learning today is how to pay for the constant technological enhancements. One avenue for further exploration is strategic alliances with high-tech companies like IBM, Dell, and Microsoft.

The final issue for me is lifetime learning and executive education. The traditional ways these issues have been handled at Illinois will need to be rethought as technology provides new methods of delivery and corporate needs continue to change. In-company and other customized training programs will continue to grow in importance, at the expense of general enrollment programs. To be successful these programs need to build experiential learning into the classroom — through projects, simulations, and active learning. A strong executive education program adds strength to a business college. It provides an opportunity for faculty growth and an added source of faculty compensation. For success in this area, with sustained growth, the college must build strong corporate partnerships and develop a loyal client base. We should also consider forging alliances with leading international business schools, and find ways to establish links with suppliers of technology, like Sylvan, Caliber Learning Systems, and University Access.

I sincerely hope Illinois can take a leading position in these areas. We are clearly in an ideal position to build upon the considerable strengths that reside in the college and university. In closing this last editorial of my career as dean at Illinois, I would like to offer my very best wishes to all students, alumni, faculty, staff, and corporate partners at the college. My twenty years at Illinois, nearly ten at the helm of the college, have formed the core of my career. Illinois has been an extremely strong influence on my life. I have considerable respect and warmth for CBA and Illinois. I hope you stay in touch with me and the school. I will return often.

Warmest regards,

Howard Thomas, Dean and James F. Towey
Distinguished Professor of Strategic Management