View From The Board
Career AdviceSocial ImpactBoard and CEO AdvisoryExecutive Search
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July 01, 2020
Career AdviceSocial ImpactBoard and CEO AdvisoryExecutive Search
The CEO Magazine article, "View From The Board," quoted Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Peter L. O'Brien​ on how he got involved in Macquarie University’s advisory board and how the industry views online MBAs today. The article is excerpted below.

CEO Magazine

Macquarie University’s Global MBA Advisory Board talk about why they got involved, how industry views the online MBA in 2020, and why good online MBAs are disrupting the marketplace and, in the process, changing the future of education.


Q. Why did you decide to join the advisory board?


O’Brien: Working, as I have now for a number of years, in an advisory capacity, I felt that advisory boards were generally fruitless and added limited value, so I was quite hesitant when I was invited to join Macquarie’s. However, it quickly became apparent that they were trying to build something that was distinctly different. Lan, the Academic Programme Director, wanted to create a culture whereby the members of the advisory board would be actively involved and could make a material difference in influencing the direction of the MBA programme, which resonated with me.


Q. How does the advisory board support the GMBA?


O’Brien: Beyond the co-creation of curriculum, custom workforce offerings, and thought leadership, we try to help ensure the student experience and learning throughout the programme is real, materially valuable, and relevant, as opposed to just being theoretical. Dealing with real and current issues and solving complex problems as someone develops as a leader is the ultimate objective. This is something that companies struggle with today as we operate in such a disruptive environment, and one of the reasons I got involved. We focus on real experience and real problem-solving. Rather than students just being part of a network and a brand, we want to expose them, through our industry connections, broader relationships, and experience, to businesses they can work and interact with in order to understand and then solve real problems. This allows them to not only apply what they’re learning in a real business environment but also showcase their talents to potential employers.


Q. To what extent are recommendations acted upon?


O’Brien: While universities can be quite slow to move, and rather bureaucratic, this has not been my experience with Macquarie. For example, recently, it occurred to me that there might be an opportunity to partner on research, specifically thought leadership, looking at the workforce landscape, post-COVID-19. Within a matter of weeks of discussing it, teams had been assembled, both at my firm, Russell Reynolds Associates, and Macquarie, specifically looking at the way we ‘work’, ‘learn’, and ‘lead’. This is a very practical example of an idea and suggestion that is now happening.


Q. Once upon a time, online MBAs were seen as the poor relation. How does industry view the online MBA today?


O’Brien: There’s no doubting the fact that, in the past, online MBAs were seen as  lightweight. However, today, it’s about being relevant, and that means being online and being able to operate effectively in this virtual world in which we now exist. Online MBAs like Macquarie’s GMBA reflect the speed of change we’re currently experiencing because they have the ability to adapt and react as events unfold. What this is doing is exposing those on-campus programmes that are out of touch and, consequently, offering less value and less relevant current learning. Today, I think it’s about building credibility by being connected, globally, to the right organisations and the right people, seeing and learning what is evolving now, and the online model accelerates this process.


To read the full article, click here​.​​​