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Georgetown Dean’s Big Plan to Boost The B-School’s Rankings

McDonough Dean David Thomas aims to increase the school's diversity and boost is place in B-school rankings

McDonough Dean David Thomas aims to increase the school’s diversity and boost its B-school rankings

David Thomas digs BHAGs – short for big, hairy, audacious goals. So much so that only a few months into his deanship at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business he was already dropping jaws and drawing stares of disbelief.

Thomas left a two-decade-long career at Harvard Business School to accept McDonough’s top post on August 1, 2011.  On August 30 he delivered the annual State of the School address and laid out the school’s mission: To develop and educate principled leaders with a global mind-set to be in service to business and society.  Most deans are adept at outlining pie-in-the-sky ambitions. But Thomas’ timeline was the real jaw-dropper. He was ready to overhaul the curriculum, extend the full-time MBA pre-term and retool the global experience – in a year.

The faculty was shocked. B-schools typically move like tankers – with a grudging resistance to changing course. Curriculum redesign can take years, not months. But Thomas took it one step further with another BHAG. He wanted each of McDonough’s programs to crack the top 10 in at least one of the major rankings – Businessweek, U.S. News and World Report and The Financial Times. “I had reactions that ranged all over the map from people who said, ‘You know, I’m glad you dared to say that,’ to people who asked me later, ‘Are you serious?'” Thomas recalls.

He is. The dean is two years in to his five-year contract with the school.  So far, he’s managed to shake up the B-school curriculum, and he’s confident a rankings boost will soon follow.  For starters, he tacked two weeks on the MBA pre-term.  Incoming students now start in early-August and attend an intensive three-week module from 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.  They get a crash course in everything from global supply chain management and microeconomics to financial statements and ethics.

During the pre-term students are also expected to develop a global business and steer it through economic and ethical shocks.  They must navigate simulated situations, such as the U.S. government flying off the Fiscal Cliff or finding out that one of their manufacturers is using child labor in China.  Thomas is confident that MBAs should be exposed to global, high-level issues early on. “We’re introducing business, but the context for understanding it is a global one.  Students need the experiential piece – they’re not simply going to learn by lectures,” he says.

Thomas has also revamped McDonough’s global experience. Originally students would be assigned to teams in January, they’d examine a real-world issue facing an international business, draw up their recommendations and then deliver their conclusions overseas during a seven to 10-day trip. Then it was over. Thomas wanted to deepen that experience, so the school added the Global Business Conference where, upon returning to campus, students come together to share their findings with classmates. For instance,  three teams working on real estate projects might visit China, Dubai and Brazil.  During the conference, they’d compare notes on how each country’s culture, government, property rights and geography impacted their work.

Under Thomas’ leadership, the school also developed and introduced a second-year course on principled leadership, which explores what it means to create a business around the idea of shared value, where everyone the business touches sees benefits – not just the shareholders.

Finally, Thomas went to employers to get their feedback. He learned they were impressed with McDonough MBAs’ education, but they really needed nimble thinkers with sharp problem-solving skills. Real-world issues don’t always offer clean solutions – people and logistics can cloud things up.  So the school introduced two required courses –  Leadership & Social Intelligence and Analytical Problem Solving – to give students the tools and theories to tackle issues outside of the classroom.

  • Global Citizen

    touting diversity doesn’t meant anything…does the students mingle and take the time out to interact with minorities and international students? Or its all very clique. That’s the essential question here.

  • RossMBA2

    Bias? I have quoted official facts and figures released from GTown. You have accused me of bias/insecurity. Ironic.. So jpm/gs have gtown as a core school yet the school took none at GS, and less than 3 at JPM.. right..

    Yes Ross students aren’t interested in IB but I see armies of top tier IBs coming to Ross to hire students, but relatively few students turning up to meet them. The ones that do get the pick of the jobs. You get excellent opportunities to network with bankers that come to campus, i.e. you don’t get 20 to 1 circles of death like you do at other schools.

  • HOYASAXA

    That reflects on your reading ability, this ranking is just another way of looking at the brand recognition that Georgetown has in NORTHEAST.

  • HoyaSaxaMOFO

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  • IBMBA

    Was going to respond but now clearly seeing your facts aren’t straight and your opinion is simply formulated by your own ross bias or insecurity (gtown is a core school at jpm/gs..one example).

    If Ross students aren’t interested in iB, then you are feeding the argument why those in pursuit of IB should look elsewhere for MBA.

  • IBMBA

    If we are talking no scholly from any of the above, I would probably agree (except maybe cornell/darden vs. gtown for ib). Speaking as someone with 5+years IB experience and assuming your goal is to stay in IB and not a short term switch into PE – gtown with the money is a great play. At the end of the day, the 7 options you listed will all get you IB. If your getting your MBA and not sold 100% on IB then go to the higher ranked school. You want NYC IB, gtown hangs with all the aforementioned.

    Caveat that darden/duke don’t place as well as the others in nyc. Gtown doesn’t place as well outside of NYC.