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Thursday, July 13, 2006

BusinessWeek Article: A Global Vision At UCLA

A Global Vision At UCLA
After six months as dean of UCLA's Anderson School of Management, Judy Olian wants to build on the school's international reach and its quality
Judy Olian has been the dean of UCLA's Anderson School of Management (ranked No. 14 in BusinessWeek's Top 30 Rankings) since January, 2006. As the eighth dean at Anderson, Olian looks to build on UCLA's key strengths of finance, marketing, and entrepreneurship. While still catering to the students' regional interests in real estate, entertainment, and media management, Olian also seeks to expand international partnerships in which, for example, full-time students can spend immersion periods in China, India, or Latin America.

Olian served five and a half years as dean and professor of management at the Smeal College of Business Administration at Penn State University, where she oversaw launches of programs like the Smeal Trading Room and the Nittany Lion Fund LLC, a student-run investment fund. At UCLA, the school has just launched the Center for Finance & Investments, a research center in finance, and next year it will launch a master's degree in quantitative finance. She is also a board member and vice-chair of the business schools' accreditation association, AACSB International (The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business).

Olian recently spoke with reporter Janie Ho about her new position. Edited excerpts of their conversion follow. (To see a video interview with Olian, check out the Video Library.)

As the new dean of one of the top business schools in the country, what has been your focus in the past six months?
I've been meeting with faculty members, finding out what their passions are, what their vision for the school is. I've been meeting with our business partners and board of visitors—many of whom are important businesspeople across the country and the world. I've also met with alumni across the country and throughout Europe and Asia—in Madrid, Paris, London, Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo, etc.

What is the biggest change you've seen in MBA career paths in recent years?
The interest in social entrepreneurship and social responsibility is widespread. More of our students are going into not-for-profit organizations. We have a strong entrepreneurship program that has shifted to the nonprofit sector—public and community initiatives. We just launched a new course in social entrepreneurship. Every year we have several teams of students that go the most underdeveloped parts of the world to launch microfinancing projects.

Why do you think more MBAs overall in the U.S. are becoming more involved with nonprofits?
No. 1, because the nonprofits recognize that they have to be run more like business organizations. MBAs are more becoming leaders who bring savvy business thinking to creating and leveraging scarce resources of these social and community projects.

After overseeing the launch in student-run investment funds and trading programs at Penn State, what kinds of initiatives do you have planned for Anderson?
We have a venture investment fund already here at UCLA. We've just launched our Center for Finance & Investments, which is designed to be a premier research center in finance. We're the only school that has four ex-presidents of the American Finance Assn. on our faculty. Next year, we'll be launching a master's in quantitative finance, which is for the quantitative side of finance, delving deep into modeling.

How much do B-schools base programs or curriculum changes on the rankings like those in BusinessWeek? Are there any measurable changes or effects?
Well, we certainly don't design programs around rankings. We are mindful that rankings influence certain inputs, like the kind of students who apply to us, or even faculty and executive learners. We can't ignore the rankings, but we are driven by a model that says, let's design a program that attracts the best people around our mission of excellence. And hopefully, rankings follow that (see, "2004 Full-time MBA Rankings").

Do you see any challenges to the MBA world with many shorter, less expensive, specialized business programs sprouting across Europe and Asia?
There's no question that the MBA has to continue evolving with the global changes in the business requirements.

Do you think the MBA market in the U.S. is going to shift to copy these programs?
A larger segment of the population will probably shift towards these alternative programs. We are increasingly providing hybrid learning, using the Internet in the learning environment. Now we haven't moved, and I don't know if we're going to move, to a full-time, online model, because that's not what we are at UCLA. But it's incumbent on business schools to evolve, and not to offer just one product.

As a new board member on the AACSB, what kinds of MBA trends do you foresee in the future?
The marketplace for MBAs is increasingly fragmented. There's fragmentation for full-time, part-time, accredited, nonaccredited, U.S., international, and various length programs. You're also seeing the fragmentation in the consumer population of the MBA. Different students seek out different opportunities.

How do you think the value of the MBA may change in coming years?
The value assessment of the MBA is reflective of the timing for most people, which is somewhat later in their 20s and often their 30s, which means that they can't afford to go full-scale and give up employment. To enhance this learning experience, we frequently mix the full-time MBAs with our fully employed MBAs (FEMBA)(see, "A Long Day on the Homefront"). That's not to take away from the full-time MBA program because there you can really invest in extracurricular and international experiences that fully employed students can't.

How will you help bring Anderson into the global marketplace?
When I'm in Asia and in Europe, I'll be spending time with partners or potential partners to figure out how to make this international experience even more meaningful for our students, so they can spend some time being uncomfortable, being a minority in an environment where they don't speak the language, yet can conduct business.

What kinds of partnerships are you trying to leverage overseas?
I'm going with our executive MBAs to Beijing, where they'll be hosted by the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, the first private business school in China. We've already run entrepreneurship programs in China through our executive education program, and we're looking to expand these so they can spend a week here and there in different parts of the world, taking courses in their executive MBA programs, taught by our faculty, or theirs with their students. And, of course, visiting corporations. For our full-time students, I'd love to have a partnership where they spend an immersion for a longer period in India, China, and Latin America.

Do you see programs like the fully employed MBA gaining popularity across the country? And how does that differ exactly from an executive or a part-time MBA?
This year, our applications in the FEMBA program went up by about 35%, and we're adding a section of the program. Our full-time applications also went up, so it wasn't cannibalizing. There's been a bit of a strengthening in the MBA market. The executive MBA program attracts people with several more years of experience than the fully employed MBA.

Our Singapore program attracts people from all over the world, including from our program in L.A., where people fly out to Singapore once a quarter. Every three months they're there for two weeks intensively.

What is unique about an Anderson student? How would you market one to a recruiter?
We spend a lot of time on collaborative projects in the community. There aren't one or two industries that dominate the interests of our students. They're interested, not just in finance—which is, I think, the dominant interest of many MBA programs—but they're interested in entertainment, multimedia, biotech, high-tech, private equity. It's well-distributed across the student population.

How will you ensure students are prepared for flexibility in their careers?
MBA students are told at graduation that they're going to change jobs 10 times and have multiple careers. We certainly expect them to be in multiple industries. We need to prepare them for inevitable changes that will occur every 10 or 20 years.

We have to give them stability in their skill set, how they work in multicultural environments, collect information, and make decisions under uncertainty. A lot of our cases deal with making decisions under uncertainty.


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