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Journey to my MBA

Friday, March 11, 2005

My MIT Visit

Back in December, I had visited MIT-Sloan on a Friday. I didn't write about my visit, because I felt that there wasn't much to write about. Frankly, this review is more or less about my self-guided tour. So take it with a grain of salt.

The school was pretty quiet when I arrived. I was able to ask around and be politely assisted by students in finding the main entrance. The Sloan school entrance when you walk on campus is a totally mystery. There aren't any clear signs and the entrance looks like an after thought attachment to a pre-existing building.

Nevertheless, I was able to find the admission offices. I crossed the main gathering area of couches and tables. There were about 10 students working on their laptops and talking. Although the picture below is bright and cheery, I had arrived by 4pm and it was already dark. The room and hallways leading in and out are rather poorly lit at night.

I was able to talk to an associate admissions director about the school despite the fact that I didn't make an appointment. She answered many of my questions.
I then embarked on a self-guided tour of the school after grabbing a bunch of literature in the waiting area of the administrative offices. On my way out, I noticed the file folders for student mailboxes that were setup along the hallway similar to what I saw at Wharton. The bulletin board above the file folders was full of club announcements and newspaper clippings of MIT-Sloan news in local and national newspapers. They were an interesting read as I recall.

As I walked out the door, it had grown dark and I was a bit disoriented. So I asked a passing student to direct me to the Sloan classrooms. He pointed me to an entrance across the street.

Upon entering the building, I was pleasantly surprised to find an area that opened up to a large two story reception room like area with steel railed stairs going up on my right. I realized that going forward would probably lead me to some bigger room beyond the doors across the room or into a large meeting lecture hall. So I elected to go up the stairs. As I walked down the halls, it smelled a bit musty and old. The architecture made me think that the designer took his inspiration from clean mathematical/physics lines. The floors of the halls consisted of 1 foot by 1 foot square linolium off-white and speckled tiles that I normally see in Academic buildings built in the 60's and 70's. The halls were lined with pictures of MIT "Kodak moments" from the past 75 years. One picture in particular had a group of 30 students dressed in 70's outfits and hairstyles.

Continuing down the hall, I noticed doors to a classroom that was ajar.
Although there wasn't anyone inside, I thought I'd try to get an idea of the feel of the classrooms by going in.

The seating was oval shaped, but unlike any other school I had been too, the seats were arranged in an exaggerated long oval such that the seats directly facing the front were the farthest away from the board of any B-school I had ever visited.

I decided to sit in a seat pretty close to the "chalkboard". Yes, they use chalkboards at MIT, not whiteboards. The interesting thing that I noticed as I continued to scan the room was that the Prof from the previous class had not erased the board. The chalkboard was full of economic trend graphs and formulas describing permutations of the graphs. I didn't see a single bullet point that listed "phrases" or "ideas". I recall thinking to myself.. hmm I wonder if this is an indication of what style of teaching one can expect at the school.-- highly quant based?

I went to two other classrooms after that. In each case, the chalkboards were full of formulas... formulas... formulas.... "Was I at MIT's Math Graduate school or MIT's B-school?", I thought to myself.

The elevators were broken, so I went up the stairs. I found the career center offices and a series of study rooms full of students. There must have been 20-25 of these rooms. The walls facing the hallway were made up of a white glass so I could just make out the shapes of people in the rooms, but not really peer into the room to see what they were doing. Here's a pic of the study rooms I found on MIT's web site. I dared not bother those students to take a picture. (By the way, all the school pics I posted are from MIT's web site)

I managed to find some wandering students, grab their attention and ask them about their school experience and a bit of what they thought about the school. This was great. I found that all the students I talked to were always more than willing to answer a few questions for me.

As I continued to walk around, I ran into the 2nd floor walkway that connected the classroom building to the admissions building. This was nice as it does get cold there. This makes it so that once you enter the school, you never have to worry about going outside in the cold to move between classes. In fact, here are some live traffic cams within a few blocks of MIT to give you an idea of the weather right now.

Traffic Cameras

In assessing the strong Quant characteristic of Sloan, I was not surprised to find the following statements on Sloan's web site.

1) From the moment, more than 50 years ago, when founder Alfred P. Sloan asked management guru Douglas McGregor whether effective managers were born or made, MIT Sloan stood at the forefront of leadership education and research. Professor McGregor's research to answer that question led to his formulating the Theory X and Theory Y of management. Almost all of today's approaches to leadership development can be traced back to McGregor's work at MIT Sloan. This just cracks me up. MIT has got to be the only school that boils their management definition to Theory X and Theory Y" Source

2)The nature of the MIT Sloan MBA Program requires a thorough grasp of quantitative and analytical skills. Beyond these basics, we are looking for insightful, innovative and adaptable leaders for tomorrow's complex, international environment. The successful applicant will have a strong record of personal accomplishment and a clear and focused vision of how the MIT Sloan MBA Program will contribute to this path. Source

My take on the school is as follows:
1) Quant Quant Quant. You're grades from college math better be high to get in.

2) Entrepreneur, Math-oriented, academically strong and IT/Tech oriented seem to be this schools forte.

3) The facilities are clearly sub-par to any top MBA school that I've visited and seen on the internet. The classrooms are nice and technologically up to date, albeit the use of chalkboards is so old school. There's no real student center area that I'd call adequate for a graduate school. Frankly, the B-School facilities for a school as great as MIT are piss-poor. I understand that the school is HUGE and that real estate is very limited. Nevertheless, I was VERY dissapointed. The only things that are good facility-wise are the classrooms and study rooms.

4) The chalkboards, linolium floors, 70's pics on the hallway walls, limited space for students activities all gave me the impression that Sloan is a school of the past in terms of facilities, but preaches being a school of the future. I find this rather ironic.

5) This brings me to what makes MIT great. It's the people. What I mean is that MIT's selectivity of students(alumni), world renouned prof's, and admin staff are the distinct reasons why Sloan is what it is. In other words, when you pay tuition at MIT, you're not paying for facilities... you're paying for the ability to be taught and influenced by the collective at MIT.


Blogger caroline said...

Yes, the people at MIT are great. I actually just got "accepted" to MIT straight out of undergraduate. I graduated Wellesley College in 3 years, with no work experience, so they are waiting for a slightly higher GMAT score. As it turns out I was a French and Political Science major, who didn't take a lot of math and science. So you can actually get in without being stellar in Math, you just need to prove yourself of the GMAT. I thought the program would be great for me, because it would allow me to brush up on my quant skills. Although the facilities suck, I think that MIT does make up for it in several other ways. What you forgot to add on your list were the amazing programs and double degree programs that they have with other schools such as Harvard.

10:37 PM  
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