Robert Hel­s­ley wants stu­dents at UBC Sauder to think about more than money

BC Business Magazine - - Contents - By Lucy Hys­lop

For Robert Hel­s­ley, pre­sid­ing over UBC Sauder isn’t all busi­ness

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity, dual Cana­dian and Amer­i­can cit­i­zen Robert Hel­s­ley landed his first fac­ulty role at UBC three decades ago. Hel­s­ley, now in his sec­ond five-year term as dean of the Sauder School of Busi­ness, talks about what drew him to leave the U.S. and why the school has high as­pi­ra­tions.

This much I know…

“I be­lieve in the power of ed­u­ca­tion for all peo­ples and so­ci­eties. It’s been trans­for­ma­tive for me, and the op­por­tu­nity to have that ef­fect on oth­ers is re­ally re­ward­ing. I would say ev­ery­body who is in­volved in the uni­ver­sity at some level is im­pacted by the abil­ity of ed­u­ca­tion to change the path of a young per­son’s life. Per­son­ally, the cul­ture of di­ver­sity in Van­cou­ver has been so im­por­tant; there is so much re­spect for the ben­e­fits of di­ver­sity, which you don’t re­ally have in the U.s.—it’s in­su­lar. It’s so much richer here; we have [63,000] stu­dents who have come from 160 coun­tries in the un­der­grad­u­ate cour­ses.” “There is, how­ever, a tra­di­tional view that busi­ness schools are fo­cused on mon­e­tary mea­sures of suc­cess. My feel­ing is that there’s a tip­ping point, and in­creas­ingly the so­cial im­pact of busi­ness is a big­ger part of the con­ver­sa­tion, and one of the key things our school does is to think about that. In re­cent years, we’ve tried to cre­ate a higher pur­pose.”

“We spend time talk­ing about val­ues in busi­ness—it’s good for an in­sti­tu­tion to have some­thing big­ger that it’s try­ing to fo­cus on—and the fact that there’s a po­ten­tial for busi­ness to con­trib­ute to pos­i­tive so­cial change. There’s a de­mand from con­sumers and em­ploy­ees that com­pa­nies have a set of val­ues and live up to them. Peo­ple want to feel like they are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence. It’s crys­tal­lized in re­cent years that our stu­dents will be tak­ing on lead­er­ship roles in the fu­ture, and we would like them to be the kind of lead­ers that drive pos­i­tive so­cial change. So they think about how their busi­ness im­pacts so­ci­ety, so­cial out­comes, the en­vi­ron­ment and broader things.”

“Busi­ness schools tend to be iso­lated—and I’ve al­ways seen that as a lost op­por­tu­nity. So we’ve been con­sciously try­ing to cre­ate ways to en­gage with oth­ers at uni­ver­sity to find a new way for the busi­ness school to add value. One area where we are truly unique is the dual de­gree, where stu­dents can study for an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree in al­most any­thing at the uni­ver­sity and study for a mas­ter’s in busi­ness at the same time [and an ad­di­tional six months], which is re­ally cool. The idea is that if you take some­one who has a tech­ni­cal or mu­si­cal in­ter­est, for ex­am­ple, and add some busi­ness train­ing, it makes them much more ef­fec­tive in what they can turn it into as a ca­reer. It not only adds to the di­ver­sity of the school, but par­ents love it, too.”

FUN FACT Hel­s­ley lives with his wife, Beth, with whom he has two grown-up sons, in Van­cou­ver's Kit­si­lano. Out­side of academia, he plays gui­tar and has a col­lec­tion of seven clas­si­cal and jazz in­stru­ments

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