When Professor John Benson first entered Monash University in the late 1960s to study for a Bachelor of Economics, he was constantly encouraged by his professors to challenge conventional economic theories.
This training taught him not to accept the status quo but instead, to be inquisitive. Inspired by his own Monash experience, Prof Benson hopes to produce graduates who are innovative, entrepreneurial and able to ask the right questions, now that he has been appointed the Head of the School of Business at Monash University Malaysia.
“I want the School to be the leading business school in the region. To achieve this goal, the School will have to focus on three things – research that addresses contemporary business issues, engagement with and relevance to industry, and encouraging students to be inquisitive and questioning of the world around them” said Prof Benson.
Prof Benson, apart from his economics degree, also holds a Master of Education from Monash as well as a Master of Arts and PhD from the University of Melbourne. He is also a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and a Senior Associate at St Antony’s College, Oxford University.
Prof Benson came to Monash University Malaysia from the University of South Australia where he was a professor and the Head of the School of Management. Prior to that, he was a professor and the Chair of the Graduate School of International Business at the University of Tsukuba in Tokyo, Japan, which he had joined following 22 years as an academic at the University of Melbourne.
Being part of a research university, he said Monash Malaysia’s School of Business needed to do a very practical thing - to find answers through its research on how it can impact and make a difference to people’s lives.
“We should not just simply focus on how many times our research is referenced, or the quality of the journals our publications appear in, although these are important measures of quality. We should always challenge ourselves to find ways to improve the lives of all Malaysians and the citizens of other countries,” he said.
Prof Benson, who has been a frequent consultant to government, business and trade unions in Australia, Japan and Europe over the past 30 years, said it was important for the University to not just look inward but also contribute to the wider community outside of the University.
“Malaysia, as with all countries, need world-class universities and Monash is a world-class university. I hope Malaysians will value the contributions that Monash is making here, which is to provide them with a world class education and hopefully improve the living conditions of all Malaysians”.
On students from the School, Prof Benson has equally high hopes of producing well-rounded graduates who can be future leaders in the global business world.
“At the School of Business, we develop our students not just academically but also holistically. Coming to university is not only about attending lectures, reading books and passing exams. We want our students and researchers to be able to stretch themselves, and to be the very best that they can be.”
“Our graduates will be career ready, and when they leave the University and join the workforce, often global and multicultural organisations, they will be able to adapt and succeed,” he said. Prof Benson, who is a tennis player, bushwalker, and a very amateur photographer, also encourages students to join clubs and societies as “those are the places where they can pick up leadership and teamwork skills” that can prepare them well for the business world.
To ensure its relevance to business and industry, he said the School has an Industry Advisory Board, made up of senior managers, that plays an integral role in its decision-making processes.
“We do not sit here in isolation and make decisions about what is best for students but rather we listen carefully to the board and its members as to what we should be doing to ensure that we are, and will continue to remain, relevant to the global business world,” he said.
“The Board looks into various aspects of the activities that are taking place at the School and if they think we are not doing enough on the content of certain subjects, or we need to re-align our research more closely with industry we will listen as we take the comments raised by the Board very seriously,” Prof Benson said.
On a personal note Prof Benson commented that he has been impressed by how welcoming students and colleagues have been, the wonderful mix and variety of food, and the innovative and forward looking nature of the Malaysian business community. For more information on Monash Malaysia’s School of Business, please visit www.buseco.monash.edu.my.