Dartmouth’s Tuck vs. Stanford Graduate School of Business

Stanford University's Graduate School of Business

Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business

Of the prestige, brandname business schools in the world, you’re not likely to find two business schools that are more like each other than Dartmouth and Stanford. They’re similar in size and spirit. They’re both smaller MBA programs, with a similar mix of exceptionally smart students who play nicely together in a highly collaborative culture, with superb faculty. Because both schools get the majority of their budgets from fundraising and endowments, rather than tuition which accounts for about 40% or less of spending, they can better afford the luxury of smaller classes and higher faculty-to-student ratios. Both schools offer a true premium MBA experience. There’s no mixing of day and night students, or outsourcing big chunks of the core curriculum to poorly paid adjuncts, or spreading limited resources across part-time and executive MBA programs. Tuck has stronger East Coast connections, while Stanford is competely dominant in Silicon Valley.

The most dramatic differences between these two MBA educational giants?

Geography: This one is simple. It’s the difference between east coast and west coast.

This is an obvious point, but an important one. Stanford is in the heart of Silicon Valley on a campus dotted with massive palm trees that sway in the afternoon breezes. In the winter months, when Tuck students are bundled up and trudging through ice and snow, Stanford MBAs might still be wearing shorts. The Stanford campus, dotted with swaying palm trees and poppies in the spring, is located between San Jose and San Francisco, which is about a 45-minute drive away. San Francisco is a magical place. Anyone who has visited the city inherently understands how easy it is to leave your heart there. 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 away, a big difference compared to the 45-minute ride down Route 101 into San Fran from Stanford.

Size: With about 390 students per class, Stanford pretty much guarantees that almost every student knows each other. At Tuck, it’s even smaller with about 250 students per class divided into four sections. Total full-time MBA enrollment at Dartmouth is just 510 compared to Stanford’s 766.

Culture: 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. Stanford’s culture is not nearly as tight-knit or outdoorsy. On the other hand, Stanford MBAs are just as collaborative, if not as outdoorsy. Many ski during the winter months in Lake Tahoe, about a four-hour drive. They just have more places to escape the campus than their counterparts at Tuck. The upside is that Hanover allows students to more easily focus on both the learning and the opportunity to know all your classmates. The downside is that, as one recent graduate put it, “Tuck is a Petri dish socially to the point that it can become unhealthy.”

Facilities: The campus of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business is small and compact: just four buildings, including one residence hall. In contrast, the 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 composed of 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 stunningly impressive faciliities of any business schools. Tuck’s three residence halls arguably make up the best MBA dormitory complex in the world. Most of the MBA courses at Stanford are taught in windowless classrooms in the South Building, constructed in 1966. That will change in 2011 when a new and impressive GSB campus is completed about 500 yards east of the current location on Memorial Way. The Knight Management Center, named after Nike founder and Stanford alum Phil Knight who tossed in $100 million of the $350 million cost, will bring the business school up to nine world-class buildings. Stanford still will have only one dorm–The Schwab Residential Center–that houses just 220 of its 766 students. Dartmouth’s trio of residence halls along with its nearby Sachem Village for married and partnered students competely reinforces the intimate nature of the MBA program. The available square footage will increase by 30% over the current 280,000 sq. foot of space (Dartmouth has 360,000 square foot of space).

About the Author...

John A. Byrne

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.