The Anti-MBA Business School: Johns Hopkins

NOT MANY STUDENTS HAIL FROM THE WORLD OF FINANCE AND FEW WANT TO END UP THERE.

Few of the MBA candidates, for example, are from the major consulting firms or from Wall Street. In the charter class, finance is not even among the top eight professional backgrounds, which include health care, government, non-profits, education, manufacturing, and technology. Some 55% of the class—far more than the typical one third–is from outside the U.S., with large contingents of students from Taiwan and China. (See My Story: From Shanghai to a Startup Business School for a profile of one Carey student).

Many of the students express a disdain for the types of finance jobs that often claim the largest percentage of MBA grads. When Jack Hirsch, a software entrepreneur from the West Coast, met with the admissions staff of the school, he made clear he had no interest at all in becoming an investment banker. “Is that okay?” he asked. Assured that it was, Hirsch applied and was accepted. Shaha AlShehail, a female entrepreneur from Saudi Arabia, was attracted by the social component of the program. She also has no ambitions to work on Wall Street or for a consulting firm. Instead, she intends to return to Saudi Arabia to launch a social enterprise.

Says student Allison Kooser, “I had a bad image of the MBA with people working 120 hours a week trying to make money on Wall Street. I think business could be more than just a bottom line.” Glenn Ketover, who once worked 100 hours a week at Lehman Brothers in New York, plans to use his Carey degree to transition to a job at an international NGO.

THE DEAN IDENTIFIES WITH THE NON-TRADITIONAL STUDENTS HE HAS RECRUITED.

After serving as dean of three business schools, Yash Gupta took on the task to build a new global MBA program at John Hopkins.

After serving as dean of three business schools, Yash Gupta took on the task to build a new global MBA program at John Hopkins.

The India-born Gupta says it was a key goal to bring in non-traditional MBA students. “I believe learning is not about looking alike,” he insists. “If you really want to believe in a new kind of program then all experiences must come to play. I’m an example of that. Nobody ever could have thought I would be a professor, never mind a dean. My mother could not even write her name. My father worked for a finance company in a clerical role. If I could contribute something from such a handicap, these people can contribute a lot more.”

Gupta grew up in Hadiadad, India, a small village about 190 miles north of New Delhi. He was youngest of eight siblings, all of who have at least a graduate degree. Gupta graduated from Panjab University in India in 1973, earned a master’s in production management a year later from Brunel University in West London and a Ph.D. in management sciences in 1976 from the University of Bradford in England. After teaching operations management, he first became a business school dean in 1992 at the University of Colorado in Denver. Seven years later, he was named dean of the University of Washington’s business school, a post he held until 2004, until moving on five years later, to become dean of USC’s Marshall School.

While the economic meltdown may have given Gupta license to build a far more innovative MBA program than would have been possible, it was no easy task to recruit students to a non-accredited school without career statistics or a strong alumni network at a time when many MBAs from long-established programs couldn’t find jobs. By April of this year, when top schools had pretty much filled most of the seats for their incoming fall classes, Carey only had 17 candidates committed to its new MBA program. “The applicant pool came in very late,” concedes Sondra Smith, director of admissions.

Many of those enrolled students applied only to the Carey School, drawn by its mission and the chance to be part of something new. A good number of other applicants had such schools as Wharton, NYU, Columbia and Maryland in their consideration set. “The real appeal was to be part of something new and something that had never been done before,” says Jarrett Bauer, who went to Villanova University for his undergraduate degree and had worked as a health care consultant.

About The Author

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.