A building is an expression of culture. The aesthetics echo the mission of the institution, a commemoration of the past with an eye to the future. The layout and materials create a certain identity, one that spotlights what the program truly values. At the same time, buildings are works-in-progress, which must be flexible enough to respond to evolving technologies and professional requirements.
Among business schools, you won’t find two more different campuses than UCLA’s Anderson School of Management and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. These differences extend far beyond California sunshine vs. Chicago bite. Anderson is a six building complex with a consistent four color brick and cast stone exterior, which is accentuated by wide plazas and courtyards. Contrast that to the University of Chicago, which boasts campuses across the world – including two in Chicago – a nod to the school’s reach and renown.
AT BOOTH, ART TEACHES STUDENTS TO LOOK AT BUSINESS DIFFERENTLY
At Anderson, form follows function. The curriculum is decidedly team-driven. Thanks to the school’s spacious outdoors accommodations – and Mediterranean climate – the students generally cluster together outdoors. “A lot of our culture and structure comes from our students,” says Jami Jesek Carman, the school’s senior associate dean and chief operations officer in an interview with Poets&Quants. “By and large, one of the things that impresses outside entities is how collaborative our students are. It is a very tight network of students. It is a constant living lab. Wherever they go, they are always exchanging ideas.”
Booth also stresses teamwork. In addition, it exudes an academic air, which is amplified through wrinkles designed to stir creativity. For one, the school maintains a vibrant roster of clubs, including those catering to epicureans, wine lovers, skiers, singers, and dancers. During holiday exams, the school features an acapella group singing Christmas carols in its Harper Center, the Hyde Park home of its full-time MBAs. In addition, Booth maintains a world class contemporary art collection to push students out of their comfort zones, says Stacey Kole, the deputy dean for alumni, corporate relations, and the full time MBA program.
“The art is really there to stimulate your thinking, to push you to a different angle on an issue. The University of Chicago is all about creating an environment where people learn, so the art is a very unique way to do that. I would argue there is not another business school that has invested in putting together the kind of collection that we have. That’s stimulating.”
DUKE EARNS HIGHEST MARKS FOR QUALITY FACILITIES
Two distinct visions…but the same result. Both Booth and Anderson ranked among the top business school campuses according to an annual survey conducted by The Economist. In the “arms race” era of business schools – where fresh, attractive campuses with a wealth of amenities are dangled to attract the best talent – the facilities survey is a means to measure which programs live up to their sales pitches.
In 2017, The Economist polled current MBA students and alumni about the quality of their schools’ facilities using a scale of 1 (Poor) to 5 (Excellent). Overall, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, whose campus was profiled in P&Q’s 2017 incarnation of this story, ranked first among Top 20 MBA programs with a 4.68 score. Fuqua was clearly the crème de la crème of MBA facilities, scoring a .10 of a point higher than runners-up Booth and Harvard Business School (which was also featured by P&Q in 2017). Rounding out the top five were the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College (4.54) and Anderson (4.52). In contrast, the London Business School earned the lowest marks among top programs at 3.63, a far cry from IE Business School (3.93) and Columbia Business School (4.01) in student satisfaction.
One trend is clear: MBA students are expecting more in terms of facilities and services than ever. Among the 26 programs reviewed by P&Q, 24 notched a lower score in the 2017 survey over its 2015 counterpart. Fuqua and Booth, for example, scored .10 and .11 lower respectively. In fact, four programs (IE Business School, Columbia, North Carolina Kenan-Flagler, and UC-Berkeley Haas) experienced a drop of .30 of a point or more over the past two years. Just HEC Paris (+.18) and Michigan Ross (+.13) saw their scores surge over the same period. That said, the numbers are positive in a larger context. Just two programs scored below 4 (above average), with the difference between #1 Fuqua and #15 INSEAD being just .31 of a point.
FLEXIBILITY KEY TO THE HARPER CENTER’S SUCCESS
So what makes Booth and Anderson so special? It might help to tour the facilities. At Booth, that would start in the Harper Center, which is also home to the school’s faculty. In particular, Kole would direct a prospective student’s attention to the Winter Garden, which she jokes is a state of mind as much as a place. The “hub of student life,” the Winter Garden is a sun-drenched central atrium, replete with cushy couches for students to hang out. It also a flexible space, able to accommodate 500-600 people in theater-in-the-round style seating or adjusted to create a nightclub atmosphere to celebrate graduation.
“The facilities team here is unbelievable,” says Kole. “We can convert the building – sometimes it is pink or orange – and they can re-set the tone of the space so beautifully. We’ve taken great pains to make sure the acoustics are great too. What our facility allows us to do is host everything from major speakers to a big Friday Happy Hour for 200 prospective students to a dinner party with beautiful china. Then, by the morning, it is back to a space that has couches and small tables so students can gather and collaborate. We do all sorts of things.”
The Harper Center also houses a large multifunctional room, explains Jeremy Guthrie, the school’s executive director of finance and facilities. Here, he says, the school hosts brown bags for faculty to present their research or host guest speakers like Jamie Dimon and Jack Welch. This space has also been expanded to accommodate flipped classrooms and experimental teaching. In addition, Booth has recently upgraded the space devoted to the school’s research professionals and Ph.D. students, key components of the program’s thought leadership.