When you have a hunch, you head to the lab. That’s what scientists do. You make predictions and simulate. You observe and gather data. Later on, you tweak the variables until you validate your hypothesis – or move on to something entirely new.
The scientific method is an apt metaphor for MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Just three miles down the Charles River from Harvard Business School, Sloan is the learn-by-doing answer to the read-and-react ethos of their Crimson cousins. This treatment of business as a living lab is the heart of the Sloan experience, says Dean David Schmittlein in a 2017 interview with Poets&Quants.
A PLACE WHERE THEORY AND PRACTICE COME TOGETHER
“MIT’s motto, mind and hand (Mens et Manus) means that while we have incredibly smart faculty and rigorous curriculum, it’s also a place that is much associated with the lab; the bunsen burner of management, if you will, as much as the blackboard and equations. It’s always been a place where theory and practice came together.”
And it comes together through groundbreaking models and technologies that most haven’t fathomed. Here, clean energy, fintech, machine learning, nanotech, and blockchain aren’t remote concepts lauded on CNBC (or The Avengers). They are the fruits of cross-campus partnerships and means for pushing boundaries, enhancing productivity, and fostering equality.
“MIT is a place where people want to solve really big problems,” explains Dean Schmittlein. “Really big problems do not have as their answer, by itself, a single device, germ, new nano-material, or computer program. Yes, in many cases, science and tech are key to finding solutions, but so too are economics, sociology, psychology, politics — the people side. If you are going to be serious about solving the biggest problems — and we have the megalomaniacs who’ll take on nothing less — it requires that they actually work together across schools.”
A CLASS OF REBELS…WITH A CAUSE
You could describe MIT – and Sloan in particular— as Inventive and inclusive as much as experiential and entrepreneurial. It is a place, Schmittlein notes, where students are identifying what doesn’t exist and then creating it. That creates a spirit marked by inspired collaboration, where engineering, information technology and life sciences breakthroughs can be turned into organizations capable of taking them to the masses. In fact, you could label Sloan’s Class of 2019 as “rebels with a cause.” And they are streaming into Cambridge to join a community known for everything from ushering in modern finance to sequencing the human genome.
Liz Nagler, a product manager at Disney Interactive Labs, says she was drawn to Sloan’s “culture of self-sufficient innovation” that balances tech expertise with business savvy. “This characteristic permeates throughout the faculty, students, and the resources we’re given, while sufficiently pushing us out of our comfort zones,” she asserts. “This is the optimal time and place to experiment and fail as we’re learning key fundamentals, getting advice and feedback from experts, and surrounding ourselves with an innovative community. I’ve heard the argument that technologists don’t need MBA’s… but as much as businesses need new technology, new technology needs a well-rounded business understanding to thrive.”
Rosa Glenn is a classically trained weaver looking to make an impact in retail. She chose Sloan because it matched her own “commitment to innovation.” “As a product designer, I’ve always worked in creative teams. I wanted an MBA program that embraced analytical thinking along with design thinking. Creativity is in MIT’s DNA.”
FEELS LIKE AN INCUBATOR INSIDE A UNIVERSITY
The natural synergies swirling around MIT’s campus was enough to bring Patricia Irisarri over from London, where she was the COO for a food and beverage operation. She plans to tap into the students’ diverse backgrounds. “I felt that MBAs were very close to PhDs, undergrads, research and LGOs. which clearly conveys what Sloan is all about,” she says. “This cross-campus integration of people with different backgrounds seemed such a natural blend that in my eyes was very different to any other school.”
The best part of Sloan, adds Sahil Joshi, is its integration into the larger university, with a program design that encourages – if not demands – engagement with students working in other fields. “Sloan’s flexible curriculum and coursework that encourages interdisciplinary connection were unparalleled. This made Sloan feel like an incubator in addition to a university.”
The Class of 2019 reflects the Sloan spirit to a tee: diverse, daring doers committed to the long view and open to anything. It is a class that comes from all walks of life. Alexander Beltes was raised in Thessaloniki, Greece, studied at Yale, and worked in the Cambodian solar energy market. Similarly, Marlyn Diemunsch considers South Africa home, though she boasts a master’s degree from Australia’s University of Wollongong. Diemunsch had climbed the ranks to a V.P. title at Barclays Africa Group – a title also earned by Matt Caple at Credit Suisse.
A CLASS OF CONTRASTS
Indeed, you could call Sloan a true meritocracy, a home for smart and humble students who, in the worlds of Dean Schmittlein, are “open to people, possibilities, the world, five different ways to solve a problem or five different ways to learn about something.” As a result, you’ll find alumni from Dartmouth, Brown, and Stanford sitting alongside grads from places like the Rhode Island School of Design. And that doesn’t even count the graduate engineering and life sciences students, undergrad prodigies, or international fellows from the executive ranks who often sit in on full-time MBA classes.
In fact, Dean Schmittlein often describes the student culture in terms of contrast, portraying the archetypal Sloan student as both “smart and inventive” and “open and grounded.” This dual nature personifies the 2019 Class. Kaavya Gupta, a New Delhi native and entrepreneur, calls herself a “blended harmony of entrepreneur, marketer and musician.” Lara Ortiz-Luis, who started her first business – teaching cooking – immediately after graduation, summarizes herself this way: “Foodie Filipina from San Francisco studied biology but invested in startups and taught design thinking instead.” Nagler is another class member with a penchant for divergence: “Exceedingly enthusiastic / Outdoors aficionado / Adventure traveler / Unexpectedly corporate.”
Such creative juices also make for some great stories. Glenn raised silk worms in her studio locker…until they got out and went everywhere. As captain of West Point’s tennis team, Daniel Shaffer played “Scotland the Brave” on his bagpipes when they came onto the court to face the Naval Academy (no word on whether he painted his face or donned a kilt ala Braveheart, though). Gupta sang for a fusion cover band managed by Sony Music. Then, there’s Jonathan Ng. His claim to fame? As a 10 year-old, he won a national innovation program…despite skipping all the prep classes and coming up with his solution just two days before the competition started!
Go to page 3 to see in-depth profiles of incoming MIT Sloan students.