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Alice Guilhon is dean of Skema business school in France. As dean of the former Ceram business school she oversaw the merger between Ceram and ESC Lille in 2009 to create Skema. Before taking on the role of dean she taught at several other schools including Trois-Rivières in Canada and the University of Aix en Provence in France.
Prof Guilhon’s education includes a masters in economics and a Phd. Last year, she was awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite by decree of the French President of the Republic, in recognition of her work with the Ministry of Higher Education and Research of France.
Having spent an early childhood growing up in the south of France and Tunisia, Ms Guilhon says she now lives “in a plane” because she divides her time between Lille, Paris, Nice and overseas. She enjoys opera, sport and epistemology - the study of knowledge.
(1) What do you enjoy most about your job?
There’s a satisfaction in the knowledge that we are working for the students, helping them develop their personalities, both personally and professionally. As teachers, we have a lot of responsibility vis à vis our students. We have to open their minds and get them thinking critically as well making sure that they always want to keep on learning.
(2) What is the best piece of advice a teacher gave you?
To always listen and try to understand that people have different ways of doing things.
(3) When did you know you wanted to teach?
My father was a teacher and I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps when I was 10. He was a university professor and was head of the economic chair in Marseille. I was full of admiration when he talked about his teaching experiences, especially in Tunisia. I think I was impressed because he was stood before an amphitheatre with 1000 students!
(4) What academic achievement are you most proud of?
The merger that I oversaw between Ceram and ESC Lille business schools. It was the first time two high-growth, international business schools decided to merge and position a school around the knowledge economy.
(5) What is your biggest lesson learnt?
To be humble when faced with injustice.
(6) What advice would you give to women in business?
I always have three words in the back of my mind: Courage, conviction and tenacity.
(7) How do you deal with male-dominated environments?
The strength of women is to know how to play on the weaknesses that have largely been institutionalised by men. Letting them believe that they are stronger, better and smarter, men tend to rest on their laurels. Women are on the whole less gullible.
(8) What is your favourite business book?
Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.
(9) What is your life philosophy?
Never forget one’s values.
(10) What is your plan B?
If I did not run a business school, I would work for the French Interior Ministry, specialising in economic security and competitive intelligence, which is my field of research.