Is There a Jesuit Business School Conspiracy?

Albers School of Business and Economics Dean Joseph Phillips, Jr.

Albers School of Business and Economics Dean Joseph Phillips, Jr.

“Well, I think that anybody that appears in those top 25 has a good program,” says Dean Joseph Phillips, Jr. “Who is above the other and that sort of nuance obviously that is a hard thing to figure out.” Phillips essentially agrees with Fox’s affinity theory. “People, when they’re voting in those processes, they’re voting for who they know,” he says. “I would never cast a vote for a Jesuit school because it’s a Jesuit school. I’d vote for a school that I thought had a good program.” While he acknowledges that representatives of Jesuit schools get together, he notes that similar gatherings occur among other groups in business education, including large meetings among members of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the primary U.S. B-school accreditation body.


At the Cook School of Business, director of graduate business programs Suzy Hartmann describes the institution’s 13th place for supply chain/logistics, ahead of Harvard by two spots, as “a reasonable position. We have a dedicated center for supply chain management,” Hartmann points out, adding that about six courses are taught in that specialty each year, that the school also offers a master’s degree in supply chain management, and that the Department of Operations and IT Management under which supply chain management falls has nine faculty plus adjuncts with specific industry expertise.

Hartmann, who has not yet had a chance to vote in the U.S. News’ specialty rankings, does not dispute that some schools’ closeness with each other could affect rankings results. “All of the Jesuit schools know each other, but I also know all the programs in the St. Louis area,” Hartmann says. Such familiarity would be an aspect of virtually any relationship among universities, such as being in the same athletic conference, Hartmann notes.

Like Fox, Phillips, and Hartmann, Dean Hasan Pirkul of the University of Texas at Dallas’ Naveen Jindal School of Management chalks up anomalous appearances in the rankings to school officials nominating programs they’re familiar with. “It’s (that) you genuinely know about their programs,” says Pirkul, who led the creation at Jindal of an alternative rankings system based on schools’ research output. “If you know them then that’s perfectly normal to say, ‘Yeah, they have a great program.’


Though they’re based on subjective impressions, the specialty rankings have value, Pirkul believes. “People’s opinions matter,” Pirkul says, adding that most prospective MBA students take those rankings “with a grain of salt.” “I don’t think people blindly pick up U.S. News and World Report and say, ‘Oh, Saint Louis, I better go there.'”

The Cook School of Business comes out better than Harvard for supply chain management.

The Cook School of Business comes out better than Harvard for supply chain management.

Still, Pirkul gives more credence to the U.S. News’ overall MBA rankings because they are based on more than officials’ opinions. “I tend to be more comfortable with a ranking like that, which looks at multiple dimensions,” Pirkul says. Perception is important but that’s one metric one should look at. Student quality and student success and other factors are also important.”

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