STUDENTS START TAPPING INTO THEIR PASSIONS THE MINUTE THEY ARRIVE
This breadth of content, coupled with large class sizes, also accommodates an array of teaching styles – with students reaping the benefits of truly engaged classmates and faculty alike. “The student can match his or her preference for [teaching] style,” says Kole. “We really customize the experience in a way that makes it fundamentally different for the student…For the faculty member, you know that people sitting in the classroom have chosen to be there.”
This flexibility is built into the program’s very DNA. Call it the “go your own way” MBA where students are trusted to make decisions for themselves based on their own unique goals. Take the first year core. Technically, students are only required to take the semester-long LEAD (Leadership Effectiveness and Development) course – a tour de force that takes students through interpersonal communication skills like influencing without authority, selling ideas, and managing conflicts and crises. In reality, however, it is more complicated. Students are required to take one course in the areas of financial accounting, microeconomics, and statistics each. They must also pick-and-choose six courses from the fields of marketing, finance, operations, strategy, organizational behavior, decision-making, and business environments. Still, this leaves enough wiggle room for students to match a requirement with a passion. At the same time, students can clep out of classes that they’ve previously mastered, so they can focus on what matters to them sooner.
In short, Booth gives students the freedom to maximize their time and learning. This staunch commitment to the student as an individual is unlike any other full-time MBA program. “Broadly speaking, people go back for an education because they’re trying to do something else with their career and their life,” Ahlm states. “Everyone looks, thinks, and defines it differently. What Booth does exceptionally well is provide access to people at all different stages of life and all different parts of the globe. We afford them every opportunity to choose a path that is distinctively right for them.”
ENGAGEMENT CREATES ENERGY
In the process, some students load up on certain types of classes to boost their odds for success in internships or startup launches. More than that, it creates an infectious excitement that unleashes innovation across every level of the student body.
“Our mission is to be an institution that’s creating enduring impact, great ideas, things that really move markets and organizations forward,” Ahlm states. “To do that, we feel that we need to have a place where people can fully engage. Every decision that they make, every class that they sit in, and every opportunity that they are faced with is something that they are purely invested in. These decisions are things are not prescribed. They are things that people are really committed to because there is something that is driving them towards that…When you create an environment where people can choose pretty much every aspect of their experience, you find that you create an environment that is incredibly energized.”
The Class of 2019 has bought into this vision of a personalized path. Oshinowo, who plans to continue operating in the startup space, applauds how Booth’s elective-based curriculum bridged what he needed with what he ultimately hoped to do.
“As a career switcher, I needed a program that was flexible enough for me to get the best of the basics while still being able to “get my hands dirty” in entrepreneurship and leadership. I felt like Booth was the perfect way to get the best of both worlds.”
CHICAGO WON’T BE ‘SECOND’ TO ANYONE IN THE COMING YEARS
For Chi, this flexibility nurtures a certain balance between his academic, professional, and social goals, where each feeds into the others. “Academically, I like how Booth starts off with the LEAD program which helps each student better understand his or her personality and leadership style. From there, students can choose the type of learning environment that fits them the most, whether it is research-oriented, case method, or team-based. Professionally, Booth offers outstanding resources for in-school year internships as well as entrepreneurship opportunities. Socially, I find alumni and students down-to-earth, approachable, and helpful. There is a strong sense of community, especially when the majority of students live within three blocks of each other in downtown Chicago.”
Make no mistake: Chicago is a big draw for MBAs too. The “Second City” metro is home to 36 Fortune 500 companies, including iconic names like Walgreens, Boeing, Archer Daniels Midland, United, Allstate, McDonald’s, Sears, and Kraft Heinz. The bigger news, however, is the city’s emergence as a tech and startup hub. During the third quarter, area startups raised $465 million dollars in venture capital according to Crain’s Chicago Journal. Even more, 2017 investment has already eclipsed 2015 and 2016 investment combined. Already a leading city in the nonprofit sector, this convergence of deep pockets, startup spunk, and operational know-how make Chicago a city to watch in the coming years. And Booth, which is intricately wired into the area’s old money, middle market and entrepreneurial niches, is poised to capitalize on this emergence.
“Booth combines a highly flexible yet clearly academically rigorous program (and student body) with a major U.S. city setting and great living prospects in downtown Chicago,” stresses Spletzer. “Plus, as a native Midwesterner, I felt a very strong pull back to the regional culture and attitude. The genuine helpfulness and friendliness of all the students, faculty, and staff I’ve encountered at Booth really reflect that culture.”
The fall has already been a newsworthy time at Booth. For one, Madhav V. Rajan, a star associate dean at Stanford GSB, has now assumed the reins as Booth’s dean. This week, Richard H. Thaler, a pioneer in behavioral economics, became the ninth Booth faculty member to win a Nobel Prize. Compared to those landmarks, the Class of 2019’s humble definitions of a successful year appear within reach. Oshinowo, for example, hopes to be part of the team that wins the Social New Venture Challenge. Geehan just hopes to be able to narrow down her options and decide on next steps. Then, there’s Leila Kutler, a McKinsey analyst from Duke, who plans to fail – a lot – so she can come wiser and more confident than before.
“I hope to finish my first year with a concrete list of subjects and careers in which I was not successful,” she counters. “This means will have taken classes outside of my wheelhouse and challenged myself to explore careers far off the traditional path. If I sale through first year, to me that means I will have failed in embracing what business school is about: a chance to push myself outside of my comfort zone.”
To read profiles of incoming Booth students — along with their advice on tackling the GMAT, applications, and interviews — click on the links below.
|Yarden Berkman||Sunnyvale, CA||Cal Poly SLO||Agilent Technologies|
|Alex Chi||Taipei, Taiwan||University of Michigan||Crescent Capital Group|
|Caitlin Geehan||New York, NY||New York University||Sony Music Entertainment|
|Kirsta Kellin||Carefree, AZ||Indiana University||Goldman Sachs|
|Leila Kutler||Chevy Chase, MD||Duke University||Wayfair|
|Tim Lewis||Bloomfield Hills, MI||University of Michigan|
|Surbi Luhadia||South Brunswick, NJ||Boston University||Urban Land Institute|
|Babatunde Oshinowo Jr.||Naperville, IL||Stanford University||NCSA (Next College Student Athlete)|
|Sam Spletzer||Cedarburg, WI||U.S. Naval Academy||U.S. Navy|
|Juan Vasquez||Lima, Peru||Pontifical Catholic University of Peru||McKinsey & Company|
|Atsushi Yamazaki||Tokyo, Japan||Tokyo University of Science, Industrial Administrations||J.P. Morgan|