TAKING OVER A FINANCE SCHOOL AFTER THE WALL STREET CRASH
“The reason why I was willing to consider the job was because Stern was facing a really interesting challenge,” Henry says, noting Stern is the only business school deanship he would have taken. “It was a school that needed to transform itself for the 21st Century, having been a largely Wall Street-focused school for the past 50 years. It was a school that needed to go under significant changes. And as someone who write about economic changes, it was a really interesting experiment.”
Before the Wall Street crash in 2008 and 2009, Stern regularly sent more than half of its class to finance. According to school records, 58% of the graduating class of 2008 went into financial services roles — very likely the highest rate for the foreseeable future. By 2010, when Henry took over, the number had already decreased 11 full percentage points to 47%. Stern graduates entering finance have consistently dwindled to 33% for the class of 2015, before making a slight uptick to 34% in 2016.
Meanwhile, consulting and tech have gained in popularity. MBAs entering technology were not even tracked by the school until 2010 when 2% of the graduating class went into the industry. The field has gained consistently — albeit, slowly — to the highest the school has ever seen at 10% in 2016. In 2008, only 14% of the class went into consulting after graduation. Since then, the percentage has consistently surged to an all-time high of 29% for the class of 2016.
To be sure, the leveling of industries is reflective of Henry’s vision from day one.
“For the last seven-and-a-half years, we’ve been really focused on articulating what is a 21st Century vision for a business school whose roots are in Wall Street, but whose future lies as much in emerging economies and Silicon Alley and the new economy as it does in its still relevant past history,” Henry says.
OVERCOMING OTHER CHALLENGES
Still, it wasn’t just Stern’s dependence on Wall Street that posed potential threats to the school. The school’s sheer size was a challenge, Henry recalls. “When I got here, I realized there were people on the faculty who had been here for 30 years and didn’t know each other,” Henry says. “Simply because their paths had never crossed. And that’s just a function of size and geography.” Plus, like many elite B-schools, interest from potential students dwindled. Specifically at Stern, applications dipped by 12% from 2011 to 2012. What’s more, before Henry arrived, the school had never had a year of fundraising reach $40 million.
Henry immediately began fundraising, hiring, and expanding on the university-wide global strengths. In 2011, Geeta Menon was hired as the undergraduate dean. Later that year, Henry snatched Paul Romer from Stanford’s GSB and launched the school’s Urbanization Project. In 2012, the school announced new centers in real estate research, business analytics, and the global economy and business. Stern also launched a master of science in business analytics, jumping ahead of the rising tide of big data and analytics interest across B-school campuses. Since, the school has hired Michael Posner, who once served as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, to establish and run the Center for Business and Human Rights — another first of its kind at an elite B-school. The school has also recently announced the creation of the Center for Sustainable Business, a financial technology track for its full-time MBA program, and two new one-year MBA programs focused on tech and fashion and luxury due to begin next year.
“We put all of these pillars in place to create an intellectual environment where we have thought leadership on issues that are critical to growth in a macro-sense and in a more micro-sense,” Henry explains.
Over the past three years, Henry has also successfully asked supporters to reach deeper into their pocketbooks. The school has raised more than $40 million each of the past three years. Over 85% of those dollars have gone towards scholarships — most of which to undergrads with high achieving, low income families and are first generation college students, Henry says. “We’re opening the door for more high-achieving, low income students to go to business school and figure out how to create value for themselves, their families, and society. And frankly, I think that’s the way forward,” Henry continues.
Next fall, Henry explains, there will be almost 50 students on full scholarships in the undergraduate program. When he arrived in 2010, that number was zero. “That number is continuing to grow,” he says, noting some 20% of NYU undergraduate students come from Pell Grant-eligible families. “NYU Stern is for everybody,” Henry says. “Not just upper-middle class families. This is for everybody. And I’m really proud of that fact.”
B-SCHOOL IS A PLACE TO TEACH PEOPLE ‘HOW TO FISH’
So when Henry officially steps down on December 31, he will do so to resume a research role at NYU to begin attacking those very issues.
“My competitive advantage has shifted,” Henry begins. “When I came into the school in 2010, I had a comparative advantage for thinking about how to reposition the school and for recruiting some of the people to help us do that. And now, a lot of that work is done. We still have to execute on these programs, but a lot of the really heavy lifting is done. And I think my skills are best deployed now in actually some of these bigger challenges facing the world right now. Which is, people are really questioning if globalization is the best way forward for humanity. There is a big slice of humanity that says, we don’t buy this, we don’t believe this. Many of our leaders around the world are not telling people what they need to hear, but what they want to hear. And I feel an obligation to get back in the game.”
And in a world of increasing nationalism, the son of an immigrant family knows first-hand the fortunes that can come from a truly global world.
“My parents went through some really difficult things to get to the point where they could bequeath to me an incredible amount of human capital,” Henry says. “And, frankly, I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do. No one bows down to my family. And they shouldn’t.”
As he learned from his humble roots watching and learning about Teacher Henry in Pedro Plains, education can be the ultimate social mobilizer.
“Education is such a critical component to having economic opportunities,” Henry says. “And at a business school, it’s really an opportunity to teach people how to fish.”