10 Business Schools To Watch In 2018

Members of the Berkeley Haas Class of 2019. Photo courtesy of UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business

U.C.-Berkeley (Haas)

Haas is the archetype for a values-driven MBA program. Perfectly situated in Berkeley – just an hour drive from Silicon Valley – Haas has it all: warm climate, extracurricular and outdoor activities galore, and a 284 member class size that’s small enough to be intimate and cohesive. It is a program that is founded on “Defining Principles” that treasure humility, curiosity, ethics, authenticity, and academic rigor. Step onto campus and you’ll find students who can recite the school principle verbatim. That doesn’t make Haasies into the b-school answer to the Children of the Corn. Instead, they’ve self-selected Haas – and they come to Berkeley to be around people who truly buy into the same values.

More than ever, applicants are buying into what Haas is selling. In 2016-2017, Haas received a record number of applications. At the same time, the school increased its student size by 32 students – all while maintaining its forbidding  12% acceptance rate – third only to Stanford and Harvard. Add to that, the Class of 2019’s average GMAT surged eight points to 725 after spending nearly a decade between 714 and 718. In other words, Haas is making a claim on terrain previously staked out by a higher-ranked MIT Sloan (722).

Next fall, the program also hopes to stretch its incoming MBA class size to 300 students – with the long-term goal being 350 students. To accommodate this growth, the school recently opened its 6 story, $60 million dollar Chou Hall, which was designed, in true Berkeley style, to be the greenest academic building ever built.  “This facility will complement our existing buildings nicely and will add 80,000 square feet of new “smart” classrooms, group study rooms, event space, and a new café,” explains Assistant Dean Peter Johnson. “The entire building is devoted to student-facing activities, providing more modern classroom technology and inviting surroundings for classes, co-curricular activities, conferences, and other events.”

Consider such bounty to be a parting gift from Richard Lyons, the outgoing dean who leaves his post in June. While Lyons’ legacy is lengthy, his departure will open the program up to new ideas from his successor. “We’ve made great progress together in these eleven years, and our school’s future is bright,” Lyons said in his resignation statement. “Haas is in a good place for the next dean to carry our school forward.”

Darden students, faculty, and staff assemble August 14 to show unity after a discussion on diversity and inclusion

University of Virginia (Darden)

In early August, the future looked bright at the Darden School of Business. Applications were up 11% for a spot in the Class of 2019. GMATs had held steady at a respectable 713. Spring graduates were landing jobs left-and-right. Ultimately, the class averaged $149,750 in median starting pay, fourth-highest among major MBA programs and just behind Harvard, Stanford, and NYU Stern. Not surprisingly, the school ranked 2nd in overall student satisfaction according to the bi-annual Forbes student survey.

What could possibly happen to stop this momentum straight in its tracks?

To quote Indiana Jones: “Nazis.”

Since August, the specter of Charlottesville has dogged Darden. They never asked for outsiders to march through their streets carrying torches and chanting slogans like the Night of Long Knives re-enacted. Few could grasp the madness of James Alan Fields as he plowed through dozens of people, snuffing out Heather Heyer’s life in his wake. Who could predict that an elected American leader could mark an equivalency between a by-gone era of intimidation and a vibrant tradition of protest?

How do you pick up the pieces? How do you show the world that Charlottesville – the home of Thomas Jefferson – is again safe, welcoming, and vital? The marchers may have passed through, but the impressions they left have been seared into infamy. That’s why the next year will be a true test of leadership for Dean Beardsley and the Darden community as a whole. Academically rigorous and well-funded – with $13.7 million dollars set aside for scholarships – Darden is the Harvard of the South, where great teaching is rewarded and honor codes are abided. It is truly academia at its best – which may be why it had to endure the agonies of August.

“I asked myself the question, ‘Why did this happen here?’ And the reality is, it could happen any number of places,” Dean Beardsley noted to P&Q last fall. “But perhaps one of the reasons that it happened here is exactly because the University of Virginia and Darden are very progressive places, they’re wonderful places and they knew that they would get a reaction. If you’re seeking to draw attention to yourself, you go to a place where you can draw the sharpest contrast between what you stand for and the place where you’re making your statement stands for.”

A class at IE Business School

IE Business School

One member of the 2018 sums up the IE difference this way: “One-year course, international intake, highly-regarded, and entrepreneurship-focused.”

Ah, all too true.

IE Business School brands itself as “an unusual school for unusual people” – a collection of mavericks…the reformers, rebels, and romantics who scoff at convention and visualize a world that’s just outside their grasp. They may be misunderstood souls, but they are hardly starving artists. Just look at the 2017 Forbes ranking, which measures salary growth. Here, the Class of 2012 enjoyed a $145,400 pay increase over five years – third-best among international programs. Turns out, IE may be just as great at training savvy leaders as aspiring entrepreneurs!

Not that they are mutually exclusive. IE is a place to learn the entrepreneurial mindset: curious, creative, proactive, and fearless – always on a quest to identify possibilities, create value, take action, and rebound quickly. IE attracts the students who welcome change and challenge – and that means their mission is greater than simply collecting a check or beating the traffic home. This is the mindset of the small, nimble, passionate disruptors who are constantly upending the status quo and keeping established players on their heels. This mentality is exactly what these firms are seeking to even their odds of sustainable success…if not survival. “At IE they don’t just talk the talk about entrepreneurship, they walk it,” says Fady Moomen, another incoming student.

Entrepreneurship isn’t IE’s only advantage. The school may have been founded by entrepreneurs, but they don’t discriminate – except when it comes to talent. 91% of the 2018 Class hails from outside IE’s native Spain, making it the perfect training ground to absorb various culture mores and practice international business. “Emotional intelligence becomes essential for managing diverse teams in multinational companies,” notes Sabina Iman, a member of this year’s class. “The IE IMBA program is the unique program which puts you in the diverse environment and helps you to understand the important details about managing teams from different parts of the world.”

Why watch IE? Simple: Everyone else is.

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