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Executive Director Annual Report Fiscal Year 2023

    Melanie Weaver Barnett

As I complete my first year as UNICON’s executive director, I want to express my appreciation to those of you serving as board members, committee members, prime representatives, and conference hosts, speakers, and panelists for our UNICON consortium. These roles made my work life a joy this year, and your efforts are instrumental to the value UNICON creates for its members, so…thank you!

This annual report is meant to highlight the accomplishments of the past year and provide a look forward to the year ahead. I’ll start with “the look ahead” and follow that with a run-down of highlights of the past year. The board and the UNICON team want this consortium to be exactly what you need it to be, so please read on and send me an email with anything that comes to mind. And please share this with others who may be interested.

A Look Ahead

Based on feedback from members, the board has established the following strategic priorities for the coming year:

  1. Member Value and Engagement — involving the members in creating the optimal ways for you to engage and glean value – no matter your school’s size, location, and aims for the future. We use the term “consortium” in our name quite purposefully because it conveys who we are: a membership organization where the members collaborate to amplify and deepen the value created. Yes, we have a team of three dedicated employees, and we engage business partners in our work. But much of this is done on a volunteer basis by our members. As some members have pointedly stated: the magic comes from the members’ collective as we interact formally and informally in a variety of activities.We want to know how we can be the best resource possible for you, and how you would like to be involved. Prime Reps: look for an invite from me soon to discuss what’s on your mind and what you would like to see UNICON offer in order to be most helpful to you and your team and school.
  2. Industry Trends and Disruptions – ensuring our members stay abreast of external trends and disruptions that affect our work. While this is an area UNICON has always thought deeply about, and we have incorporated industry trends and disruptions into research, conferences, and other activities; in this increasingly VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world, we think it’s important to thoughtfully create a strategic portfolio of activities in this area. More to come on this priority in the coming months—be sure to read your bi-weekly newsletter!
  3. Financial Sustainability for Member Value – UNICON is committed to providing membership and access to our channels of value at an affordable level. In fact, we reduced our membership dues significantly for three years because of the Covid pandemic and our desire to ensure members could stay engaged in the consortium. As with most lines of work, expenses have continued to increase over that period even as we provided this reduction in dues. This year, we have increased the annual dues by $600 over the five-years-ago dues so that we can continue to engage researchers, provide the benchmarking report, offer coffee-break groups, provide an online learning community and a leadership academy as well as find out what other activities would be most beneficial to you and create new products and services.

Our Upcoming Conferences look spectacular in content, design, and location – and as you can see, we are working hard to ensure regional representation. We are pursuing an Asia location for the Directors’ Conference 2025 – please let conference committee co-chairs Shalini Bhatia (sbhatia1@stanford.edu) and Dennis Lanham (dlanham@scu.edu) know if you have a base in Asia and are interested in hosting. Visit our website uniconexed.org and click Activities – Events for updated conference info.

  1. Team Development Conference at HEC Montréal, November 29-December 1, 2023.
  2. Directors’ Conference at The American University in Cairo, Egypt, April 22-24, 2024.
  3. Annual Workshop, a hybrid conference, at University of Washington Foster School of Business in Seattle, Washington, dates in July 2024 tbd.
  4. Team Development Conference at NOVA School of Business and Economics in Lisbon, Portugal, November 6-8, 2024.

In case you didn’t know, to keep conference fees low, conferences are budgeted to break even, and if a small margin is realized, it is returned to UNICON to support the activities that create value for you!

Our friends at IEDP (iedp.com) have captured key content and insights from our conferences and we have published these for your reference in the UNICON Learning Community powered by Volute in the “Conferences” topic area. If you missed a conference, these provide a valuable briefing. If you attended, they serve as a great reminder and reinforcement of the learning. If you haven’t registered in the Learning Community yet, email my UNICON colleague Dan Collins (dancollins@uniconexed.org).

The Research Pipeline is strong with the following projects underway:

  1. Business Justification for Executive Education
  2. ChatGPT and Executive Education

And these additional topics were suggested and are being explored as possible additional projects:

  1. Program Management Since the Pandemic
  2. What Clients Value Most in Custom Proposals

We’d love to hear what you would like to see our research committee pursue. Please submit your ideas to committee co-chairs Lisa Hughes (lhughes@hbs.edu) and Aisha Azhar (aishaazhar@lums.edu.pk.)

The ever-popular Benchmarking Study and Report, revised this year according to members’ input, will be published soon (you likely have been in the throes of completing your annual questionnaire in recent weeks – if not, get on it! because you receive the valuable report only if your school participates.) Member schools report using this exclusive publication, which comes to you as part of your membership fee, to identify opportunities, determine gaps they may want to close, share with their teams as input to strategic planning, and communicate with deans and school leadership their performance relative to peer schools.

Exciting opportunities for learning and organization development will emerge from these special activities:

  • Online Learning Community powered by Volute: As former board chair Peter Methot said, “The vision is to create a place where we can connect with one another at our moment of need, whether its knowledge, network, partnership, best practice, or mentorship – together we are stronger and more productive.” We recently held our first two live learning community sessions on marketing executive education.
  • Technology Disruptors’ Group meets regularly to explore two key areas: 1. Sensing the leading edges of the landscape of new technologies to identify trends early that might impact our industry, and 2. Going deeper into how UNICON members can apply key technologies by sharing use cases in various forums. The group shares information with the membership at least three times per year, aligned with the timing of the three major UNICON conferences.
  • Coffee Break groups: coffee break groups can now hold their meetings on the learning community platform (Volute) where you can schedule your ‘meet-ups’ and imbue them with shared documents, posts, comments, and links, before, during, and after your meet-up. If you would like to join a group fill out this form: https://uniconexed.org/coffee-break
  • The Leadership Academy, with a full class of 29 participants, the 8th cohort launches soon. If you’re interested for yourself and/or other team members for next year and would like more information, let us know: tarynstreed@uniconexed.org

A Look Back: The Past Year’s Highlights

The Conference year began with an insightful annual workshop in July 2022, expertly delivered in a virtual format by the University of Wisconsin School of Business. The conference focus was on lifelong learning.

In November we met up in the stunning city of Vancouver for a Team Development Conference hosted by the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. This conference emphasized sustainability across many areas, both external and internal to our work.

Fundação Dom Cabral hosted the Directors’ Conference in April on their beautiful lakeside campus in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. At this conference we explored these two themes: 1. How the great societal challenges – economic, social, and environmental – affect organizations, and how executive education can support business leaders to deal with those issues, and 2. How schools can differentiate themselves from competitors to create more value for clients, our schools, and other stakeholders.

Last month CKGSB kicked off our new conference season with a virtual annual workshop focusing on Nurturing a More Cooperative World Through Executive Education. In this event, we made special arrangements in timing and content to address challenges and opportunities in Asia.

For more on past and future conferences, be sure to visit the UNICON Learning Community and select the “Conferences” topic. And you can always find upcoming conference info on the website under “Our Activities – Events”.

The Benchmarking Survey in FY22/23 earned its highest-ever response rate with over 92% of member schools completing the survey. We partner with Percept Research, which collects, validates, and analyzes the data, and together we published the results in detail as well as in info-graphic format. In addition, the survey results were presented at the Team Development Conference, leading to much discussion.

Exceeding its norm of two major research projects and associated papers each year, the Research committee guided the completion of three projects and reports.

  • Partnering Effectively with Intermediaries in the Executive Education Market
  • Hybrid Learning: The Post-Pandemic Landscape
  • The Metaverse and Executive Education

Access these papers here: https://uniconexed.org/research/

The UNICON Leadership Academy graduated its 7th cohort, with 24 current and future leaders of executive education organizations, representing 19 schools. This 8-month learning experience includes online workshops, a mentoring program, and a face-to-face learning day just prior to the Team Development Conference.

The UNICON Learning Community powered by Volute was launched as a collaborative experiment between our two organizations. Through this collaboration, the Learning Community platform has evolved significantly to meet members’ needs and is becoming an active virtual learning hub for UNICON.

UNICON welcomed four New Member Schools into our consortium, and I hope you will join me in congratulating these excellent schools and making them feel welcome and supported wherever you interact with them:

We welcomed three New Board Members Shaun Rozyn of UVA Darden, Aisha Azhar of LUMS, and Dennis Lanham of Santa Clara University. They replaced three board members finishing up their board service – Peter Methot of Rutgers, Devin Bigoness of UVA Darden and formerly Cornell, and Kan Cai of Tsinghua.

Importantly to me, I had the chance to interact with hundreds of our members through all these events. I’ve cherished every moment, and I can’t wait to see what comes next and work with you to make it great.

Melanie Weaver Barnett