After five months in the job as dean of Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, Matt Slaughter knows one thing for sure: Not to mess with the school’s unique close-knit culture of a place that nurtures the deepest loyalty of MBA grads anywhere on earth. So instead of voicing big plans for change or growth, the long-time economist talks about developing a “refined vision for what Tuck will be in the future.”
Since taking over the job in July from Paul Danos, who served an unprecedented 20 years, Slaughter has been meeting with the school’s stakeholders not, as he makes clear, to merely listen but rather to engage in “vibrant conversations.” His first question to alumni, business leaders and fellow business school deans: “What do you think is the most distinctive feature about Tuck and its community?”
The nearly universal answer is not surprising. To a person, they cited the highly collaborative culture that allows for deep bonding during the two-year MBA experience and after as a school that can lay claim to having the highest annual giving rate among alumni anywhere. Last year’s 70.9% participation rate is nearly triple the average of peer schools.
TRUST IS A BYPRODUCT OF ADMISSIONS, SMALL SIZE AND TUCK’S REMOTE LOCATION
When Slaughter digs deeper, however, the word “trust” kept cropping up. It is, he says, what makes students open to constructive criticism in a class when 74 classmates can disagree with a student who fails to back up a perspective with data or a cogent argument and then eat lunch together in the student cafe. That level of trust, he thinks, is a byproduct of the admissions process in which every applicant is invited to interview on campus, the small size of the program with an annual intake of only 286 newbies, and the rural and isolated campus in Hanover, N.H. “Some say we’re located in a place where there is nothing else to do but bond with each other,” laughs Slaughter.
But they also wonder, he concedes, how a school in a rural area of the country maintains its relevance in a global economy where rapid technological change is the order of the day. “Some in the world are looking to us to voice a better articulation for why the community is special,” says Slaughter, who adds that some have joked that Tuck is something of a New England “summer camp” for MBAs. “I want people to think of Tuck more as a base camp, a place where people go to form teams of trust and then go out in the world together on adventures. We’ll be doing more and more of our learning away from base camp.”
One early example is the school’s new requirement for every MBA to take at least one experiential course elsewhere in the world. Previously, these excursions were done on a much smaller scale and never required. “To engage more with the global economy, the T17s will venture out from base camp with a team of classmates for an external consulting engagement with a faculty advisor or have a do-it-yourself option to study in another country,” says Slaughter.