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Journey to my MBA

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

June and July Economist News of Business School Happenings

News from the schools

Jul 14th 2006

Taking a vow of management

WHEN Thomas Groome, a professor of theology at Boston College, attended a conference of church and business leaders last year, he says it was as if the two groups were speaking different languages. “It was apparent that the business leaders did not fully understand the language of the church, and the church leaders, including the bishops present, did not fully understand the language of business.” And so it was that Mr Groome arrived at the idea of creating America’s first graduate programme in church management.

Starting this autumn, Boston College, one of America’s largest Jesuit universities, will offer a two-year master’s degree in pastoral ministry with a concentration in church management, and a three-year joint MBA/master’s degree in pastoral ministry. The university’s Institute for Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry, headed by Mr Groome, and the Carroll School of Management will collaborate on the programmes, which are open to both pastors and laypeople.

They will likely be welcomed by the Boston archdiocese, which is recovering from a sexual-abuse scandal that began in 2002. Poor management was seen as having contributed to the scandal and the financial difficulties that followed. Though much of the church’s operations in Boston are still run by men with little formal management training, there are signs that administrative competence is increasing. Indeed, just last month the archdiocese was commended for the quality of its financial reports.

Mourning marketing’s champion

Theodore Levitt, the renowned Harvard Business School professor who coined the term “globalisation”, passed away on June 28th at the age of 81. Dr Levitt joined the Harvard Business School faculty in 1959 and fast established himself as an icon in the world of marketing. In 1960 he penned a groundbreaking article for the Harvard Business Review, titled “Marketing Myopia”, in which he argued that most companies put themselves at a disadvantage by defining their missions too narrowly. The article became one of the publication’s all-time best-sellers.

Dr Levitt went on to write a total of 26 articles for the Harvard Business Review; an output equalled only by management guru Peter Drucker. Appointed editor in 1985, he spent four years transforming the publication from an arcane academic journal into an accessible management magazine, now read by most business leaders.

Dr Levitt was also a force in the classroom. His thick moustache, bushy black eyebrows and animated style of teaching (he was said to throw chalk at blackboards and students alike) made him a memorable figure on the HBS campus. Dr Levitt retired from the active faculty in 1990, having changed significantly the way marketing is studied and practised.

News from the schools

Jun 30th 2006

Hubbard on the offensive

“Who would have thought the ‘business school press corps’ was as tough as the Washington press corps?” So Glenn Hubbard, the dean of Columbia Business School, describes the recent criticism of business education in the media. In the past two months Mr Hubbard, a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under George Bush, has gone on the offensive against critics. In a university lecture in May and more recently in an opinion column in the Financial Times, Mr Hubbard has argued that US companies are more productive than their international competitors because American managers are better able to integrate technological advancements with new business models. Such strategic thinking is teachable, says Mr Hubbard, and business schools play an integral role in this development.

To back up his point, Mr Hubbard notes that no fewer than 18 of the top 25 venture capitalists on the Forbes Midas list have business degrees, and many of the recent innovations in finance and human resources management were developed by business school researchers. But, as Business Week points out, only 146 of the 500 highest-paid executives at large companies reported having MBAs in 2004. And while Mr Hubbard argues that “the role of a business school is to advance the transformative role of business in society”, many transformative business leaders—the founders of Microsoft, Google and Dell for example—might quibble with the notion that an MBA is essential to success.

A question of timing

Fortunes are made by those who anticipate when the stockmarket is about to turn. So too are investment-banking careers, says Paul Oyer, an associate professor of economics at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Using surveys conducted in 1996 and 1998, Mr Oyer has examined the career choices and salaries of thousands of the school's graduates. Not surprisingly perhaps, he has concluded that the proportion who are hired into investment-banking jobs moves in step with the performance of the stockmarket—increasing when the market is up and decreasing when it is down.

For example, two years before the stockmarket crash of 1987 more than a quarter of Stanford's MBA graduates went into investment banking—a category in which Mr Oyer includes money managers and venture capitalists. Two years after the crash, only 17% of graduates ended up in such jobs. For those choosing other careers, the timing turned out to be quite costly. Mr Oyer reckons that the current value of the lifetime income of a graduate who then went into investment banking is $2m-6m more than those who went into other fields.

European union

France's HEC School of Management and Spain's ESADE business school, already close collaborators, have decided to increase their cooperation substantially. Under a new agreement, students will have the opportunity to study for a time at both schools and take advantage of joint programmes abroad in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. The schools will jointly recruit and develop new faculty, and they will also collaborate on teaching and research. Bernard Ramanantsoa, the dean of HEC, told the Financial Times that the schools may also launch new executive-education programmes in countries such as the United States.

Cardinal changes

Perennially at or near the top of all the major rankings, the Stanford Graduate School of Business has little reason to fiddle with its formula for success. But that is just what the school has decided to do. After a four-month review, the faculty has approved major changes to the curriculum that will allow students to have a greater say over which courses they take.

The changes appear to draw heavily on successful initiatives undertaken at other schools, most notably the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, which boasts the most flexible curriculum of any top school. Like Chicago, Stanford has substantially reduced the number of required courses and set up a faculty-advising component to help each student craft an individual study plan. The idea is to make students more responsible for their own education, says Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behaviour at the school. In the past Mr Pfeffer has railed against the “inculcation and acceptance of economic language, assumptions and theory” at business schools. He has argued for a more engaging and profound course of study, and Stanford has dutifully taken up his call.

One of the keys to Stanford’s customisation effort is a new first-term seminar tentatively titled “Critical Analytical Thinking”. Ponderous adjectives notwithstanding, the course is designed as an informal discussion of management issues led by each student’s advisor. With fewer than 20 students to a group, advisors are to become intimately familiar with each student’s past education, work experience and future goals. They will then work together to create a relevant curriculum. At the end of the programme another seminar will ask students to assess their experience and reflect on how they hope to achieve their goals as they embark on their careers.

Students will also have to undertake a “global experience”, ranging from a study trip abroad to an international internship. “These new ideas do not tweak at the margins; they aim to create a new, more global, and more engaging experience for students,” says Garth Saloner, the faculty member who led the review. Robert Joss, the school’s forward-looking dean, says the new curriculum will also require a new facility that can accommodate more and smaller seminars. He will present a building proposal to Stanford’s board of trustees this month.

The burden of youth

Ten years into its existence, Oxford University’s Saïd Business School finds itself topping some rankings, yet burdened by a £5m deficit. The school has failed to break even in every financial year since its founding in 1996 and it owes Oxford University another £5m for help with the construction cost of its new building. Despite this troubled start, the school’s fiscal problems are unlikely to persist. Saïd has spent much of its revenue thus far paying down start-up costs. Meanwhile, the number of students enrolled in its one-year MBA programme has increased from about 60 in 1999 to almost 300 today. Saïd has also assumed responsibility for the university’s money-making executive education programmes. Richard Briant, the school’s optimistic head of administration, believes Saïd will begin turning a profit this year.

Cut out of Qatar

INSEAD, which has campuses in Fontainebleau, near Paris, and Singapore, is once again making waves abroad. Media outlets in the Persian Gulf are reporting that Qatar has pulled out of a deal with INSEAD to establish an executive MBA programme in the emirate’s Education City. The Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development said INSEAD breached a condition of exclusivity by also looking to set up a campus in the nearby emirate of Abu Dhabi. INSEAD would not comment on the arrangement with Qatar, but did confirm that it has signed a “memorandum of understanding” with Abu Dhabi covering executive education and research activities.

Active alumni

In a speech at Harvard Business School on June 7th the man nominated to be America’s next treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, told graduates that they are set to enter “by far the best global economy I've seen in my business lifetime”. Mr Paulson, a 1970 HBS graduate who went on to become CEO of Goldman Sachs, also gave the students some career advice. He counselled them to think for the long term, be honest in making career choices and live by a moral code. With this last suggestion, he may have been referring to fellow HBS graduate Jeffrey Skilling. Mr Skilling, who graduated in the top 5% of the 1979 class, was convicted on May 25th for his role in the collapse of Enron. He could face a prison term of 25 years or more.

Columbia cashes in

Columbia Business School has received pledges of $45m in donations from three prominent alumni. Arthur Samberg, who runs Pequot Capital Management, a hedge fund, plans to donate $25m, while Russell Carson and Henry Kravis, both founders of private equity firms, are chipping in $10m each. The gifts will go to strengthen faculty, expand the school's social enterprise programme and underwrite a new centre for case-study development.


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