Dartmouth’s Tuck School vs. Harvard Business School

There’s a world of difference between these two excellent graduate schools of business. Most notably:

Geography: Both schools are in the northeastern corner of the U.S. known as New England, but the difference between Hanover, New Hampshire, and Boston, Mass., is a world apart. Hanover is the quintessential New England college town. It’s quaint, picture perfect after a fresh snowfall, and fairly isolated. You fly here into a tiny airport in West Lebanon, tsix miles south of Hanover. When the weather turns bad, you face a white-knuckle flight onto the short landing strip that’s carved into a mountainside. Sleepy Hanover rolls up the sidewalks pretty early, with little variety in restaurants and bars.  The Canoe Club, on Main St. in Hanover is pretty much it. Boston is a two-hour drive from the Tuck School and is one of the world’s most dynamic and inviting cities. Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, is just minutes awa from Harvardy. So is world-class arts and culture of all kinds. But the winter months can be just as brutal in Boston as it can be in Hanover.

Size: With a target class size of 240 students, the Tuck School serves up an “intimate scale” MBA program with one of the smallest total MBA entrollments of any elite school. It’s the difference between being in a core class with 50 fellow students versus 90 at Harvard: it’s easier to get “air time” in a class at Tuck without being a hog and it’s more likely your professor knows everyone in the class. When 50% of your grades are based on class participation, that’s a more comforting fact. The small size of the place certainly assures that every student knows each other. In fact, it’s almost close to impossible for someone not to have had a fellow student in a class or a club. “It’s like the old TV program ‘Cheers,’” says Tuck Professor Paul Argenti, who has also taught at Harvard. “Everybody knows your name. You can mold an incredible world when you take in only 240 students a class.” On the other hand, everybody knows your business. At Harvard, you can more easily pick and choose the groups you want to attached yourself to. Total full-time MBA enrollment at Tuck is only 510, versus Harvard’s 1,837.

Culture: The size and location of Dartmouth create a fairly unique culture and one that is very different from Harvard. While it’s a myth that competition is cut-throat among students at Harvard, it’s also true that the HBS environment is more competitive and less collaborative than Tuck. In fact, a few years ago, some recruiters told faculty here that Tuckies were too nice and respectful of each other. Tuck profs have since notched up the competitiveness in the classroom. Still, it’s nothing like Harvard. The bonding that occurs at the Tuck School among students is second-to-none due to its size, the fact that most first-years reside on its compact B-school campus, and because of Hanover itself (there aren’t many places to disappear). Very close relationships are formed between students and faculty at Tuck for the same reasons. Tuckies are decidedly an outdoorsy bunch: in the winter, students are likely to engage in ice hockey matches, skiing, and ice skating; in the summer, they’re off hiking on Mount Moosilauke on the edge of the White Mountains National Forest, rowing and canoeing on the Connecticut River, or playing rugby and squash. Harvard’s culture is not nearly as tight-knit or outdoorsy.

Facilities: The campus of Dartmouth’s Tuck School is a compellingly attractive mix of brick Georgian buildings and modern state-of-the-art brick and copper clad buildings. The Tuck campus is nicely compact: 11 connected buildings, most of them brand new or newly renovated. Stell Hall, with its beautiful cathedral ceiling, carved oak interior and welcoming fireplace, sits in contrast to the soaring glass atrium and massive granite hearth in the newly constructed Raether Hall. Both spaces–reflecting the old and the new–are among the most impressive faciliities of any business schools. Tuck’s three residence halls arguably make up the best MBA dormitory complex in the world. Harvard Business School, on the other hand, is like a university onto itself with 33 separate buildings on 40 acres of property along the Charles River. Harvard has its own state-of-the-art fitness center, a massive library, and a chapel. Strategy guru Michael Porter and his Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness even has his own building on campus. There is no other business school that can even remotely match Harvard for its expansive classrooms and study halls. Yet, there is something special at Dartmouth which gives Harvard a run for its money despite the difference in scale.

Teaching Methods: The case method is a core part of the curriculum at both Tuck and HBS. But at Harvard, the case study thoroughly dominates. Sure there are team projects, simulations and experiential learning in the mix, but it’s primary learning tool at Harvard is the case study. There are 30 cases in a course. The ten courses you’ll take at Harvard in the first year alone will require that you read 300 case studies. As a current HBS student who blogs under the non de plume “MilitarytoBusiness” explains, the average student in a 90-plus person class gains air time to comment on a case every other class. “That means that the professor determines half of your grade on an average of 15 comments over the period of three-to-five months. That’s not an incredibly deep well of information to help differentiate 94 highly talented students,” he says. That is the consequence of case studies in a 90-plus person class environment. Obviously, the system breeds a certain level of competition. If you’re at Tuck, a lot of the cases you’ll be taught were created at Harvard. If you’re at Harvard, pretty much none of the cases you’ll be taught are from Tuck. The more singificant difference may well be the increased accessibility of the faculty at Tuck given its size and location. Tuck boasts one of the lowest faculty-to-student ratios of any business school so profs have far more time here to spend with students than teachers do at most other schools. Faculty often have students over for dinner in their homes, something that is much less likely to occur at a big city school such as Columbia, Chicago, Harvard, or Wharton.