Over the past few years, business school deans have come under the scrutinizing eye of the media, as some schools have been actively recruiting new deans while getting rid of old ones. How important are deans to their schools? Can a good dean champion an MBA program to success? Let’s have a look at what deans actually do.
One of the main functions of a dean is to provide guidance, steering their school in specific academic and philosophical directions. A dean’s direction should ultimately provide a mission – and he or she should implement programs to meet goals. Last year, the business school world watched a shift in philosophy at Harvard when its business school named Nitin Nohria as its new dean. Nohria, who has long-developed interests in both business conduct and corporate transformation (he authored a great, forward-thinking book called Changing Fortunes: Remaking the Industrial Corporation,) quickly moved to integrate business ethics and a focus on teamwork into the school’s revamped curriculum. Although this shift can be seen as reactionary – many critics of HBS are quick to point out that some of their MBAs like Enron’s Jeffrey Skilling acted rather unethically in their business dealings – it also represents a legitimate commitment to curtail these moral lapses. At the very least, Nohria’s appointment demonstrates a continued transition away from an era of American exceptionalism: Jay Light, Harvard’s previous dean, had made strides to re-brand Harvard as a global school, strides that Nohria will undoubtedly lengthen with his international focus.
If you’re thinking about doing your MBA, you might be curious about what MBA life is actually like. Often, descriptions on schools’ websites and other promotional material give great overviews of the programs themselves and other concrete facts, but lack insight into what daily student life is actually like.
But if you do want to hear about student life, you’re in luck. There are a wide range of blogs available to look at, where current students regularly share their b-school experiences. And since, for many of the student bloggers, the school year has just started, you can start tracking them now to follow them through their ups and downs as they progress through b-school. By reading student blogs, you can get get a peek into what life is actually like, both in and out of class, and figure out which schools best suit your pace and style.
Is bigger necessarily better? BusinessWeek asked Doug Guthrie, the dean of George Washington University’s School of Business, if the size of a school’s program mattered. He responded by saying that it generally depends, and that larger programs can spread their message more effectively – but that in the end, a smaller class size is ultimately better because faculty can have closer and more intimate interaction with students.
Intuitively, this makes sense. A small number of people means more direct interaction, and more cohesion. But does a smaller class size make a difference in the long run – and is this effect quantifiable?
A recent Kaplan Test Survey had some informative facts about how b-school admissions officers research candidates’ online personas during the MBA application process. Particularly, the report said that 27% of admissions officers surveyed said that they searched the internet for applicants to learn more about them – and 22% admitted that they have researched candidates’ social networking presences, including visiting their Facebook profiles.
Furthermore, of the admissions officers who did snoop at social media profiles, 14% said that they found something that negatively impacted a candidate’s application. That candid photo snapped of you in an unbecoming pose after a late-night bender? That might look bad.
Social media has quickly become part of our daily lives, and can present problems if it blindly merges uninhibited social lives with our more structured business personas. Fortunately for MBA applicants, the large social media websites have noticed that people lead nuanced online lives, and have adjusted privacy settings accordingly. But still, there are some steps you can take to insure that admissions officers don’t find those incriminating photos.
Last year, the Find MBA Blog interviewed Thomas Graf, the director of the website Master in Management Compass, about the differences between Master in Management (MiM) programs and traditional MBAs.
Graf noted that MiM programs tend to draw younger candidates with less work experience. They’re also generally cheaper, and carry less reputation than their better known MBA counterparts. Interestingly, Graf noted that there is not much difference in the range of their respective curriculums:
Some students I talk to think there are no differences at all. I think this is probably too strong to say, but overall the differences in terms of content are not that big. Both offer general management courses, integrated team work, case studies, and a practical-oriented approach.
So, if the curriculum is about the same – how do the differences play out in the real, post-graduation world?
As admissions season gears up for 2012, we get back to our ongoing series of interviews with MBA admissions directors. This time, we speak to Lee Milligan, admissions director of the full-time MBA program at Copenhagen Business School.
Copenhagen Business School has 48 full-time MBA students from 24 different countries. How does maintaining this diversity affect MBA admissions decisions? Do you cap admissions from certain countries?
We don’t have any specific caps, but we try to make the program as international as possible, while also trying to maintain the quality of the students. I guess it is a bit of a balancing act. There’s no specific group to whom we would say there’s only a specific number of students.
Do you ever see major spikes in terms of the number of applicants from specific countries?
It really varies from year to year. The more I’m in this job, the more I think it has a great deal to do with economic conditions in the world.
If you look at Germany, for example, two years ago, when the economy was going down, if you went to an MBA fair, for example in Frankfurt, it was absolutely packed. Last year, when suddenly jobs were more readily available, the fairs were extremely quiet. I think it has to do with economic conditions in specific parts of the world and that there is a link with the number of applications from specific regions.
There’s a recent story in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, titled “The Online MBA Salary Blues,” which discusses the idea that graduates of distance learning MBA programs may not see as much of a salary increase as those who finish traditional, class-based programs.
The story is mainly based on the entrance salary data for the inaugural cohort at University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School’s new online program, MBA@UNC. BusinessWeek essentially posits that since incoming students already make substantially more than the class-based students ($128,500 vs. $55,000 per year,) it will be very hard for the online grads to see the same increase that the traditional students see. Although this hypothesis is mostly speculative and ostensibly limited (after all, the online program at UNC has just begun, and there are only 19 students in the inaugural class) it will be a fascinating case study for distance learning programs generally, seeing as how UNC’s online program offers the exact same curriculum as its class-based program, for the same price.
Significantly, the new building, the design of which is based on smaller lecture locations and more informal spaces, emphasizes an increased shift to dispersed group learning. Steven Wilson, the school’s head of learning and teaching development, told the Independent that the new addition is representative of a larger change in teaching philosophy, and that:
“These days, there is far more emphasis on team working and individual project work. Students told us they wanted a large area set aside for collaborative working where they wouldn’t need to worry about disturbing others. It’s all about getting the best out of the available space.”
Indeed, recently, a number of business schools have been changing up their campuses and adding new buildings to replace old ones. What’s interesting is that beyond the whiz-bang of added new technology (of which there is plenty,) many of the new designs are reflecting shifting philosophies, not just in how business is taught, but how it is conducted in the real world.
Ever wanted to see what an MBA lecture was like, without paying thousands of dollars for it? Or are you curious to see if a popular business professor is really that great, or would you like to hear about some new research? Well, with iTunes, now you can.
Many business schools are starting to provide lectures, podcasts, and other resources for free or inexpensively through iTunes. Users can download them and engage them immediately, or put them on an iPad or iPhone and watch (or listen) on the go. Apart from being super convenient, these resources can also give potential students insight into what an MBA program is like from the inside, or just be rewarding to those simply seeking new ideas.
Keep in mind that these videos are not meant to replace the MBA experience (there is no infrastructure for interacting, at the very least;) but they can be extremely valuable nonetheless. Below you’ll find some of the best offerings from some top European MBA programs on iTunes. Note that to use these podcasts and videos, you’ll need to have iTunes installed on your computer, and to use them on the go, you’ll need an iPod, iPhone, or iPad.
If you’ve been looking for MBA programs, you might have come across the phrase “design thinking.” So, what exactly is this, and what does it mean?
Briefly, in terms of business, design thinking is a way of solving problems through the lens of design: using methodologies and strategies to see those problems in terms of an integrated system, and then finding solutions that make sense in terms of the larger system. Typically, design thinking is a human-centered approach, which means that by using insights into psychology and the social science, practitioners can develop solutions that meet the needs of people.
Design thinking generally goes hand-in-hand with MBA programs that are strong in innovation and entrepreneurship. It makes sense, really – if you want to create new, innovative products, you will need to think about design (and how consumers will use the products) from the very beginning. Honing this approach is one of the reasons why California College of the Arts’ MBA in Design Strategy is popular with entrepreneurial-driven students.
CCA’s program, along with those at other b-schools – including Stanford, Insead, and the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto – show a widening adoption of design thinking and strategies into traditional business curriculum. By integrating design thinking, these programs tout an integrative, human-centered (and often multidisciplinary) approach to the traditionally by-the-numbers nature of business. Rotman’s website points out some of the core philosophies behind its program:
Whether the goal is to develop new products or services, create new ways of marketing to customers or reinvent an entire business model, ‘design thinking’ helps get bigger ideas, faster and more efficiently. We believe the mindset and methods behind great design are the same ingredients for successful Business Design. By incorporating the ‘design experience’ into our curriculum, we offer students a unique and valuable opportunity to learn new ways to tackle complex challenges in deeper and more holistic ways.
However, some observers aren’t sold on the benefits of design thinking, and believe that it means little more than adding a new coat of paint to an old product. Peter Merholz, in a post titled “Why Design Thinking Can’t Save You” on Hass Business Review’s Blog, calls recent media attention to design thinking “fetishistic,” and says that:
“Design thinking is trotted out as a salve for businesses who need help with innovation. The idea is that the left-brained, MBA-trained, spreadsheet-driven crowd has squeezed all the value they can out of their methods. To fix things, all you need to do is apply some right-brained turtleneck-wearing ‘creatives,’ ‘ideating’ tons of concepts and creating new opportunities for value out of whole cloth.”
Indeed, the turtleneck-wearing creative crowd sometimes gets a bad rap, because many assume that design is only concerned with outward aesthetics. In a TED talk, author Tim Brown (whose book “Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation” is required reading in some design-oriented MBA programs,) says that when designers (possibly while wearing turtlenecks) create new designs that simply repackage existing products, they are thinking small. He posits that design thinking should be much more than just reskinning a product – in fact, by thinking big and perceiving problems through a human-centered and design-oriented paradigm, we can solve some of our most pressing challenges, including climate change and access to healthcare.
Of course, these challenges require more than just a new coat of paint.
If you’re interested in learning more about design thinking, It’s definitely worth checking out Tim Brown’s TED talk: