Ron Tuninga, AACSB, The Netherlands

Published 03/04/2024

This week, we spent five minutes with Ron Tuninga, VP and managing director for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at AACSB, the global nonprofit association connecting educators, students and business to “create the next generation of great leaders”.

Introduce yourself in three words or three phrases?

International, entrepreneurial and a people-person.

What do you like most about your job?

I like that I’ve worked in many countries before; as a dean, as a pro-vice-chancellor, including in the UK. And, and what I like especially now is, I can also, as part of my job at AACSB, share a lot of my experience with deans of business schools across the whole EMEA region where I’m responsible.

Could you tell me about a defining moment in your career?

When I became a dean at Maastricht, where I was working not only with traditional type of students, but we were also running a lot of programs in developing countries and emerging markets, to help people get to the next level.

The beauty of my current role at AACSB is it’s sort of an extension of that.

What was your first job in the sector?

Many moons ago, I started as an assistant professor in marketing and international business in the US, at Philadelphia. I was teaching students and doing research, typical things like that. I still remember my first lecture I had to teach in a big auditorium.

I was very young at the time, I’d just finished my PhD, and I tripped over something coming into the auditorium and fell down the steps. The funny thing was, some students caught me before I completely went all the way – then they said to me ‘don’t worry, the professor is not here yet!’

What is the best work trip you’ve ever been on?

I went to Africa about 20 years ago or so for a graduation in Rwanda, just outside Kigali.

The president of the country was going to speak at the graduation. It was in the open air and we had to wait a very long time. But that’s where I learned that in Africa, you must expect the unexpected.

The president showed up about three hours late, and we still had the most beautiful event I’d ever seen. Through the ceremony, we had the national dance and music troupe of Rwanda perform – it was a very memorable event that I won’t forget.

What is the worst food or beverage experience you’ve ever had at a conference?

Well, that’s quite an easy one. I was in a place that was quite far away from home, where I was getting food that I’ve never had before – and where, luckily, I wasn’t told what it was upfront, but after the fact, I was – you can fill in the rest!

If you could learn any language instantly, which one would it be and why?

I’ve been struggling with French for a while… I’d go with that as it’d be great to instantly learn it.

“I’ve been struggling with French for a while… it’d be great to instantly learn it”

What is the most interesting trend that you’ve observed in the industry recently?

I think the potential that artificial intelligence has to help students and professors alike to provide a new type of education for the future.

Do you have a book or podcast recommendation for others in the sector?

It’s on the political side, but Martin Wolf’s The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism – it came out in February 2023.

It talks about how we have to be much more careful about protecting our democracies if we don’t want to get ourselves into trouble.

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