If anything, adds Price, a startup is a sure-fire tonic to hubris. “Every day it seems that I am mainly learning how much I have yet to fully understand. It is a very humbling way to go through the MBA experience.”
LIBERAL ARTS: THE PATH TO POVERTY OR A GUIDE TO DECISION-MAKING?
In business cases, Southern Methodist University’s Michael Jay Orr has studied the dangers of silos, those subversive structures that stifle communication and innovation alike. Ironically, he has noticed how those same silos are entrenched in universities. As dean, he would open up business school to other disciplines to freshen up the curriculum.
“Students in the business school are not encouraged to take courses in any discipline outside of business,” he asserts. “This is problematic because life is not isolated. The lines between business, engineering, creative writing, and law are often blurred. While students should be proficient in their field of expertise, I believe there is great value in exposure to other disciplines. For instance, the famed founder of modern management, Peter Drucker, was not educated in business, but had a background in law. Studying other fields will equip students with a more holistic approach to life and business.”
The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business boasts one of the city’s best art collections according to recent graduate Andrew Ward. To stir classroom discussions and imaginative problem-solving, he would encourage professors to bring art into their classrooms. “Interpreting art requires a comfort with ambiguity,” he contends, “which I believe, is an incredibly important skill in business. Anyone who has read enough business cases knows that they are often not straightforward and in many instances, there is not a single right answer. Bringing artwork into the classroom could help hone the skills necessary to rationalize through these ambiguous business problems.”
For Tom Allin, a Dartmouth College graduate, the arts and humanities also inject an angle that can be sometimes overlooked in classroom debate. “Business is such an incredibly powerful tool for effecting change, but I think there isn’t always much consideration for how it can change (or, even, hurt) the vitality of communities, institutions, and people,” he argues. “I do think developing an appreciation for the less tangible things is important for folks who will potentially be future stewards of them.”
LEAD A TEAM…OR LEAD A CLASSROOM?
The liberal arts wing isn’t the only bloc of students clamoring for greater accountability. The University of Iowa’s Meganne Franks, for example, would require every student to head a project team at least once during an MBA program. “Regardless of whether you are a leader or a team member, MBAs should experience the pressure of making executive decisions and taking unconditional responsibility for the outcomes of the team,” she emphasizes.
Leading a project is one thing. Emory’s Adam Parker, however, would require second years to command a classroom in a one credit “Special Topics” course during their final semester. “My classmate, who previously worked for the NBA, could present on sports marketing; a different peer, who led troops on peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan, could present on operations strategy. We can learn so much from each other given the myriad backgrounds and past professional experiences.”
One gap in the MBA curriculum is interviewing skills, says Stanford’s Federico Mossa. In this case, it’s not the interviewing that MBAs role play to death with their friendly neighborhood career services team. Instead, it is the hiring interviews that MBAs will someday do to build their own teams. According to Mossa, interviewing and hiring may be the most important parts of their jobs. “Business school does not teach us, in practical terms, how to get better at interviewing,” he confesses. “If I were dean for a day, I would seek the help of experts in the field, and create an experiential course showcasing pros and cons of different interviewing techniques. At the GSB, we work on developing our own communication and negotiation style, and this would be a helpful addition to our toolbox for the future.”
PUSH BACK RECRUITING TO HELP CLASSES JELL
Those aren’t the only areas where the Best & Brightest would tinker with the MBA curriculum. Many times, MBA students select courses that appear alluring on the surface, but soon realize that they don’t kindle their passions. Duke’s Erika Hines would rectify that by offering mini courses that introduce students to core concepts before they commit a full quarter or semester to them. “This would help expose students to a broader range of topics and help them make better decisions about the courses they’d actually like to dive into more deeply,” she states.
The University of North Carolina’s Lauren Montagne draws from the past for her inspiration. She would introduce a “Throwback Day” during the second year to consider what they’ve learned so far. “I’d love to go back and revisit all my core classes (maybe just for a few hours) to see how my perspective changed after my summer internship experience.”
Not surprisingly, the recruiting process doesn’t escape the purview of these deans for day. Some graduates, such as Yale’s Claire Lee, would love to push internship recruiting back in the academic calendar so first years can focus on academics and building relationships with classmates. “Forming friendships and networks takes time and there’s simply not enough of it, particularly in the first year, to get to do that meaningfully,” she reminisces. “Plus, the first few months are critical in setting the right tone and balance in maximizing the experience going forward – alleviating the stress, often amplified by recruiting, would significantly help the transition into the full-time MBA experience.”
PHYSICAL FITNESS…PERSONAL REFLECTION…AND BETTER COFFEE
At Northwestern, Adam Maddock taught a weekly fitness “boot camp” to help classmates with their physical and mental fitness. After watching his students “grow stronger and gain mental toughness,” he believes that personal wellness is an undervalued aspect of graduate business education.
“So much about being the best business person you can be hinges on being the best individual person you can be,” he explains. “Too often we can become consumed with the mechanics and fundamentals of business that we miss the personal balance that is such an important variable in the equation. Creating and instilling the idea and importance of balance, physical and mental health and exercise into an MBA could prove to be just as important in furthering careers, happiness and success as ethics, negotiations and, of course, NPV calculations.”
The Class of 2017 even put themselves under the microscope. If the University of Maryland’s Gabrielle Kuey could be a dean for a day, she would immediately convene a “Gauge Day,” where she would conduct gap analysis and “immerse” herself in all things Smith. “I would spend a day in the classroom, conducting mock interviews, and meeting with underrepresented groups (including parents) to discuss what the school can do better to increase diversity, resources the school can offer the students, and how to make them an engaged alumni base.”
All big ideas, but sometimes it is tweaking the small things that resonates most with MBAs. What is Tahira Taylor’s bold solution? Try no classes before 9:00 a.m. at Georgetown. That’d win plenty of applause in student circles, but it still falls short to perhaps the best idea yet…courtesy of INSEAD’s Myriam Ahmed.
“I’d make GOOD coffee free – we survive on it! The rest can all be figured out.”
What would you do if you could be dean for a day? Let us know in comments.
DON’T MISS: BEST & BRIGHTEST MBAS: CLASS OF 2017