Professor Mauro F Guillén, Dean of Cambridge Judge Business School, outside CJBS.

Helpings of insight

6 January 2022

The article at a glance

The novel ‘Dine with the Dean’ programme at Cambridge Judge Business School provides a crucial window into students’ hopes and dreams. What better nourishment for a new Dean, writes Professor Mauro Guillén.

Category: Insight

Knowledge may be the food of the soul, as Plato famously said, but as the new Dean of Cambridge Judge Business School I figured that food was a fine way to gain crucial knowledge about the soul of the School – its impressive students and their diverse perspectives.

“Dine with the Dean”

Cambridge Judge in the autumn initiated a novel “Dine With the Dean” event series, inviting all the School’s degree-programme students to join me at a local restaurant or coffee shop for breakfast, lunch or dinner (usually in groups of five to seven students) to tell me about their hopes, dreams and queries – and to help me plan ways that Cambridge Judge can make their business school journey the very best it can be.

The Business School has excellent teams who deal with students on academic, career and other matters, but hearing directly from students has provided me a unique and unfiltered window into their fascinating worlds. Talking to students at a restaurant – away from the usual lecture theatre or seminar room – is a way to really talk about society, business, education, and their lives and aspirations.

Five key themes

Since I became Dean in September, I have already dined with more than 300 of our roughly 900 full- and part-time degree students. These meals have educated me on why our students decided to come to Cambridge Judge and their impressions so far. Five themes have rung out loudly, and remarkably consistently, from students in our various programmes ranging from the one-year MBA to the two-year Master of Social Innovation to the multi-year PhD:  

  • Cambridge: the town and the University, with all they have to offer by way of culture, knowledge and science
  • The relatively small cohort sizes at Cambridge Judge, which allows faculty to know each student and enables students to establish lifelong relationships with everyone in their cohort
  • The College system of the University, and the fellowship of learners this enables
  • The spirit of collaboration and teamwork that permeates the curriculum, which prepares our graduates for successful careers
  • The Cambridge technology ecosystem, which enables students to learn directly from practitioners.

How and why is Cambridge Judge able to offer this ‘Dine with the Dean’ programme? Because it reflects the intimacy of the Business School and its wonderful location in the heart of an ancient university city.

Cambridge Judge has gradually expanded over the years, but remains a very manageable size in term of student and programme numbers; we are a Business School that is global yet cosy, and not an impersonal factory, so we can pivot in innovative ways to relate to students as individuals. And while we are only three decades old, the business school reflects that culture of the 800-year-old University of Cambridge, where dining and knowledge have long been High Table-mates.

So what are some of the more memorable meals and conversations I’ve had so far?

I remember very fondly one in which we discussed how extraordinarily talented our students are. They include moviemakers, Olympic medalists, founders of grassroots organisations, and, naturally, people who have excelled at consulting, marketing, banking, and other careers.

Each student sitting around the table mentioned someone they admired in their cohort. And they were so proud to do so. And at another meal we talked about the fate of small island-nations in the context of climate change, and what can be done about it. Each conversation was revealing to me, evocative of so many of the very reasons why I feel privileged to be the Dean at Cambridge Judge Business School. And in case you’re wondering, the weight gain so far from these lovely meals is just a couple of pounds, while the knowledge and insight gained from our fantastic students is worth its weight in gold.