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Executive Director Annual Report Fiscal Year 2024

Dear UNICON Members,

My second anniversary as UNICON’s executive director is soon approaching, and the old adage about time flying when you’re having fun holds true in this case! I have enjoyed interacting with so many of you in conferences, on committees, in the online learning community, in coffee groups, and in other ways. I’m grateful for your contributions to our consortium, and I want to express special appreciation to those of you serving as board members, committee members, prime representatives, and conference hosts, speakers, and panelists. What a great year we have had. And the upcoming one is going to be stellar as well.

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 latter and follow that with highlights from the past fiscal year. Our fiscal year runs July 1 – June 30. 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—I’d love to hear from you.

Seeing Around the Corner - a look ahead


Moving into fiscal year 24/25, based on feedback from you, the board is continuing with these Strategic Priorities:

  1. Member Value and Engagement – providing information, ideas, development, and support through our many activities and the network of colleagues, and listening to our members for opportunities to do more.
  2. Industry Trends and Disruptions – ensuring our members stay abreast of external trends and disruptions that affect our work, so we can all be the best possible leaders and managers of our respective organizations—now and in the future.
  3. Financial Sustainability for Member Value – providing membership and access to our channels of value at an affordable level, and ensuring we have the funds for regular investment in infrastructure and systems to sustain and enhance that value. As I’m sure has been the case for most of you, our costs have been rising steadily. To cover our expenses and add appropriately to reserves which had been significantly reduced during the Covid years when we offered discounts to all members, we approved annual dues of $4300 for FY25 as well as a standard $90 processing fee because of the widely varying fees we are charged for various types of payment. As usual, invoices will be sent in July. 

Team Development Conference: Nova SBE



Our Upcoming Conferences are enticing in content, design, and location—and as you can see, we are delivering on regional representation outside of North America.

  1. The Team Development Conference at NOVA in Lisbon, Portugal November 6-8, 2024 (registration is available on the UNICON website). Key themes of this conference include: a) how unconventional thinking can revolutionize executive education, b) leadership and thriving in the midst of continuous change, c) positive and peaceful leaders, d) generating life’s transitions, and e) infinite learning
  2. Directors’ Conference at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, May 20-22 2025.
  3. Team Development Conference at John Hopkins University in Washington DC, US, November 5-7 2025.


The Research Pipeline is strong with the following project already underway for the coming year: B2B Account Management in Executive Education. These additional topics were suggested and are being explored as possible additional projects in the coming year:
  • Program delivery, post-Covid
  • Dynamics of Program Verticals
  • Generative AI in Executive Education
We’d love to hear what you would like to see our research committee pursue. Please submit your ideas to committee co-chairs Aisha Azhar and Aldemir Drummond.


The ever-popular Benchmarking Study and Report, revised last year according to your input, is underway. If you haven’t yet, please begin putting your data submission together. This study and report is often cited by members first in response to the question, “What do you value most about your membership in UNICON?” 

Don’t delay, because you receive this valuable report only if your school participates. Members share that they use this study 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: Here you can share ideas, articles, websites, conversations, hold live meet-ups, and more. And the newly added AI feature enables you to quickly summarize, aggregate, and synthesize information. It will also take notes for you during any live meet-up. Topic areas currently featured include the following:
    • Customer Centricity & Marketing
    • Industry Dynamics and Strategy
    • CRM Strategy
    • Teaching and Learning Innovation
    • News & Conferences
    • (Your Coffee Group can be here, too! Contact Taryn)
  • 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. Contact Michigan Ross Managing Director Gene Mage if you are interested in joining this group.
  • 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—and have AI take notes for you. If you would like to join a group fill out this form.
  • The Leadership Academy, with a full-plus class of 30 participants in the 9th cohort, launches soon. If you’re interested in this 8-month learning experience on the business model for university-based executive education for next year, visit the website and feel free to contact Taryn or me. Also – check our LinkedIn page to see posts from members who recently completed the course. This year Peter Methot (Rutgers) joins Monica Sacristan (ITAM) as co-faculty director of the program. And we say a fond farewell to Cathy Shea (Babson) who is retiring.

A Look Back: The Past Year's Highlights

The Conference year began in July 2023, with an insightful annual workshop in virtual format, created and delivered by CKGSB. In this workshop, entitled “Nurturing a More Cooperative World through Executive Education,” we learned about innovative experimentation at CKGSB, discussed the next-generation requirements for executive education, and explored how executive education can achieve globalization through collaboration, AI, and digital transformation. IEDP created a beautiful and informative digital piece that described the conference and shared key insights for each theme. This is available in our Online Learning Community in Volute (just ask the resident AI-guy to find it for you on our “UNICON News & Conferences” discussion, typing “annual workshop report”):

annual workshop report IEDP UNICON CKGSB

In November we met up in the delightful and diverse city of Montréal for the Team Development Conference hosted by the HEC-Montreal. A record 267 people registered for this conference! This event–Empowering Executive Education: Talent, Collaboration, Innovation—took us through deeper dives into nurturing talent, collaborating for success, and innovating for the future. We learned from faculty, clients, social entrepreneurs, athletes, indigenous peoples, business leaders, and fellow UNICON members. We explored multiple perspectives on issues, including a session where we formed into age/era groups, resulting in some interesting dialogue and a great deal of levity. The conference experience included the Montréal tradition of a “white night” with the special feature of Cirque du Soleil performers—as well as DJ-inspired UNICON-member dancing. Read the IEDP report on this conference.

The directors’ conference gave us something completely new—a three-school partnership as the hosts. And how appropriate, as one of the conference themes centered around the value of partnering in our businesses. The three schools worked together to design and deliver a sold-out event that left attendees feeling energized and better equipped to lead into the future.

This conference was held in Hong Kong, where we had the opportunity to experience the campuses of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Western University-Ivey Academy in the city, while Michigan Ross, which also has a strong presence in Hong Kong, provided an expert facilitator throughout the event and many of the speakers, including a futurist. Speakers also came from the faculty and clients of HKUST and Ivey. The title of this conference was Winning in a New Era: Futurists’ Perspectives of Our Industry. The primary aim was to explore ideas for how executive education can differentiate in an increasingly complex and competitive landscape. In addition to the wonderful speakers and facilitators, we engaged in application workshops and a visit to an innovative technology hub.



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

The Benchmarking Survey in FY23/24 had a response rate of well over 80%. UNICON partners with Percept Research, which collects, validates, and analyzes the data, and together we published the results in detail, as well as in an info-graphic format. In addition, the survey results were presented at the Team Development Conference, leading to much discussion. When asked what they find most valuable about UNICON, members consistently mention this report.

The Research committee guided the completion of two timely projects and associated reports:

  1. ROI Revisited: Demonstrating The Business Case for Executive Education Programmes – Tom Ryan, December 2023
  2. Talent and the New World of Work – Jennifer Stine & Kelly Bean, April 2024
These papers were some of the most downloaded items from our website. If you haven’t yet, you will want to take a look and share these with others in your team.

The UNICON Leadership Academy graduated its 8th cohort, with 26 current and future leaders of executive education organizations, representing 17 schools. This 8-month learning experience includes online workshops, a mentoring program, and a day-long face-to-face learning experience just prior to the Team Development Conference. Taryn Streed, as the program manager, is instrumental in the success of this program, using the skills she gained when working in university-based executive education at the University of Minnesota. Monica Sacristan puts in countless volunteer hours as the faculty director as did Cathy Shea who is retiring.

The UNICON Online Learning Community powered by Volute continued to grow as a members-only learning and collaboration hub. New discussion topics were added, including Industry strategy & Dynamics and Teaching & Learning Innovation. Live-online meet-ups on CRM Strategy and the ROI Revisited research paper proved popular—and should engender further dialogue and insights on the platform. We also held two engaging live meet-ups with UNICON’s own Ken Bardach, former board member and board chair, and recent author of the new book Noble Leadership. The Volute team added AI capabilities to the platform—members are finding this incredibly helpful in finding and synthesizing information, creating new perspectives, and taking notes from meetings.

UNICON welcomed three New Member Schools into our consortium as Associate Members:

  1. IPADE (Mexico City)
  2. ESCP (Paris)
  3. Trinity College (Dublin)

In addition, the University of Utah was approved to move from Associate to Full Membership status.

I hope you will join me in congratulating these excellent schools and making them feel included and supported wherever you interact with them.


We welcomed three New Board Members, whose terms commence July 1: Jon Kaupla (University of Wisconsin), Marta Pimentel (NOVA University, Lisbon), and Nicholas Hamilton Archer (University of Michigan). They replaced three board members finishing up their board service—Katharina Lange (IMD), Lisa Hughes (Harvard), and Mark Lewis (retiring from University of Chicago). Board members are selected via two methods: a) the annual election and b) appointment by membership committee recommendation and board sanction. The UNICON board is a working, not just a governing, board. Thank you to Mark, Katharina, and Lisa for your work and contributions as board members.

We also welcomed UNICON’s new Communications and Member Engagement Director Danielle Macedo. She is based in Lisbon. You have undoubtedly already experienced Danielle’s talent and contributions. Danielle has merged seamlessly into our small team, and I am grateful to have her as a colleague.

Finally, as was true of the previous year, in my second year in this role I had the chance to interact with several hundred of you through these events and other conversations. I can sincerely say I’ve treasured each moment, and I look forward to every chance to work together to make UNICON and University-Based Executive Education even more valuable to our schools, clients, society–and to each of us.

With kind regards,

Melanie Weaver Barnett
Executive Director, UNICON