“Every day that I spend in a classroom feels like a gift”

Meet Professor Daniel Beunza, new MSc Management Course Director. Daniel shares his professional background, ambitions for the course and plans to keep alumni connected with Bayes, following graduation. 

Please could you tell us about your academic and professional experience and how it led to you becoming the MSc Management Course Director at Bayes?

I started my academic career teaching MBA students at Columbia Business School in the 2000s. When I first saw my colleagues teach the case method, I witnessed first-hand the magic of participative teaching: classes were fast-paced, intense, and never boring. But, would I be able to do it? At first, I struggled but I received professional coaching, mentoring from a renown Harvard professor, Prof. Todd Jick, and eventually mastered MBA instruction. On my last day at the job, the school’s director of teaching quality called me to congratulate me.

Later, as lecturer at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), I discovered it was possible to adapt UK MSc programmes to offer that magic engagement that I saw among MBAs at Columbia. I introduced participation marks, business cases, student nametags, lapel microphones and amphitheatre-style lecture halls. Students responded very well and I eventually became one of the top-rated instructors at the LSE’s division for executive education.

How did the pandemic impact teaching and your transition into the new role?

I started my role in September 2020 when the pandemic was already in its second wave. Meetings and classes were mostly over Zoom, but I benefited from nine months of face-to-face handover work with my predecessor, Dr Joanna Zaleska.

My first task as Course Director was to connect with the teaching team, which I did over Zoom. The team responded positively, so I followed this by reaching out to the entire School in an “MSc Management Hackathon” to elicit ideas for improvement, again over Zoom. Our Head of Faculty back then, Prof. Gianvito Lanzolla, was incredibly supportive. The Hackathon elicited huge interest from academics and administrators both at Bayes and City at large.

Teaching over these past months has evolved from face-to-face to Zoom-based, and then to hybrid mode. There have been plenty of challenges with technology; and students have been incredibly patient with us. On the other hand, some things we did, like the welcome party at an open-air bowls court organized by Zoe Owen, were a hit. Now we are back with face-to-face teaching, and every day that I spend in a classroom feels like a gift.

What changes have you introduced to the programme to enhance academic results, ranking and reputation?

My goal is to bring to Bayes the lessons that I learnt at Columbia and LSE, and introduce participative teaching to drive up student engagement and improve learning outcomes. My aim, in short, is to offer MBA-level engagement for MSc students. No-one else does this among our competitors. After extensive consultation at the School, I pioneered this innovative approach to teaching this past autumn with all four modules taught in Term 1. It took a while to put together the necessary tools, practices, documentation, etc.

The results, however, have been unequivocally positive: the numbers show that when the students were asked to participate, they turned up to class more often, did more of the readings, and rated the modules more positively. Participation also provides presentation and communication skills, which are key with job placement. I was surprised, to see that even the current MSc students mention our new teaching approach when talking to this year’s MSc applicants.

How can MSc Management alumni support current students and help improve the course overall?

Our alumni have a significant role to play. When I call for greater student engagement, I do not simply mean classroom engagement, but greater connection, presence, interaction and communication at all levels of the student experience and the MSc community. So, this includes engagement with faculty and administrators, but especially with potential employers and with alumni. The pandemic has made face-to-face events difficult up until recently, but now we are planning several events to bring back our alumni to Bayes to meet our current students. Stay tuned.