The Anti-MBA Business School: Johns Hopkins

John Hopkins Carey School occupies four floors in a modern skyscraper on Baltimore's Inner Harbor

In the fall of 2008 when Lehman Brothers went kaput and the economy plunged into a deep recession, Yash Gupta was scampering around the country trying to drum up support for a new business school at Johns Hopkins University. It could not have been the best time to enlist believers in yet another school that would pump out even more MBAs. After all, some critics already were pointing fingers for the collapse of the financial markets at the business schools and their graduates.

But Gupta, a life-long business educator who took the job to become dean of the B-school start-up, says the crisis gave him unusual license to rethink MBA education from scratch. “The meltdown helped us immensely because people were ready to question the orthodoxy,” says Dean Gupta. “We decided early on that we could not be a prominent business school by doing what every other school does. I don’t think I could have done that in 2006.”

The result: The Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, which entered its charter class of 88 students in September, may well be the first business school for anti-MBAs. The school’s tagline, “Where business is taught with humanity in mind,” isn’t merely an advertising slogan. It’s central to Gupta’s belief that MBA education had gone off the rails and needed to get back in touch with humanity.

“WE PRODUCED MASTERS OF FINANCIAL ENGINEERING, PEOPLE WHO DIDN’T HAVE HEART AND SOUL.”

“Over the years,” he says, “I came to the conclusion that we leaned too hard on the science of business. The MBA became a degree in methodology. We produced masters of financial engineering, people who didn’t have heart and soul. I’ve been thinking for years that we were headed in the wrong direction.”

Gupta should know. When he took the job as Carey’s first permanent dean in January of 2008, he had already led three other business schools for the past 14 years. While dean at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business from 2004 to 2006, he developed an innovation-focused MBA curriculum. But running a school with entrenched faculty and a host of traditions and rituals didn’t allow him the chance to pull out a clean sheet of paper and rethink business education.

He had the benefit of doing a start-up at Johns Hopkins, world renown for its schools of medicine and international affairs. It was one of only four elite universities—Princeton, Brown and CalTech–left without a business school and a full-time MBA program. The last major university to launch a business school in the U.S. was Yale in 1976.