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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Giving Back: A Talk with CEIBS President (European) Dipak Jain

June 5, 2019. Shanghai – Professor Dipak Jain was born and raised in a small town in Assam, a Northeastern State of India. Growing up, his family couldn't afford to send him to top Indian universities. Nevertheless, he would later go on to become the Dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management before being appointed as Dean of INSEAD. He now serves as CEIBS President (European). Prof. Jain says that the combined power of both education and dreams has continued pushing him forward. According to him, education is not only about illuminating students, but is also a way to give back to society. A veteran in business management education, shares here some of his insights into how business schools can better serve their alumni and how CEIBS can better realise its vision for the future.

On December 26, 2004, Prof. Jain and his wife were on holiday in Phuket, Thailand, together with their children. They intended to go for a walk on the beach, but ended up taking the wrong way. As they turned around and started back for the beach, however, they found themselves facing raging waters and watch in horror as people were being engulfed by the sea. It was the day of the deadly 2004 Indonesian earthquake.

“A lot of people were killed in that tsunami, but not a single animal died. It got me into thinking, ‘Why would that happen?’” Prof. Jain recalls. “Then it hit me: Animals' feet touch the earth, so they can feel the tremors in the ground before the onset of a tsunami. But people who sleep in hammocks on the beach, for example, would barely notice it. What I have learned from that incident is that, no matter what we do, we should always remain down to earth, stay humble, and take our job seriously.”

Prof. Jain joined the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in 1986 and has spent decades in management education. In Hindi, ‘Dipak’ means ‘light,’ which, in his view, is the ultimate goal of education – namely, to enlighten others, enable more people to see the light, and bring peace and prosperity to the world.

“If you have a goal, just go for it.”

Prof. Jain received his bachelor's and master's degrees at Gauhati University. In his spare time, he also taught business statistics at a local college. During his first class, he was surprised to find that the average age of his students was 26, while he was just 22!

Feeling somewhat out of place, he turned to another professor at the college for help. The professor told him, “Whatever you do, don't pretend. Be yourself. If you don’t know the answer, just tell the students that you don’t know, and that you will answer them later. Don’t try to fool them. As time goes by, you will know the approximate scope of the students' questions, and you will know better how to answer their questions.” Until this day, frankness remains one of the qualities that Prof. Jain most values. “If you have a goal, just go for it, no matter what difficulties you may face.


Later, Prof. Jain went to America to further his study. On September 11, 2001, he became the Dean of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Just as he was stepping up to a microphone on stage to give an inaugural speech to nearly 600 students, a man came up to him and whispered, “I’m afraid you need to stop the speech. A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center. The students' phones are going to ring.”

"Once students became distracted, it would be hard for them to focus and listen to my speech, so I simply stopped,” he says. “This was the beginning of my career as Dean of the school – a very unfortunate start.”

"Never be ashamed to ask for help."

Prof. Jain soon realised that he was facing a crisis – the 9-11 attacks would have a negative impact on the U.S. economy and would certainly pose challenges for the job-hunting prospects of new graduates that year. In response to this, over the next few months, Dipak and his colleagues did two things:

One, they kept in close contact with alumni. He wrote a letter to alumni, explaining the situation faced by new graduates. In just two weeks, more than 90 students received offers from alumni companies. Although some graduates were offered internships or short-term employment contracts, the graduates could get started on the job market. They didn’t have to stay at home unemployed and they could look for better opportunities when the market picked up.

Two, they visited potential employers along with their colleagues at the school’s Career Development Centre. From October 2001 to April 2002, they visited employers almost every day all around the US. In the end, 91% of new graduates received jobs offered from those businesses, the highest percentage among all American business schools that year. The Kellogg School of Management also topped Business Week’s Business School Ranking that year.

Prof. Jain’s visits to employers finally caught the attention of the media. CNN decided to interview him. Although the interview was ultimately cancelled due to an injury Prof. Jain has suffered, the network went ahead and published a story entitled Kellogg Dean Begging for Jobs.

Despite the negative attention it brought, Prof. Jain says he believes it is the responsibility of both himself and the school he represents to make full use of existing alumni resources to help new graduates find jobs. It's not a contingency plan, it's just something that the school should do.

“Alumni are invaluable resources. Alumni are willing to make a contribution to the development of the school and are willing to help students at the school as best as they can,” Prof. Jain says. “So, if the school needs the support of alumni, don’t hesitate to ask and just be open with them.”

As can be seen from the experience of American business schools, alumni contribute to the development of business schools mainly in three ways:

  1. by making donations;
  2. by serving as mentors and helping students find a job; and,
  3. by acting as a bridge linking the school and the business world.

At CEIBS, alumni have also contributed greatly to the enrolment, the employment of students, and to the development of the school. This year, for example, the number of hiring companies increased by 24% over last year. Alumni companies offer a large number of full-time and internship positions, benefiting both the graduates and the students at the school.

“We should build a culture of ‘One CEIBS’.”

On September 11, 2018, Dipak officially became CEIBS President (European). During the inauguration ceremony, he told those in the audience, “There are currently 16,539 business schools around the world, and the competition between them is very fierce. Let’s work together and bring CEIBS to a higher level.”

As a business school jointly founded by the Chinese government and the European Union, CEIBS, with its positioning of “China Depth, Global Breadth”, has developed into an Asia-leading and globally renowned business school in just over 25 years.

Prof. Jain says that considers himself lucky to have joined CEIBS at such a critical point in its development. “I have witnessed the centennial of the Kellogg School of Management and the 50th anniversary of INSEAD,” he says. “And, I’m also honoured to now be part of the 25th anniversary of CEIBS. The past 25 years have seen remarkable achievements made by CEIBS. In the future, we will continue to raise our international profile, expand our reach in the United States, and strengthen our presence in Europe and Africa.

Standing at a new starting point, CEIBS has set a new mission: To focus on China and to contribute to the world. Prof. Jain also says that he believes that with this new mission, CEIBS will “leap from success to significance.” He also proposes that CEIBS’ five campuses should work together to build the culture of “One CEIBS,” through which students from different campuses or in different programmes can communicate with each other.

At the same time, CEIBS will continue to enhance the connection between the school and its students by organising different industry forums, inviting alumni to the school to share their stories and writing cases for alumni companies.

Ultimately, Prof. Jain says he hopes that he will continue to be able to make his own contribution to education and lead CEIBS to greater success. For one, he has faith in the bright future of CEIBS. He also thinks education is a way to give back to society. Looking back on his own life, Dipak feels that he owes a lot to the mentors and friends he has met all the way. “Because of them,” he says, “my life has had many more possibilities. So, I hope that I can give back to society by teaching.

Darren Yue
Michael D. Thede