“My work was about creating new knowledge, defining my scholarship – not about getting an A.”
Dr. Carolan McLarney, Professor
Faculty of Management
International Business was my opening MBA (FS) course. In my first e-mail to Dr. McLarney back in 1999, I asked how would I know whether I was on track with my studies. Rather than highlighting “marks”, she suggested that I give voice to my ideas, solutions, arguments, which were to be based on solid research and objective analysis but tempered with humanity and compassion. It was a liberating answer.
Fast forward to 2017, I asked Dr. McLarney to recall her advice on the importance of scholarship. She graciously agreed to share her thoughts in an open letter to our alumni community.
I first want to congratulate everyone who has made CFAME Connection a reality. This is a great opportunity for our alumni community to share knowledge and experiences.
Rebecca shared with me the email below that I had sent her in the early days of her first course: International Business. As I read what I had wrote to her I began reflecting on my time here at Dalhousie as an educator, researcher and scholar. I have included both the original email and my current thoughts on “marks vs. scholarship:
From Fall 1999:
“A discussion on marks vs scholarship really struck a chord within me. Not for the obvious reason, my profession, but rather I was reflecting on my days as a doctoral student.
When I had made the decision to pursue a PhD. I really had no clue what I was getting myself into. I remember my conversation with David, my Managing Director, centered on my desire to teach. He said I could stay with the firm and teach part-time if I wanted to, or I could pursue a doctorate and come back and consult and teach. So, for me I had a wonderful safety net in my toolbox as I entered my PhD. Once I entered the program, it quickly became evident to me that completing a PhD had nothing to do with teaching and we were told very early on to drop that dream. My office mate Ed, who now is my writing partner also wanted to teach, so we became this little band of undercover teachers. All these years later Ed and I still write and still teach with passion and commitment.
Being a doctoral student is a terrifying but freeing experience. An MBA does not prepare you in any way for a PhD. It is never about marks or assignments. When I started, the course syllabus was often a list of 50-70 books, 300 articles and this sentence “On (insert last day of class) you will submit a journal ready article”. It was expected that you would then submit that article the next semester to the journal you had chosen. It was a daunting experience, but one that was the best training as a researcher. My work was about creating new knowledge, defining my scholarship – not about getting an A. That was a major paradigm shift for me.
My hope for MBA students is that they will experience a “shift” when they engage in their studies. And for a vibrant alumni community I send out this reminder: that we are continually challenged by measurement systems. Instead of reaching for the mark, reach for a greater prize: scholarship. That choice has made all the difference in my world.”
Fast forward to Winter 2017
“I am now 25 years into my career as an academic and the one thing that I know is that you never finish anything completely. This may seem strange, but for me I feel I am a “practicing academic”. No lecture or paper is ever perfect; they can always be improved.
My teaching has evolved, and hopefully improved, to address the ever-changing student body. When I began teaching in the MBA-FS program the majority of the students knew of a life before the internet, today the majority know of no life before Google or Amazon (not the river). When I began, students in our program “faxed” their assignments into the OEGP office, today everything is done through our learning platform Brightspace. I have had to adapt and to adopt new ways of teaching and connecting with students. What has not changed is my belief in the power of ideas, the written word, and setting aside time to think. I always start the intensive for capstone course with this: “What I want this week to be is a time for reflection, a time to think about the past number of years you have spent in the program, and time to ponder the challenges and great opportunities that lay ahead.” This is what I hope for our Alumni, that you have continued to carve out time to think. Time to sit with a problem, an issue, an idea. Time to let your thoughts percolate. Time to let your mind wander.
When I look at my research over the years, I also see it has evolved. My early days were spent trying to get parts of my dissertation published. My dissertation was the largest research project I had ever completed. It was also the worst because it was the first. Today, and three dozen articles later, and I can say I am better. I am better at articulating my ideas, better at structuring research studies, better at reaching my intended audience. My doctoral supervisor once said to me that I was entering the most wonderful profession, “They are going to pay you to think, to write and to disseminate what you find.” He was right, but what he failed to tell me was the enormous obligation to get it right. So, I continue each day to “practice”. To think and re-think an idea. To write and re-write and re-write, again, a paper. To present paper after paper until my ideas are heard.
To all of our students and Alumni, I want to encourage you to continue to practice all that you learned in your time with us. Always take the time to reflect and appreciate all of your accomplishments.”