A Gender Scorecard for Business Schools

University of Rochestor Simon Business School dean Andrew Ainslie

University of Rochestor Simon Business School dean Andrew Ainslie

Is An MBA Worth It?

For some, working towards an MBA is about changing careers and earning more. And MBA programs are a great place to do just that. Who hasn’t heard inspiring stories of violinists-turned-bankers and engineers-turned-entrepreneurs?  According to Andrew Ainslie, dean of the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School, post-MBA salaries increase by 80 percent over pre-MBA earnings within five years of graduation.

Often, it is the more subtle changes that really make the investment worthwhile. You speak more deliberately and confidently. And you think in broader and more holistic terms, understanding cause-and-effect and priorities and tradeoffs.


“I notice a difference in students from the first day they get here until graduation,” says David Tilson, the associate dean of Simon’s full-time MBA program, about Simon MBA students. “There’s a real maturity in their thinking and approach to business. They have developed the ability to bring rigorous analysis to bear when faced with difficult problems, which is essential. Five or ten years ago, you could get away with just an intuitive answer to business problems—because the data just wasn’t there. That’s not the case anymore.”

In recent years, the MBA has been under siege. Entrepreneurs dismiss it as a luxury at best and a waste of two years at worst. On the surface, free MOOCs threaten the financial model of business programs. And more segmented and customized options seemingly render the full-time’s programs’ commitment to personal attention and cohort cohesiveness as outdated.

In a recent essay in Simon’s business magazine, Simon faculty and alumni challenge the notion that the full-time MBA has grown stale. To them, it is more relevant than ever, offering benefits that can’t be replicated anywhere else.


And it starts with how students communicate, says Tilson, who earned his MBA at McCombs in 2000 before moving to Case Western Reserve University for his Ph.D. “I had an engineering [and project management] background,” Tilson shares. “But I needed an MBA to round out my education and deepen my knowledge of accounting, finance, marketing, and logistics…Getting my MBA allowed me to participate intelligently in many more conversations and at a higher level than I could have with just my engineering skills.”

Dean Ainslie describes this phenomenon as akin to a “Swiss army knife, adding that such an MBA background “enriches the level of interactions you can experience in your work.” However, the degree doesn’t just boost your overall knowledge, says Diana Nole, a 2001 Simon alum and president of the medical digital group within Carestream Health (formerly Eastman Kodak Company’s health group). It also reinforces the notion that you belong regardless of where you sit in the org chart.

Rochester's Simon Graduate School of Business is ranked 35th among the top 100 U.S. business schools by Poets&Quants.

Rochester’s Simon Graduate School of Business

“My MBA from Simon gave me the confidence to be in the discussion,” Nole points out. “Even with professional experience, I didn’t know all the terms people might use in general business discussions—especially those that were happening two or three levels above me at the time. Being able to confidently ask the right questions and using the right terminology regarding things like cash flow statements and balance sheets came with the skills to analyze important data. I think my reputation and credibility improved as a result of getting my MBA.”


Networking is another big reason why ambitious professionals flock to business school. But an MBA program is more than a glorified meat market to find potential partners and advocates who can help fund your ventures or find you a job. They are also critical sounding boards who can help you work through “information gaps” over your career says Christopher Czarnecki a 2009 Simon grad and president and chief financial officer at Broadstone Real Estate. “I’ve learned to draw on the people I got to know at Simon to help piece together different perspectives and solutions.”

For others, it provides a long-term framework that remains relevant even as various business technologies and models come-and-go. . “It prepares you for the unexpected,” says 1989 Simon alum Sanjay Vatsa, a former managing director at Citibank who currently serves as an independent consultant. “What’s going to happen over the next four years will be revolutionary. Digitalization, modernization, and collaboration to compete will be very important aspects going forward. Your undergraduate degree doesn’t prepare you for that. The MBA gives you much broader capabilities to understand and deal with new situations and helps you reinvent and innovate yourself.”

Finally, an MBA confers a stamp of approval, Czarnecki points out. “Simon graduates operate with a common currency. That currency is a form of validation. When I’m meeting people in different markets in Chicago or New York, they’ll often look at my background and bring up the fact that I have an MBA. There is an acceptance level—or an appreciation of your skillset—that you enjoy from having that in your background.”

Even more, it gives employers more confidence in making a hiring decision. “Whenever a résumé comes across my desk that tells me the person went to Simon Business School, he or she has a little higher credibility with me,” Nole adds. “I know what it takes to get through that, and that’s why we have hired a number of people from Simon and put them through great programs here at Carestream. Their degree and the business foundation it provides has helped connect them with terrific opportunities here.”

For Ainslie, the MBA was a pivotal stop on a longer journey. Like many, it led him to choose a different path. “For me, it led back to graduate school and a PhD, then a 20-year career in teaching, and now a move back into management to run a business school. There’s absolutely no way I could have done any of those without first getting my MBA.”

To read the full article, click on the link below.


Source: Simon Business Magazine

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.