Relevance versus Rigor – student perspectives on the value of academic research

Baylor University has recently been reclassified by the Carnegie Foundation as a ‘Research University’. In view of this development, I found the Financial Times article entitled “Relevance versus Rigour” quite interesting. This article provides two former MBA students’ perspectives on how they value (or don’t value) academic research. The antagonist in this story (i.e., the “anti-research” person) is a recent graduate from the one-year MBA program at the Smurfitt school at University College Dublin. The protagonist (i.e., the “pro-research” person) is a recent graduate from NYU’s Stern School of Business.

Not surprisingly, I share the views of the protagonist in this article. My own experience as an educator is that my active involvement in research significantly enhances my teaching. Although I certainly don’t expect my undergraduate and MBA students at Baylor to necessarily appreciate or particularly care about the various intricacies and subtleties associated with research methodology, I do expect them to be curious about the way the world works and how the application of science and logic can enhance their knowledge and understanding. When all is said and done, the most important benefit that I can provide my students is to train them how to think critically. A critical thinker is skilled at discerning what the relevant questions are, and in knowing how to find innovative solutions to problems that often may be ill-defined.

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