Carlson Strikes Back At Old Man Winter


Minnesota has a problem. It’s called winter.

And that means that the Carlson School of Management has a problem: some prospective business school students rule the school out solely on the basis of its reputation for frightful weather.

“There’s this perception that Minnesota and the Twin Cities are in this arctic type of climate,” says Linh Gilles, director of admissions and recruiting at Carlson. Conversations with MBA program applicants reveal that students see Minnesota winters as a deterrent to studying at Carlson, Gilles says. They’ll say, “I’m just not sure I can go to someplace where it’s so cold,” Gilles says. For students from the east and west coasts, and the south, Carlson’s winter environment is often a “significant barrier,” Gilles says.

However, potential candidates often reveal they’re interested in other northern U.S. schools that also have severe winter weather, but because those schools aren’t located in states with Minnesota’s reputation, the would-be applicants aren’t necessarily put off by the climate, Gilles says.


But Carlson’s MBA officials, instead of just going outside and shaking their fists at the sky, are taking action. And they’re targeting the competition.

In the first installment of an email outreach series, Gilles and her colleagues in the Carlson MBA program have sent out about 20,000 messages featuring an infographic that compares annual snowfall in Minneapolis to three other cities: Ithaca, New York, home of the Johnson School of Management; Chicago, home of the Booth School of Business; and Madison, Wisconsin, home to the Wisconsin School of Business. Minneapolis, with 54 inches of snowfall per year, comes out looking better than Ithaca, with 64 inches, and only marginally worse than Madison, with 51 inches. Chicago may appear a milder alternative, but still gets 37 inches.

“The Carlson School is blanketed by snow, not buried in it,” the email’s subject line says. “Can you guess the average snowfall in Minnesota?”

Carlson’s competitors, the promotion suggests, are certainly no tropical paradises.

The ultimate point behind the email is made below the infographic: “Here in Minneapolis, a few inches of snow can’t slow our thriving business community,” the text declares. “Connect with 18 Fortune 500 companies, all headquartered in Minnesota.”