Profile: 2. Stanford’s Graduate School of Business

Joint degrees are more common at Stanford than many other business schools, and the administration seems to encourage interdisciplinary study. As Saloner puts it: “Our students are at a university where they are within walking distance of every school so they can work with students in medicine or engineering on new ventures to change things in medicine or technology.”

Of course, entrepreneurship is a big deal at Stanford. About 10% to 12% of the MBAs in each graduating class becomes an entrepreneur while another 5% go to work for start-ups. “Our entrepreneurship curriculum is stunning,” says Saloner, “and our courses are taught with a faculty and a practitioner. All the cases are ours, and the protagonists in the cases are almost always in the classroom.” The school has 10 to 15 faculty members in entrepreneurship who teach about two dozen different courses, from “Formation of New Ventures” and “Evaluating Entrepreneurial Opportunities” to “Aligning Start-ups With Their Markets” and “Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability.” Ten to 15 years after graduation, as many as half of Stanford MBAs become entrepreneurs.

The new curriculum will get another boost when GSB moves into a new $350 million campus–about 500 yards east of its current location–by March of 2011. The new campus will expand the size of the school from four buildings to nine. More importantly, though, the new facilities will give GSB far more flexiblity in classroom space, including eight 16-person seminar rooms for its Critical Analytical Thinking courses, a 600-seat auditorium, and a 900-car underground parking garage. The school will have 48 breakout and study rooms, compared to only eight such rooms now, and 19 flat classrooms, versus five. Phil Knight, a Stanford alum and founder of Nike, tossed in $100 million to help finance the $350 million campus already named the Knight Management Center.

This is a well overdue development. When the accreditation committee last reviewed Stanford’s business school program, members of the group were surprised at how outdated the MBA facilities were. In fact, Stanford lacks a single classroom with a window. The new campus will give the GSB 360,000 square feet of space, a net addition of 100,000 square feet. The center will also house a small library and provide eight showers for students. The university’s athletic complex is just next door. The older buildings which now make up the GSB campus will be turned back to the university, with the exception of the Schwab Residential Center, which houses more than half the first-year MBAs.

Stanford grads do exceptionally well in the job market. Starting salary and bonus for the Class of 2009 was the highest of any business school in the world: $132,769. About 73% of graduating students reported a change in inudstry from their pre-MBA positions, while 77% reported a chance in function. Some 66% of graduating MBAs reported a change in both function and industry from their pre-MBA jobs. The largest single chunk of MBAs (32%) in the Class of 2009 headed for the consulting business, mostly at the big, prestigious firms such as McKinsey & Co., Bain, Boston Consulting Group, and Deloitte, while 28% took finance jobs, in private equity, venture capital, investment banking and hedge funds. About 12% of the class went into the technology industry, landing jobs at Google, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, and the vast array of tech concerns in Silicon Valley. “A smaller percentage of students here want to be a partner at McKinsey or Bain than at our peer schools,” says Pulin Sanghvis, director of Stanford’s Career Management Center.

“There has been a fundamental disaggregation of opportunites that MBAs go after,” adds Sanghvis, a Stanford alum who worked for McKinsey and came back to help students with their careers. “The trend is more pronounced at Stanford because students here are empowered and inspired to make non-obvious choices for their careers. Our students have seen so many of our graduates follow a different path and find meaning and happiness doing so.” That’s why as many as half of the students do self-directed job searches, according to Sanghvis. Many head for small tech companies in the valley, join alums in start-ups, or simply do their own entrepreneurial thing.

On the other hand, 24% of Stanford’s grads in 2009 went to work with a previous employer–although at a much higher compensation rate. Some 29% joined the company which employed them for their summer internships, making it more obvious than ever that the internship has become something of a try-out for many MBAs, even those from as selective a school as Stanford.

When you finally earn those three magic letters from Stanford, you’ll be a member of a highly powerful and influential group of alums. The school’s own survey of its alumni network shows that almost half of them are among the top five executives in their companies. By their 25th reunion, about 30% of Stanford MBAs are or have been chief executive officers. About 44% of 2008 respondents have founded a company and of those companies 21% have revenues in excess of $20 million. About 60% work for a company of less than $150 million in annual revenue, yet more than one-quarter work for companies with sales of more than $1 billion. Most alumni are concentrated in investments (25%), consulting (13%), and technology (16%).

Besides Nike’s Phil Knight, prominent alums include investor billionaires Richard Rainwater, Robert and Sid Bass, FED Chairman Ben Bernanke, Abbott Laboratories CEO Miles White, Gap Inc. Chairman Robert Fisher, Cemex Chairman Lorenzo Zambrano, former eBay president Jeff Skoll, General Mills CEO Ken Powell, management gurus Tom Peters and Jim Collins, and social activist Jacqueline Novogratz, founding CEO of the Acumen Fund. There’s also Charles Schwab, the founding chairman of Charles Schwab Corp., and Vinod Khosia, the famous Silicon Valley venture capitalist. Ironically, even Stanford dropouts stand out: they include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and the late President John F. Kennedy.

It’s a pretty good bet that some of those students who are studying with the dean at his home will rise to equal prominence in due time.