Book Learning + Practical Learning – It Takes a Balance (The SMU Cox School of Business is Onto Something Here)


(This is a story from my memory banks – from decades ago. I’m sorry; I do not remember the name of the seminary).

Many years ago, I read about a seminary. It had produced an unusually high number of Pastors for churches that grew in size and number. In other words, the graduates of this particular seminary were better at helping churches grow their membership than graduates from other seminaries.

When a researcher sought to understand why, he was perplexed. Was it the professors? The curriculum? He could not find any explanation, until he discovered this: the seminary had a steady stream of guest speakers for their mandatory chapel services. These guest speakers were Pastors from large, growing churches. They would commit to one week’s worth of chapel services. They would speak every day in chapel, serve as a guest teacher in numerous classes, and eat every meal with the students in the students’ dining room/cafeteria. In other words, they taught, had conversations, and provided models for the students, in full-week, deep-dive guest appearances.

Thus, when the students graduated, many of them wanted to go do what these Pastors had done – work in churches as Pastors (rather than work as seminary professors), helping churches grow their memberships.

I thought of this again Saturday as I spoke for the Edwin L. Cox Business Leadership Center at the SMU Cox School of Business. They keep inviting me back, and I keep going over to speak. It is a program for MBA Students, and it includes a steady stream of speakers who are successful, respected, well-known business leaders (along with me, the “Book Guy”). The line-up is impressive. But it is the idea itself that is really impressive. SMU wants to expose students to people out in the real world of business endeavor, helping the students think about ways to put business principles into practice. Here’s an excerpt from their web site:

While MBA programs traditionally focus on classroom lessons, textbooks and case studies, the BLC develops MBA students by fostering conversations and addressing leadership challenges through Seminars, Executive Roundtables, Programs and Coaching.

In other words, SMU is making sure that their MBA students are learning the business cultural literacy and skills in the classroom, and then exposing them, in a systematic way, to practical, real-world leaders through the Business Leadship Center. A good, smart, needed mix. (Kind of like that seminary, from so many years ago).

I’ve been doing this for quite a few years now. I feel honored to be invited back so often. In the session last Saturday, I earned my fifteenth Teaching Excellence Award. I would not have known that, but the leaders at the Business Leadership Center let me know. (They sent me a Press Release, below, for me to share).

Here’s what I think. SMU’s Cox School of Business is onto something with this idea. It is a valuable addition to the MBA education. They’ve kept at it for quite a few years. It has grown. And I think it really helps prepare their students for the real-world experiences and challenges that follow their graduation. So, congratulations to SMU for this fine program.

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Here’s that Press Release:

Click on image for full view
Click on image for full view

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