In an April 5 luncheon hosted by the Paul Merage School of Business, Merage outlined his vision for the school’s future, proposing to use business practice itself as a vehicle for social and economic change.
The luncheon was held in the foyer of the Barclay Theatre and was attended by some 200 of the top movers and shakers in UCI and Orange County.
Merage described how the new School of Business might eventually create an entirely new model for the U.S. economy, one he calls ‘the innovation economy.’
‘The Paul Merage Business School, within one year, has totally transformed itself. Its focus is now on promoting the concept of sustainable profitable growth,’ Merage said. ‘The capitalistic system we have today is merciless if a company cannot achieve growth,’
This pressure, Merage noted, may be driving the increased pressure Americans experience in every other aspect of their lives.
‘We are witnessing a barrage of changes in our daily lives,’ Merage said. ‘Pressures are taking place in the family because of lack of time and huge social change. … Manufacturing jobs today are going overseas, and some of the white-collar jobs are going with them.’
In the press conference that followed the luncheon, Merage and Andrew Policano, dean of the School of Business, explained how the business school curriculum can serve as a catalyst for change with these and other pressing issues.
In their first year, the students will learn how to perform cross-functional trend analyses that include cultural, social, environmental and ethical factors. These factors are often discounted or ignored in the traditional corporate decision-making process. Students will also learn how to effectively present and promote their findings in a business environment.
The second year of the program will emphasize placement in internships, generally with local businesses, meanwhile maintaining an emphasis on international operations. Students will periodically present their findings and discuss experiences with faculty and fellow students.
Merage and Policano acknowledged that some key questions remain unanswered. Can such a program overcome institutional resistance to analysis and long-term planning?
‘It’s really going to depend on how our world evolves,’ Merage said. ‘There are political forces in play.’
Policano agreed that some analyses might produce recommendations that are dead on arrival, including outsourcing jobs to other countries.
‘If a manufacturer is not producing in China or Mexico, five years from now they won’t be in business,’ Policano noted.
Despite these and other possible criticisms, Merage believes efforts should be made to achieve his goal of sustainable profitable growth.
‘We must give our graduates the tools to manage growth responsibly and ethically,’ Merage said. ‘This is a quest. And this is a quest that has to be done here at UCI’
Merage addressed the question of why he chose UCI as the beneficiary of his $30 million.
‘UCI is a young, scrappy and very vigorous university,’ Merage said. ‘I feel that it’s possible to make a real difference here.’