Michigan’s Ross vs. Northwestern’s Kellogg

by John A. Byrne on

The Ross School of Business' new ultra-modern building in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and Michigan’s Ross School of Business may very well be more similar to each other than any other two top schools. They attract similar applicants–outgoing, highly collaborative, super smart, down-to-earth. They have similar program strengths, outside of Kellogg’s number one status in marketing. They attract similar corporate recruiters to campus, and grads from both schools tend to go into the same industries by nearly the exact same percentages. The only exception is that Kellogg produces a higher percentage of consultants than Ross.

There are some important differences between these schools, however, not least of which is the challenge for Ross of being near Detroit, one of America’s most troubled cities. “The single biggest misconception about Ross is that we’re all about the auto industry,” says Gene Anderson, senior associate dean of academic affairs. “What happened for us is we’ve gone from being a strong regional school to a strong national school. We now want to get a place in the group of really world-class premier schools.”

The most dramatic differences between these two MBA educational giants?

Geography: Ann Arbor, Mich., and Evanston, Ill., might not immediately come to mind as centers of culture or business. But they are among the most appealing college towns you’ll ever encounter, close American equivalents to Cambridge and Oxford. Evanston has the advantage of being just a 30-minute train ride from the heart of Chicago, one of American’s greatest cities. Chicago is an exciting place to be, with lots of music and cultural attractions. It’s a major advantage for Kellogg, though the downside is obvious: the winters can be absolutely brutal. Ann Arbor, of course, is a quick ride from Detroit, sadly a depressed and declining city that has seen better times.

Size: Michigan and Northwestern have among the biggest MBA programs in the world. Kellogg has a full-time MBA enrollment of 1,241 students, while Ross is slighly smaller, with 910. At either place, there’s a lot going on, from part-time MBA and Executive MBA programs to significant executive education programming. Ross also has a large undergraduate population of nearly 1,100 students. Bottom line: these are not small-scale, intimate settings where there is total focus on the MBA as there would be at Dartmouth’s Tuck School, Stanford, or a few other schools that rank lower.

The "Davidson Winter Garden" has become the gathering place for Ross community.

Culture: Despite its much larger size, Kellogg has managed to create a smart and down-to-earth community that is nearly as close-knit as Stanford or Dartmouth. Students are deeply engaged in every aspect of the school and deeply collaborative with each other. There are many reasons for this difference but probably the most influential one is the fact that Kellogg interviews every applicant to the school so that interpersonnel skills get greater attention than a many other schools. Put highly intelligent, yet friendly and outgoing people together, and you’re going to get a strong culture that approximates a sense of family. Ross isn’t quite Kellogg, but it also isn’t nearly as competitive as some of the top urban schools. “Ross has always had a strong collaborative culture and a willingness to try new things,” says Anderson, who has been at Michigan for 22 years. “You can see it in the way the students interact with each other. It’s a comfortable atmosphere. It’s a friendly place. People are willing to help each other. At some schools, the culture follows an eat-the-wounded credo. That’s not true here.”

Facilities: In early 2009, Ross moved into a brand new 270,000 square-foot, world-class building with 270,000 square foot of very modern space. The new place gives Ross a 320-seat auditorium, a 7,200 square-foot fitness center, along with a dozen tiered, u-shaped classrooms. Yet, the most striking feature of the structure is the “Davidson Winter Garden,” or town square that serves as a gathering place for everyone in the Ross community. “In a way,” says Anderson, “it’s architecture following culture. It creates an enviornment where the whole place comes together: students, faculty and staff.” The school knocked down three buildings to get this one new centerpiece, with about 90,000 additional square footage. In all, the Ross School has six buildings on the University of Michigan campus. The Kellogg School, in contrast, is largely housed in two connected buildings built in 1972, Arthur Andersen Hall and Leverone Hall. A six-story addtion was added to the northeast of Andersen Hall in 2001. Now known as the Donald Jacobs Center, it’s a compact and efficient facility that could use more updating.  A separate executive education facility, the James Allen Center, is a short walk away on Lake Michigan.

Teaching Methods: At both schools, there’s a fairly strong mix of lectures, case studies, experiential learning and simulation. One of the big overall differences between Kellogg and Ross goes to the root of the Kellogg culture: collaborative team work. You would be hard pressed to find a school that requires more work in different teams across the entire two-year experience than Kellogg. Sure, almost all the schools talk the teamwork and collaboration game these days. But Kellogg was the first major business school to make working in teams a core part of the MBA experience. It remains a profound difference between Kellogg and just about every other school. “Part of what makes Kellogg different,” says Dean Sally Blount, “is what is underneath the words ‘team’ and ‘collaborative.’ It’s about making everyone in the room more productive. We get ahead in the world by having everyone win, not by eating someone’s lunch.” That’s what the Kellogg difference is about. The average Kellogg grad will have been in roughly 200 team meetings by the time he or she graduates. Each student grades his fellow teammates on most of the group work and those grades go to the professor so there are no free rides. Some Kellogg grads actually think that the school puts too much emphasis on teamwork and not enough on independent thinking and study, but they tend to be in the minority. Adds former Kellogg Dean Dipak Jain: “I always believed that attitude is the best indicator of aptitude, how high someone will rise. At Kellogg, we bring in people who are best at working with each other and it makes a a difference.”

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  • http://www.masteradmissions.com Betsy Massar

    Great comparison, John! One area students might be interested in is sustainability. Ross is big in that area; they are going to be holding the annual Net Impact Conference in October this year.

    Here’s some more info I have on Ross’s environmental and social enterprise leadership:

    * Ross is ranked as the top U.S. MBA program in Beyond Grey Pinstripes 2010 report, for a combination of coursework, student experience, and faculty research. Says one student, “These issues aren’t just an extracurricular activity here at Ross, but a core piece of your education.” According to Net Impact’s 2009 report, “Ross incorporates triple-bottom line issues into some of its core classes” and MBA students also have the option to take such courses as “Corporate Environmental Strategy, Finance for Sustainable Enterprise and Sustainable Manufacturing.”

    * The Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, a 50/50 partnership between Ross and Michigan’s School of Natural Resources, also influences student awareness and course options. The Erb Institute focuses on: alternative energy and clean technology, climate strategy and carbon policy, mega-city mobility and accessibility, base-of-the-pyramid and social enterprise, and green buildings and development. Students also have the option of a joint MBA/MS program, which combines coursework, fieldwork and research related to business, the environment and sustainability.

    * Ross offers loan repayment assistance for those who go into non-profit careers after graduation.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Betsy,

    Betsy, many thanks much for reminding everyone of Michigan’s leadership position in sustainability. I’ve had the folks at MIT’s Sloan School recently tell me that they’ve lost admitted students to Ross due to your dual-degree program in sustainability with the university’s School of Natural Resources. This is a three-year program and admitted students can choose which school they would prefer to spend the first year at. Many of the 15 to 20 students who start this program begin at the natural resources school, spend the second year at Ross so they can graduate with their b-school peers. The third year is where the two schools programming comes together. Currently, there are about 40 students enrolled through all three years. Applicants should know that they essentially have to be admitted to both schools for this program, and each school views each applicant separately.

  • ultrasound technician

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/shashankps/ Shashank

    John,

    These posts are extremely helpful. Keep them coming. Great job!

  • http://www.mylifeineurope.net Flora

    Hi John, thank you very much for this analysis. Very helpful!

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Thank you for coming to the site. Tell your friends. Spread the word!

  • Sushant D’Souza

    A comprehensive comparison- thank you for putting such efforts into this

  • http://michiganexpats.com michiganexpats.com

    I’m surprised to see Michigan’s rankings often behind Kellogg’s ratings. I thought they would be closer. Another surprise was Michigan’s marketing program is so close to Kellogg’s, considering Kellogg is usually considered the #1 marketing school. Great article! I love seeing these head-to-head comparisons.

  • John Doe

    John:

    Would love to see a Tuck vs Kellogg comparison!!!

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    That’s a logical comparison because there are quite a few cultural similarities between those two great schools. Will do as soon as I can.

  • John Doe

    John:

    Why do you think the Tuck school suffers in the prestige department by students (and recruiters) when compared to the likes of Columbia and Northwestern. It seems that is is considered half a notch below? Is it the location?

    Or is it the poor placement in finance and being a “regional” New England school? It seems they have the potential given the premium MBA experience to be a legitamte top 5 school in USNW.

    Thanks.

  • Vikalp

    Hey John
    I have been an avid reader of your site till now. I need your and other community member’s help now.
    I have been accepted at ISB. Now I am confused if I should still to apply to ROSS. Can you give some insights? \
    Thanks.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Vikalp,

    I really don’t know enough about you to confidently recommend whether you should apply to Ross. ISB might be your best choice, depending on your background and interests going forward. If you are in India and have not spent a lot of time outside the country, I would definitely apply to Ross. Why? Because it would be a far more valuable experience for you to leave India and study an MBA abroad. The problem with ISB is not one of quality, per se. It’s the lack of diversity of the students and faculty. You won’t get the kind of global, multi-cultural experience that you could at any of the best European or U.S. schools. That is a huge drawback to an MBA from an Indian institution. On the other hand, if that doesn’t matter to you and you plan to use your MBA in India, it may not be a big deal. Good luck.

  • mpd762

    Hi John,

    Thanks for the great article, and this wonderful site as a whole. I’d like to echo John Doe’s request for a Kellogg vs. Tuck article. Kellogg recently began notifying applicants of their acceptances, and, in seven days, Tuck will do the same for their EA applicants. Such an article would greatly benefit EA applicants to Tuck who will essentially have two weeks to decide between these schools. If you can get to it, I don’t think there’s a better time for that comparison!

  • SD

    Great job John. keep it up!

  • Mike

    Love it!!! I would tove to see a comparision between Ross & Duke as well.

    Thanks

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    You will. Just takes time. I think that’s a good match up.

  • ZY

    Good post. I would like to see your thoughts on Kellog’s MMM vs. Michigan’s Tauber vs MIT’s LGO.

  • Kellogg MBA

    Hi John,

    Quote: “With only 18% of its students with humanities undergraduate degrees, Kellogg has among the least number of poets of all the major business schools. That’s a bit shocking due to the reputation that Kellogg MBAs have for having high interpersonnel skills…”

    I noticed that you commented several times in several blogs in P&Q about how surprised you were about the relatively low number of Humanities undergrads and the correspondingly high number of Engineering/Math and Business/Economics undergrads that were accepted into Kellogg each year.

    My take on this as a Kellogg alum is that a large number of every Kellogg cohort, including myself, have relatively quant backgrounds, no less than that of Wharton, Chicago or Columbia but is looking to switch careers, mostly from commerce and industry (eg. as chemical engineers, physicists, etc) into management consulting and to a lesser extent, industries other than our pre-MBA fields. Kellogg as the #1 Marketing B-school in the US and globally, prepares us in every aspect possible for that switch where our strength in core business areas from strategic to operational, marketing to financial is highly regarded by top management consulting recruiters. Add to that the strong emphasis on a collaborative culture and seamless teamwork that became second nature to every Kellogg grad (we do live and breathe teamwork and collaboration at Kellogg!), it is no surprise that Kellogg is a breeding ground for management consultants and one of the first port of call for top global management consulting firms looking to recruit MBAs.

    A little off topic but it still puzzles and intrigues me up to this juncture that recruiters from the finance industry (especially the investment banks, PE and hedge funds) generally perceive Chicago’s Booth grads as more quantitatively adept when Kellogg grads across the board, have more quantitative backgrounds and are clearly more adept to working in a team (Kellogg is fiercely known for our emphasis on collaboration and teamwork while Booth is infamously known for the lack of networking among students and alumni – pls read the comments in the piece on Booth vs. Kellogg) than our peers at Booth. This could also be one of the reason why top management consulting firms like Mckinsey, Boston Consulting Group and Bain among others recruited 38% of Kellogg’s 2009 graduating class while that for Chicago is much lower. The adage-old stereotype that Kellogg grads are naturally more poets than quants is, without doubt, a myth. I sincerely hope this post would seek to provide sufficient clarification and enlightenment to potential B-school applicants and financial industry recruiters.

    Best wishes to all B-school applicants out there!

    Cheers,
    Will

  • Carlos

    I just discovered the web site and passed my whole morning exploring it, it is very informative and entertaining. I have learned things about the process that I didn´t know existed in a few hours.

    I have a couple of questions.

    What other schools share the team work and community culture that Kellogg and Darthmouth practice?

    Does the web site publish articles about schools that are not top ranked or considered premium MBA programs?

    Thanks , greetings from Mexico. Carlos

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Thanks Carlos. Besides Kellogg and Tuck, I also would put Virginia’s Darden and Cornell’s Johnson School in the mix of schools with cultures that are defined by teamwork and community, along with Stanford, Yale, UCLA and UNC. We do write about schools that are not top ranked, but there really has to be a compelling reason. An example: the new MBA program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in a story called “The Anti-MBA Business School.”

  • MBA Decision

    How would the school cultures of Ross and Fuqua compare to Kellogg and Tuck?

  • T Thomas

    Great article! I am deciding between these two schools now and it’s a difficult decision becasue they are so close. Your article was extremely helpful! Thanks!

  • John P

    I would still love to see Fuqua vs. darden. It’s compelling comparison and very similar. Thanks!

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    John P,
    Agree. It just takes a huge investment in time to do these smack downs and we have a lot on our plate right now. Hope to get to this soon, though. Thanks for the nudge.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/bschool13/ bschool2013

    John P,

    I’ve visited both Fuqua and Darden. If you want one person’s perspective, go to this link and click on the respective school:

    http://poetsandquants.com/2010/12/14/poetsquants-top-100-mba-programs-in-the-u-s/3/

    I posted links to my blog on the comments section.

  • John P

    cool thanks I will

  • http://www.getintoharvard.net Harvard Guy

    Being close to Chicago gives Northwestern a huge advantage; Chicago is a huge international city, while Ann Arbor is nice, but very small.

  • Ross Alumna

    John, 

    Thanks very much for all of your business school writing. As a recent Ross alumna, I wanted to correct a comment about the size of Michigan’s Erb Institute student body size and also ask if you would consider a research project that would be of tremendous value to applicants. 

    The Erb Institute at Michigan has 100 students across all the years of the program, not 40. It’s the largest dual degree sustainable enterprise program in the country, which comes with substantial community resources and financial support, as well as the largest number of advisors on its boards for impactful job placement. 
    More info here: http://erb.umich.edu/

    Secondly, I continue to see the Business Week Payscale MBA analysts of salaries at 20-years and find it hard to believe that, outside of the top three, twenty year salaries are so low for almost every school. Many alumni of the top 10 or top 15 schools make $150k including base, signing bonus, and other guaranteed compensation immediately upon graduation. How can it be right that they’re only making $175k after 20 years? 

    Therefore, would you consider redoing the 20-year salary study with more stringent criteria for inclusion of a school’s figures? Particularly important is sample size at each school included. I’d have to imagine that few alumni submit their data to Payscale.com. It would be interesting if business schools could start collecting their own data from students – and even more interesting, if a central “auditing” body could do the collecting. 

    Of course, pay is only one measure of a school’s success – for many students, it is less important than other factor’s like job satisfaction, impact, and geographic mobility – and the heavy reliance on it in several MBA rankings continues to perpetuate the MBA stigma in society. 

    Thanks for your work. 

  • BenGleck

    What a joke. For better or worse (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Road_to_Wellville_(film)), Kellogg is 100% a Michigan name and Michigan legacy. How dare those Illini attempt to usurp it it for their own nefarious purposes. Get some integrity, will you?

    While you’re at it, get your own lake too.

  • raj

    Can we have Yale SOM vs Fuqua?

  • oars

    Duke vs Yale is a good match up as well.

  • GTvsUNC

    GTOWN vs UNC seems to be a constant toss up. Many would love to see that smackdown.

  • PAULIMAN

    Georgetown vs Emory is better fight! UNC good to compare with Michigan Ross!

  • guest

    i think michigan shouldn’t be compared to kellogg as these two schools are not peer schools. yes, i always thought michigan trailing far behind kellogg and other top schools in ranking. they are not in the same tier. not sure why you thought the rankings would be similar…

  • TWW

    Sure Chicago is half an hour away (and half hour back) by train for Kellogg students, but Ann Arbor offers great culture, sports and recreation, entertainment and night-life all with walking distance. Direct access to the intellectual resources of one of the largest and most diverse research universities in the world give Ross students an edge.

  • liberation26

    John, I love your b-school smack downs. We are still waiting for Ross Vs Duke! :)

  • JohnAByrne

    liberation26,

    I love them, too. They just take a lot of time and effort to do. I pretty much have to lock out the world for a full day to do just one. I’ve been wanting to update the ones we have and significantly add to the entire list a whole new range of smack downs. I will get to this for sure, just not entirely sure when.

    Thanks for loving them!

  • @guest

    Actually, if you look at the career reports, they are pretty comparable in most fields. Kellogg is much better at consulting at the elite strategy firms (MBB) but Michigan does better in tech. In investment banking and corporate positions, they are both similar. Actually Duke, Darden, NYU and Yale are probably better schools to go to than Kellogg and Ross for investment banking.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/frankjramirez/ Frank Ramirez

    I am a Michigan man. I met many and managed a few Kellogg guys in my career. Net, employers are well served by grads of both schools. It is hard to make generalizations, but I do thing that Midwest schools attract and produce more down to earth managers. The coastal elites tend to be a bit aloof and holier-than- thou. Coastal grads of the elites also seem to be less risk adverse, less pragmatic, and overconfident?
    I did have a chance last weekend to visit the new building at Michigan – all I can say is wow. Truly a fantastic place. Anyone who values great architecture and wants to spend their grad years in a world class environment should visit. I never visited Kellogg but cannot imagine that it holds a candle to Michigan’s new digs. – Go Blue!

  • RAF

    I got my MBA at another top-20 B-school and eventually got a Ph.D. at Kellogg. I’ve looked at the differences, and I’ve concluded that the main difference is the culture. The other school did all the right things. Kellogg did the same things, but did them right, with passion and concern. Everyone at Kellogg – students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, etc. – were proud to be affiliated with the school and wanted to contribute.

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