Cultivating Future Business Leaders: Q&A with Dr. Kelly Dore

Business programs have historically relied on academic metrics to determine whether an applicant would make a successful business student, and future business leader. But focusing simply on book smarts is like taking a low resolution picture of someone – it gives you a view of the applicant, but it’s blurry and incomplete. 

Casper by Acuity Insights was first introduced into higher education as a way to assess professional and personal attributes – alongside existing academic metrics like GPA and standardized tests – for future medical students. However, it has quickly become evident that a way to measure these attributes was just as critical for other program areas, including business education, where attributes like collaboration, resilience and communication are equally important for both in-program and career success. To align Casper with the needs of business schools, the test has been blue-printed with input from business academics and industry experts to ensure that the assessed attributes match the current and future requirements of business schools.

We sat down with Dr. Kelly Dore, Acuity Insights VP of Science & Innovation and the co-creator of the Casper assessment – to discuss all things Casper, holistic admissions, and business education. 

We’ve heard this term ‘holistic admissions’, but what does it mean?

Kelly: When we say holistic admissions, we’re talking about assessing the whole applicant in our admissions process – or as much of them as we can. Historically, when we have only measured their academics, whether that’s GPA or through a standardized knowledge test like the SAT or the GMAT, we’re really only seeing one aspect of that person. 

You might see someone that’s incredibly book smart, that has had no trouble as they’ve gone through school and aced all of their tests and exams. But when they’re faced with real world complex problems, they struggle. When we take a more holistic picture – we’re still including the academics and the measures of knowledge – but we’re also adding measures of their personal and professional skills to get a sense of how they would apply that knowledge. This helps us measure their potential as a future business leader, considering their communication skills, empathy, agility, and life experiences in tackling tomorrow’s complex problems.

I like to use the analogy of adding more pixels to get a clearer picture of who these applicants are. So academic score gives you part of the picture, but the non-academic attributes can be just as important to someone’s future success.

What does a holistic admissions process look like for a business school, and why is it important?

Kelly: A holistic admissions process goes beyond just book smarts and academic test scores – and evaluates the whole person. This approach enables admissions teams to assess personal and professional attributes and an individual’s lived experience, helping programs identify candidates who possess not only academic excellence but also critical skills such as creative problem-solving, teamwork, and adaptability. It goes beyond selecting candidates based solely on academic or professional attributes, but instead seeks to identify potential leaders who can thrive in the ever-changing business world with a holistic set of skills.

Historically, we have emphasized academics, because they’re important, but also because they are easier to measure. What we realized though, is that successful business leaders of tomorrow need fundamental, durable skills, because knowledge and technical skills change so fast. What we hear from industry experts is that future business leaders in order to be effective need skills like: 

  • Agility
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Empathy
  • Leadership
  • Motivation
  • Problem-solvers
  • Professionalism
  • Resiliency
  • Teamwork

They can then adapt to new information, innovative technologies, and adopt new technical skills as they emerge. 

What is the Casper situational judgment test, and what makes it applicable for business schools? 

Kelly: A situational judgment test (SJT) like Casper ensures that we are capturing an applicant’s diverse life experiences and perspective when we assess their durable skills. We want to know how they’re going to react and behave in complex scenarios, so that we can understand where their strengths lie. Casper is an online SJT backed by nearly two decades of research, and has been used for almost 15 years.

  • Casper evaluates how applicants perform relative to the rest of the applicant pool. 
  • It helps us to identify those applicants that are coming in with strong personal and professional attributes. 
  • Applicants respond to open ended questions, using their own life experiences, to answer complex problems.
  • Casper is scored by highly-trained human raters who undergo implicit bias training
  • Applicants are assessed across 14 unique scenarios.

We first launched Casper in medical education, recognizing the demand for not only highly intelligent and academically skilled physicians, but also those with exceptional bedside manner.

What we see now, though, is that more and more professions are realizing that without personal and professional skills, students are ill-equipped to handle the rapidly changing real-world challenges. The test is adapted when we approach a new area of education, be that nursing or teacher’s education, and the same is true for business, we want to ensure the test measures the behaviors relevant to business school success. We know based on the data that individuals with strong personal and professional attributes yield positive outcomes in terms of their future job performance, program success, and faculty ratings.

Will Casper become another admissions barrier? What does it accomplish that isn’t already being addressed in business school admissions?

Kelly: The short answer is no, Casper shouldn’t be considered an admissions barrier – in fact it’s quite the opposite. Business schools largely rely on academic test scores as admission criteria, without considering evidence-based assessments that measure personal and professional attributes. This screening process may result in an incomplete picture of applicants, with applicants being passed over before schools really know more about them besides their GPA. It goes without saying that those selected on academics plus professional attributes will be a different group than those selected on academics alone. With thousands of applicants, business schools may miss out on potential superstars by not evaluating their full range of attributes. Because of this, Casper should be considered an opportunity to showcase skills outside of academics, and will broaden the students who are entering business school. 

What makes Casper different from other standardized tests? 

Casper is significantly different from other standardized tests which measure knowledge – first and foremost it is measuring something different, it adds a data point on non-academic attributes, an area we previously didn’t have any information on. 

SJTs like Casper have demonstrated significantly smaller demographic differences, when compared to traditional knowledge based exams or even GPA. That means that not only are you measuring a data point that you didn’t have information on before that, but you’re doing it in a more equitable way that aligns to our goals around racial and gender equality.

What advice would you give to a business admissions leader who wants to incorporate a more holistic approach to admissions?

Kelly: When we’re creating a holistic admissions process, it’s important that we ensure the data points we’re using are defensible, and predict for somebody’s holistic success later on in the program. This means thinking about what attributes are linked to success in your students and your graduates. It’s important to ensure that you’re intentionally combining academic attributes (like GPA or standardized tests) and non academic attributes (like Casper). In order to maximize their value, it’s best to include both early on in the selection process. If you are only considering one aspect it means you are narrowing your applicants based on only a part of who they are. This way you’re opening your doors to more eligible students – in a more holistic, equitable way.

Find out more about Casper for Business Education or book a demo