Do B-Schools Really Need Ph.D.s?
“There you go again.”
Remember Ronald Reagan chiding Walter Mondale with that phrase during the 1984 Presidential debates? Maybe it’s time to dust it off after reading Kathy Leck’s recent advertorial in Bloomberg Businessweek.
Leck, the executive vice president of the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, resurrects the ancient “How can I become a millionaire listening to professors with little net worth” argument. Actually, she uses a more demure question: “Can doctorate-level business school professors prepare students for market ambiguity, industry shifts, and lukewarm employee motivation?”
Mind you, Leck claims that “It’s not that I place little value on Ph.D. credentials.” Of course, she then pulls out the passive aggressive hammer: “My concern is about placing too much value on credentials that have not been vetted in the competitive marketplace.”
That’s a valid hypothesis…until she backs it up with a cliché that’d make a research-driven Ph.D. cringe: “Unfortunately, academic institutions with a majority of tenured faculty (a level of job security that’s matched nowhere in business) can’t quickly respond to changing business and student needs. Tenured professors are often more interested in research than in solving business problems, and they hold incredible power within the institutions to keep the status quo.”
And then Leck surfs the shark with this doozey: “Faculty members that are also working managers understand that the classic formulas and theories are not sufficient, nor has the traditional B-school pedagogy evolved fast enough to keep pace with a rapidly changing business environment.”
As if Ph.D.s are somehow can’t? Talk about administrator-on-academic crime!
Alas, Leck is all-too-happy to advertise that the school’s faculty “is 100 percent business practitioners.” Rather than citing their collective net worth or credentials, she boilerplates language that appears in one form or another in every b-school brochure: “We specifically seek [business practitioners] out, hiring faculty members with master’s degrees but also a unique mix of street-smart expertise and proven business acumen, plus the ability to teach both theory and practice.”
In fairness, Leck, who holds a MS from the National College of Education according to Bloomberg Businessweek, is transparent. While Lake Forest’s Graduate School of Management is approved by the Higher Learning Commission, Leck notes that it is “not accredited by the AACSB because we don’t come close to meeting the minimum Ph.D. guideline” (which is 40%). In other words, you wonder if her reliance on practitioners is a principled choice – or an expedient result.
Later on, Leck sanctifies practitioners for being more credible with students; not being beholden to their career or research; and establishing a more collaborative and hands-on classroom environment. And no, she doesn’t back up her slurs with any concrete evidence, just sentiment masquerading as reality. Ironically, her argument has merit. Unfortunately, her sour grapes attitude and sloppy arguments undercut her credibility.
We can only hope that Lake Forest’s faculty and students are more disciplined and diligent than their executive vice president.
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Source: Bloomberg Businessweek