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Journey to my MBA

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Michigan Info Session

Last night I went to the Michigan info session in San Francisco. It was held at the consulting firm AT Kearney. They are up on the 16th floor on California street overlooking the bay and the city. The view was dreamy.

There were about 65 attendees with 20% of the group being women. Unlike other info sessions I had attended, the composition of the group was prominently Caucasian rather than Asian and few Indians. There were 6 alumni and 2 current 2nd years (Matt, one of the 2nd years is the current president of the high tech club. Leo, the other 2nd year had numerous things he shared, but is also president of the dance club). One other staff member, Lovi who leads the Entrepreneurial Institute was present as well. Food and drinks were abundant.

I forgot the name of the presenter. I just know that she was of Chinese descent and was one of the associate directors of admission. By the way, in case you haven’t noticed, every full time staff person in nearly all the B-schools are called directors. The distinguishing titles of general staff are called either associate or sr. associate directors and “THE” director is simply called, “director”.

I recall meeting her at the World MBA Tour in Los Angeles. She was nice and helpful both times I’ve met her. Despite her minor Chinese accent, she was confident, kind and presented the school thoroughly.

In fact, she had the most unique presentation out of all the school info sessions that I’ve visited. (As you recall, I’ve gone to Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, Tuck and HAAS info sessions) The two things that made Michigan’s presentation stand apart were:

1) The extensive use of multimedia in the presentation (for example, there were mini-video interviews of people commenting on the various aspects of the school) and the motion graphics were top notch. The media was used to emphasis some important facts as well. (for example, when the topic of “create your educational experience” came up a listing of particular bullet points that defined how this was true came up and the bullet points phrases moved over each other, shrank and grew to the point where it looked like someone was messing with the mouse on her laptop keyboard. It was merely done to emphasis that each bullet point was not more important than the others listed. The multimedia for the most part really helped and in a few other situations, it was a bit distracting because it was overdone. I thought the whole multimedia presentation would be perfect being packaged onto a CD or the web with some narration and viewed by prospective students. On the web, the extent of multimedia of the presentation would have definitely been appropriate. Hmmm, possibly the start of a new generation of alternative info sessions)

2) Throughout the presentation, the host would have an Alumni, current student or Lovi come up and describe their experience of that particular aspect of the school. They presented their topic very well and didn’t go off into “this was great, that was great” generalities, but rather gave summaries of what they did, their struggles and successes as well as some summary points of what they learned. So for example, when the host talked about Alumni, the president of the bay area Alumni association was there to give a synopsis of specific things that they do. When global projects were discussed, the host had Matt and Leo each give a synopsis of exactly what they did on their projects. When the project-based institutes came into the presentation, the host had Lovi give a summary of what the entrepreneurial institute did and gave some examples and went into juicy details of recent activities.

Forget the logistics problem of getting to AT Kearney at 6:30pm which is an earlier time than most info sessions which had me to traverse peak traffic team in dreadful San Francisco traffic to get there. Forget the fact that I spent 30 minutes just trying to navigate my way through San Francisco traffic to find a parking garage. Forget the fact that the address number on the building isn’t really visible and as a result some attendees complained that they had to walk around the block a couple of times to find the building. This was flat out the most well done presentation I have seen of any school and not by a little, but by quite a bit. Other schools, if you’re reading this; sorry.

The host described Michigan as a school that builds up leaders as instigators of change and/or impact in our society and in business. Equally important was the schools vision of a holistic education which is why Ross has only one major, general management.

The presentation was covered in 4 phases
1) The Michigan Experience
2) What makes Michigan Unique
3) Michigan community
4) Return on Investment

The presentation started with some mini-interviews of students and faculty. Then a listing and thorough dialogue of the Ross overall core values which are

1) Develop broad based adjusting education
2) Co-creation of opportunities to learn
3) Business innovation
4) Action-based learning

The core curriculum values are:
1) Education is adapted continuously
2) Intense education
3) Inclusion of classroom and real-world experiences

Broad Based Education:
Since the school focuses on general management, the key point to understand about this is that Ross wants to build leaders in all areas. Nation-wide, Michigan rates #3 in Marketing, #8 in Global scope, #5 in general management and #7 in ethics. Michigan is not rated in the top 10 for Finance and Technology, but with the new Tozzi Financial Center and the 100 million from Stephen Ross (Michigan Alum) recently whom the school is now named after, I think Michigan will be making some changes in Faculty, student resources and facilities very shortly. By the way, 100 million is the largest one time donation any B-school has ever received.

Co-Create your educational experience
1) Customize your post-core curriculum and experience. 150+electives some of which are 7 or 14 week long classes allowing one to take more electives than normally possible at B-school.
2) Draw on cross-campus opportunities. There are 23 other top ranked graduate schools on campus offering a variety of double-major opportunities. Students can take 10 credits outside of the Business school per session at other grad schools.
3) Take advantage of 4 research institutes. There are 4 institutes which are comprised of classes, seminars, mentoring and action-based projects. The institutes are focused on different areas. They are: emerging markets, entrepreneurial, engineering and environmental. Lovi presented the entrepreneurial institute. He’s a full time staff at Ross heading the institute. He covered a lot, but one example project he mentioned was the Fund/VC Venture project made up of about 8 1st years and 8 2nd years. This project has students get together and decide on start-up’s to invest in. They had 3 million in the fund and recently, one of the companies they invested in had an IPO increasing value of the fund to 4 million.
4) Participate in clubs, case project competitions and symposiums.

I had a problem getting my head around what Ross meant by “Action-based” learning. I had to ask questions about it. My question was, “what is different for school XYZ having students doing case method and a doing a few projects versus what Ross calls A-B learning?” The way it was described is that Case method is a “study what others wrote and what they learned is written up in the case..” Action-Based learning is more involved in that students do the collecting of data, defining of the problem and providing recommendations. Essentially, A-B learning write-ups are done resulting in Michigan’s own case method papers. Although, the papers are not used in the curriculum currently, I can see that over time, we may see case papers coming out of Michigan because of this. These projects are mentored and guided by the institutes and profs. The projects look very much like a McKinsey consult. The teams consist of 5 people. These kinds of projects are under the Multidisciplinary Action Projects (MAP). These projects start near the end of the 1st year of school and continue through graduation. I think the best way to conceptualize A-B learning is to think of it as Academic training of what a consultant at McKinsey would do. Think “B-School” consultancy and live guided business training. I know other schools do similar things, but I was informed that many schools claim to have projects, but lack structured guidance and mentoring. I don’t know how true this is. Perhaps a Michigan student of alumnus reading this could clarify this a bit more.

I don’t know if other schools have this, but Ross built the Tozzi Finance Center. It’s a large real time, live wall street experience intended to mimic the wallstreet experience. It’s used as part of one of the electives. After learning how everything works the class is taught using the Finance Center. $100,000 of fake money is given and you learn on as you go. Ross is the only B-school that allows students to earn a Bloomberg certificate. I’m sure other schools have something like this, but this room has like 20-30 computers for every student and the room is huge.

Ross defines the complete education package around
1) Leadership – Seminars, Leadership assessment, leadership opportunities and etc.
2) Knowledge
3) Skills – Action-Based learning, case method, etc…

Ross is located in Ann Arbor. Apparently, it’s been rated the #6 best city to live in the U.S.. Although, I don’t know what source got this stat from.
Students are placed into 70 student sections. There are 6 sections.
Grades are under non-disclosure.

The Ann Arbor area is the life sciences and tech corridor in the state of Michigan.

Admission stats

GPA Average 3.3
GMAT Score Average: 690
GMAT Middle 80% range 640-740
Class Size: 434

One last point about the students from Michigan. I was very impressed with the students and the alumni. There were all articulate and were able to clearly explain all their points quite well.


Anonymous MBA Applicant (from Brazil) said...

Dave, very nice report and analysis. I didn't have many opportunities to get to know better about Michigan, so your post was awesome. Thanks!

6:09 PM  

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