Under Danos, the school has clearly tilted more toward research and brought aboard faculty more likely to publish in scholarly journals. It was not an uncontroversial strategy. Some critics feared his new emphasis would dilute the school’s reputation for outstanding teaching. They worried that it could change the culture of the school to one in which profs would be less attentive to student. And there were similar concerns when Danos, seeking more critical mass in the MBA marketplace, increased the full time enrollment at Tuck by a third to four incoming sections of 60 students each from three when he arrived.
Even so, the school has managed to maintain its A+ teaching grade in BusinessWeek’s biennial surveys of Tuck graduates (Wharton and Stanford, in contrast, got B grades). A good part of Danos’ success can be attributed to his creation of novel ways to bring MBA students closer to the academic inquiries of the professors. “I have tried to thrive on the concept of great research faculty and how do you make it really good and relevant for students,” he says. “That is something that is hard to do and almost no one does.”
DANOS CREATED A NOVEL VEHICLE TO ALLOW PROFS TO SHARE CUTTING-EDGE RESEARCH WITH MBA STUDENTS
How? At Tuck, Danos adds, in any given year there are 70 one-on-one sessions between a faculty member and a student for credit. There are the school’s pioneering “research-to-practice” seminars in which a professor shares cutting-edge research with eight to 12 students. They range from Professor Robert Hansen’s “Economics of the Credit Crisis” and B. Espen Ecbo’s “Corporate Takeovers” to Adam Kleinbaum’s “Social Networks in Organizations” and Ron Adner’s “Strategy in Innovation Ecosystems.” Tuck offers 10 to 12 of these unusual seminars annually.
“What we’ve learned is that our seminars are the highest rated categories of courses we have now,” says Danos. “A lot of this is because the students actually lead those discussions. These are not passive courses. It’s a different way of teaching. You aren’t just transmitting knowledge; you are asking how do you think about a problem and how do you come up with a solution. The students dig deep into practical issues like what led to the financial crisis. Students like it a lot more than anybody would have expected.”
To maintain the closeness that students develop with Tuck faculty, he also has kept elective classes very small. “More than the seminars,” adds Danos, “we have driven down the size of the elective classes.” At the 15 or so elite B-schools with which Tuck competes, consultants hired by the school found that the elective courses averaged 41 students versus an average of 14 in Tuck’s mainstream electives.
Key to the balance between research and teaching is insisting that every faculty member is deeply involved in each class that goes through the school. “Everybody on Tuck’s roster teaches in the full-time MBA program,” says Danos. “I don’t think anyone can say that at any other business school.”
THE INVERTED PYRAMID AT THE TUCK SCHOOL
Most schools, notes Danos, deliver teaching through a pyramidal structure with adjunct professors, visitors, and teaching assistants at the bottom representing the largest single group of teachers in the classrooms. “We are an inverted pyramid,” says Danos. “We have more chaired full professors than any other category. And then our next largest group is the associate professors and finally assistant professors. There are no adjuncts or teaching assistants.”
After 16 years at the helm, it’s only natural that some leaders might lose some enthusiasm for their jobs. Not Danos, who speaks with surprising excitement and passion about the school. Explains Tuck professor Richard D’Aveni: “Dean Danos lives and breathes the Tuck School. He has even more passion for the school now, so I don’t feel he is slowing down at all. In fact, my guess is that he is thinking about his legacy and I expect something big from him. I don’t know what that is yet, but I am sure it will emerge in incremental steps, as is his still.”
Will this be his last term at Tuck? “There has got to be an end at some point,” says Danos. “I have a feeling they will cart me off after this one.”