Program Report: NCCU Buisness School – Dean Keith Pigues

PiguesWebOkay, the big crowd wasn’t really there for Todd Taylor’s Rotary Minute, at least most of them. Many were there for a presentation before the meeting of a “business case” developed by several very sharp high school students that are part of the Leaders of Tomorrow program of the National Black MBA Association, a favorite organization of long time Rotarian and City Councilman Howard Clement and his wife Annie.  Most of the guests also stayed for the program provided by Dean Keith Pigues of the NCCUBusinessSchool.

One of the students sat down at my table and politely inquired what each of us did.  After meeting a lawyer, an electronics guru and a physician, there was clear surprise in her eyes when I announced that I was a plumbing associate at Home Depot. Like Todd, I’ve had many career lives, but, as my wise pappy used to say, “Sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.” I mention this because the view you get of business at the bottom of the chain of command is quite a bit different than that shared by management or seen by MBA candidates doing case studies.  In fact, I often joke with customers wondering in frustration why Home Depot carries parts for one faucet but not the one they bought that it was a mystery to me but undoubtedly the decision of some MBA at their headquarters in Atlanta noodling on a spreadsheet.

With that perspective, it was very refreshing to hear Dean Pigues present a vision of where he is taking NCCU to make the school and its graduates more relevant in the real world. Listen up Home Depot, you may want to send some recruiters to NCCU.

Dean Piques, who was introduced by Chris Gergen, ticked through a number of concepts that drive their curriculum. First he mentioned integrative business management, the idea that all the pieces have to work together and that a student should understand how that happens before specializing in marketing or finance, for example. Second, he mentioned the importance of globalization and a desire to get the students overseas for some first hand experience in the importance of this.

Third, he mentioned the role of leadership and the conviction that leaders are born and not made. He stressed the need to understand the difference between leadership and management and the need for both. This is sometimes difficult for us foot soldiers to stomach, but experience bears it out. The fourth concept he mentioned was technology. Today there is no grace period and any new MBA must be able to hit the ground running with an understanding of which technologies drives business now.

There were two other things that Dean Pigues hopes to bring to the school. The first is active entrepreneurship, that is, actually launching businesses from the school. The second is what he described as the 50/50 success model or a balance between academic and experiential learning. In other words, make working in real businesses part of the curriculum. If you want to know how consumers choose a new toilet, put on an orange apron and hang around Aisle 30 in your local HD, don’t just try to divine it from a page of statistics.

He then wound up by sharing with us a direct lesson about leadership which he hoped would pay for his lunch. It did many times over. He said that what leaders really do is set direction, align people and resources and motivate and inspire. The real lesson was his example because it was clear that that is exactly what he is doing at NCCU.

A week or so before his presentation I happened to notice Dean Pigues’ name in a list of folks on Linkedin that I might be interested in “connecting” with so I sent him an invitation with a note that I was looking forward to his presentation. He graciously accepted and said that he was looking forward to it too. His Linkedin profile provides some interesting additional background at

Submitted by Jay Zenner

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