Inspired Leadership, Digitally Driven: The Merage School is Ushering in a New Age in MBA programs

October 18, 2017 • By UCI Paul Merage School of Business

Over the past year, all facets of The Paul Merage School of Business have been focused on redefining the Merage School’s identity and initiating changes to position the school to address both student and business needs in managing digital transformation. 

This fall, the Merage School will formally launch its new tagline and brand identity with a kickoff in November during the first Distinguished Speaker Series (DSS) event of the year.  Featuring Jeff Erhardt, vice president of Intelligent Systems at GE Digital, the DSS will be held Monday, November 6 in the Merage School Auditorium with registration beginning at 6:00 p.m. 

Professors Margarethe Wiersema and Vijay Gurbaxani have been instrumental in effecting this school-wide cultural and academic shift, and the entire faculty has been involved in refining program curricula. In addition, a special advisory board of top executives was assembled who are guiding the school strategy and focusing on actionable ideas and a new set of competencies best suited to the digital age. Experiential learning components continue to provide real world education, allowing teams of students to immerse themselves in valuable projects with Southern California organizations.

“As our lives become more digitally mediated, we must adapt ourselves and the businesses we create to keep pace. It is with this vision in mind that we have completely reframed our MBA curriculum to give students the high-caliber, holistic preparation they need to become effective leaders in a digitally driven world,” said Eric Spangenberg, dean of the Merage School.

Gurbaxani and Wiersema have worked closely with the Merage School faculty to redesign the MBA curriculum through the lens of emerging digital technologies, and their impact on industry and how companies compete. The goal of the new curriculum, launched just last month, is not only to teach students the scope of these technologies, but also the potential opportunity to create value in the marketplace through digital innovation. Core courses in the Merage School MBA programs now examine how technology is disrupting all aspects of business from marketing to accounting across a diverse range of industries, from manufacturing to finance to healthcare and retail.

“Through these courses we are preparing our students to answer new questions about how to adapt as business leaders, how to invest in emerging technologies and how to manage the transformation of a company from an old way of doing business to a new one.  We are preparing them to navigate the cultural shift that goes along with this transformation,” said Gurbaxani.

 “The mantle of preparing business students to deal with the digitally driven world has not been taken up at large in the business school community,” said Wiersema. “Graduate management programs are stocked with tech-savvy, plugged-in people. However, to date, no school offers an MBA focused on competing in a digitally driven world that provides students with the knowledge and strategic thinking skills to address the dynamic and disruptive changes facing businesses and management.”

The Merage School Center for Digital Transformation (CDT) is playing a key role in the new school identify. Established in 2012, the CDT has become a vital center of influence, advancing the competitiveness and productivity of business in the digital economy.  Each year, the CDT hosts a landmark annual conference, “Road to Reinvention,” which brings together CEOs and thought leaders to discuss critical issues senior executives must consider as they guide their companies in the age of emerging technology. At the 2017 conference, CXOs of innovative businesses like Target, Lyft, Ticketmaster, Edmunds, and Warner Bros. spoke on themes of leadership, transformative technology, and reinventing business models.

With a compelling new curriculum and Center for Digital Transformation, the Merage School is poised to enter a unique role in educating generations of visionary leadership for a digitally driven world.