Many times, people will only tell you what you want to hear. Face it, it’s just easier to brush something off or stew than to bicker and risk hurting someone. This dynamic is why the results of anonymous student surveys are so compelling. Here, students can sound off without any fear of reprisal, let alone a syrupy request to “learn how we can get better.”
Each year, Bloomberg Businessweek conducts perhaps the most intensive student satisfaction survey. It measures 27 metrics, including the effectiveness of career services, the responsiveness of faculty and administrators, and students’ overall impressions of the “campus climate.” When it came to surveying student satisfaction for the full-time MBA classes of 2014 and 2015, one program stood above the rest: the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.
“COMPETITIVE, BUT NOT CUTTHROAT”
Surprised? It’s not if you spend any time at College Park, Maryland, just a nine mile trek to the White House. Here, you won’t find the wrangling and rivalry of the nation’s capital. Instead, says Dean Alex Triantis, the community is “competitive but not cutthroat.” After two months on campus, the Class of 2018 agrees wholeheartedly with his assessment. “Smith has been ranked very high in student satisfaction for a reason, says Catherine Lee, a California native and Air Force sharpshooter.”The students are collaborative, the culture is very positive, and the staff and facilities are top-notch.
In fact, the Smith lexicon seems to begin with the world “collaborative.” Teamwork sets the school apart, says Aurin Lewis, a Bronx native and science fiction aficionado. Since she arrived on campus, this team dynamic has extended far beyond the classroom — and her cohort. “I cannot count the number of conversations I’ve had with both second-year students and my first-year peers who have provided me with advice on both career-related and personal matters,” she says. “Even in this short time, most of my peers have an idea of my strengths and areas for growth.”
Cliff McCormick, the executive director of MBA and MS admission at the program, has already noticed how strongly the incoming class has embraced the program’s team-driven ethos. “What immediately struck me about this incoming class is their demonstrated support for one another,” he tells Poets&Quants in a statement. “Sure, they are competitive, and we look for that quality in each and every applicant, but this class has already shown on several occasions that it can pull together. That sense of community, a cohesiveness that is uniquely Smith.”
Alas, student satisfaction isn’t the only area where Smith ranks #1. In the Economist’s 2016 ranking, Smith finished first in faculty quality, which is based on student surveys, faculty-to-student ratio, and the percentage of full-time faculty with PhDs. The faculty roster is headlined by Peter Morici, the former director of economics for the U.S. International Trade Commission? Does that name sound found familiar? If you’re a cable news junkie, you’ve undoubtedly seen him don his signature bow tie and wax about Fed policy and bilateral accords on FOX, CNN, and CNBC. The Smith MBA alumni roll boasts also some big names too, including former Hewlett-Packard CEO and Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, social enterprise doyen Jigar Shah, and Genevievette Walker-Lightfoot, a former SEC attorney who blew the whistle on Bernie Madoff.
FIRST YEAR OVERSEAS CONSTRUCTION OF ONE OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST SOLAR POWER PLANTS
Is there another Fiorina, Shah, or Walker-Lightfoot in the Class of 2018? It’s hard to know until these Terps truly step out of their shells, but early indications look promising. Look no further than Rahul Rathore, who spearheaded the construction of a $132 million dollar solar power plant that ranks among the largest in the world. It covers an area equivalent to over 500 football fields, powers nearly 625,000 homes each year in India and earned a visit from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when it opened.
However, the real story involves the obstacles and odds that Rathore had to surmount to make it happen. “In addition to a myriad of engineering problems,” he explains, “the project also had to overcome several local issues. One such issue was relocating seven temples from the project site, creating local resistance, which had potential to cause religious hostility. But by actively engaging with all the stakeholders and educating them regarding how the project could impact their lives and the community, I was able to convert resistance into support. I also negotiated with bureaucrats to speed up the diversion of a state highway that passed through the project site, helping to complete the project eight months ahead of schedule.”
Rathore wasn’t the only Smith first year to handle a high profile project with aplomb. At Starbucks, Staci Bank applied her supply chain wizardry to deliver raw coffee beans to the Starbucks Roastery, a process complicated by the hazards of any weather exposure to the beans. In the end, Bank’s leadership not only prevailed, but also created a process that’s being duplicated across the Starbucks chain worldwide.
This was also a class that isn’t afraid to take action. Exhibit A: Colin Goddard, who survived four gunshot wounds during the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings that killed 32 people. His response: He became a gun safety advocate. Although he admits that much work needs to be done, he takes some satisfaction in helping to put the issue front-and-center. “After organizing over a dozen successful state legislative campaigns, giving hundreds of media interviews, and educating thousands of Americans about how to become agents of change, I am incredibly proud of my contribution to simply making gun safety an issue that is no longer being ignored,” he says.
A SMALL BUT HIGHLY DIVERSE CLASS
The Class of 2018 features 99 students, with Smith receiving 743 applications during the 2015-2016 season and accepting 273 students for a 36.6% acceptance rate. The average GMAT for the class is 658, with scores ranging from 600-710 in the mid-80% range. Overall, 35% of the class is comprised of women, a higher percentage than east coast powers like Cornell, Georgetown, and Vanderbilt. Nearly a third of the class is comprised of international students and another quarter includes underrepresented minority students.
Despite the class’ small size, it boasts nearly every undergraduate major imaginable. Engineering heads the list at 13%, followed by economics (12%) and business administration (10%). The class also features students with backgrounds in international studies, political science, information technology, history, finance, English, psychology, supply chain management, communication, theater, meteorology, maritime studies, geography, dance, microbiology, Chinese translation, and corporate law. Similarly, the class arrives in Prince George’s from a wide array of professions led by the military (12%), consulting (11%), information technology (10%), nonprofits (9%), educational services (8%), and manufacturing (6%). Surprisingly, financial services and banking only accounts for 4% of the class.