The Best MBA Courses? The Class Of 2018 Share Favorites

MIT Sloan’s Isabelle Cox

“I’m passionate about innovation. The Lab of New Products and Services with Professor Arthur Middlebrooks covers the entire process of bringing new ideas to life, from identifying customer needs to developing an actual solution. Students learn how to employ the design thinking method and they work on a consulting project for real companies, making the learning process more engaging and effective. The key insight I had from this class was how anthropology can be applied to business. Understanding consumers’ behavior is central for generating ideas that will meet real needs and become successful products/services. Also, the inspiration for my company Muu came up from this course, while I was working on a project for a frozen yogurt company.”

Rodrigo Studart, University of Chicago (Booth)

“While I have taken many great courses, Pricing stands out in my mind due to its practical applications not only in the field of pricing itself, but also more generally. The most significant insight I gained from this course is the importance of experimentation in business and in life. While we learnt practical tools and approaches that can be used to determine optimal prices, we were also shown that there is no “one size fits all” solution, and the inefficiency this kind of thinking can generate. To reach the best outcome we must instead draw on various tools, as well as common sense and logic, to hypothesize, experiment, and iterate.”

Isabelle Cox, MIT (Sloan)

“My favorite class was Strategic Pricing Management with Dr. Gerald Smith. Every class we started off with current events that involved pricing issues. The greatest insight from the class was how much pricing affects so many different aspects of the business world. I had just finished my internship in Global Pricing at Pfizer, but had never taken a class in pricing before. I was amazed to learn that despite the importance of pricing, many companies are lacking this area of expertise.  This is definitely a class where I have made sure to keep all my notes!”

Sairah Mahmud, Boston College (Carroll)

“One of the most unique and challenging courses I took was our Global Business Practicum in China. For seven weeks, a team of 20 Carlson students partnered with 10 students in China to work a live consulting problem for our client, Cargill (the largest privately held corporation in the United States, headquartered in Minnesota). Then we traveled to China for two weeks to do on-the-ground research and present to our Shanghai-based clients. Our faculty leader (herself a former consultant at both BCG and McKinsey) brought exceptionally high standards to the project, and I was proud of our results. I learned that even in unfamiliar circumstances, a committed team can quickly drive toward actionable recommendations for a client.”

Chris Grantham, University of Minnesota (Carlson)

“My favorite MBA Course was Innovation Foresight and Business Design (IFBD) taught by Professor Alexander Manu. The subject is completely out of my comfort-zone, yet Professor Manu managed to engage students of all knowledge levels in a very interactive yet demanding course. His insights, as a strategic innovation practitioner and business design guru, were very valuable to me and useful for my career post-MBA. Industries are constantly being disrupted. If companies don’t innovate, they will be disrupted by new businesses. His course helped me understand, in a practical and tangible way, the importance of business design and innovation for the long-term success of companies in our ever-changing economy.

University of Toronto’s Alexander Manu

IFBD is offered as an elective course at Rotman, and I highly recommend everyone to take it, especially if it is not your field (finance/operation students). It is very interesting and challenging to be exposed to new and different ways of framing problems, structuring your thinking, and tackling the challenge of how to constantly innovate. IFBD will take you out of your comfort-zone and make you rethink the future of many different industries and learn how innovation is disrupting them.”

Felipe Branco, University of Toronto (Rotman)

Microeconomics for Management because it explained many of the phenomena that occur in the real world. The concepts taught permeate nearly all of my thoughts about strategy, including M&A, disruption, and industry business cycles. The single biggest insight that I gained from the class is that if managers can create a product or service that is patented, or otherwise protected by some major barrier to entry, then their firm will have a more dominant and enhanced market position.”

Nikolaos De Maria, Cornell University (Johnson)

“I learned the importance of mindfulness in Personal Leadership Insights (PLI) with Kevin Murnane. PLI is the ideal Kellogg course: 10 students, 90 minutes sessions, over 10 weeks to conduct a total personal inventory, assess our capacities and limitations, and reveal our inner most self to classmates, who help us grow stronger. Understanding the difference in how we view ourselves vs. how others view us provides a level of self-awareness that is truly a gift. Being that open forged deep and lasting bonds between every person that will go far beyond Kellogg.”

Carr Lanphier, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

“My favorite MBA course was The Evolution of American Capitalism and the Global Challenges Ahead. I learned very valuable skills in finance and marketing classes, but I am thankful I learned about the over-arching factors at play within the US economy. This course offered an interesting examination on how brutal capitalism can be. Businesses and human capital move where they can flourish, and the role of government can influence this dynamic greatly. The impact of global competition is momentous, and how businesses remain competitive in a global market is a constant challenge that I, as a new member of the civilian workforce, am thankful to understand more clearly. Ultimately, I learned that Texas is a great place to be looking for a job or owning a business. But, as my professor, Al Niemi, always says, “The puck is always moving,” and where it goes next is yet to be seen.”

Meredith Dominigue, Southern Methodist University (Cox)

“Tony Sheldon’s Global Social Entrepreneurship (GSE) was one of the reasons I came to SOM, and I’m incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to take it last year. In GSE, six teams of five get partnered with a nonprofit or social enterprise in a particular geographic area, and then scope and implement a consulting engagement to help the organization with a particular problem at the intersection of business and social impact. Last year, I had the chance to support Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi) in Cape Town, South Africa, in designing their new EdTech incubation program. I found GSE to be an invaluable course for me—it gave me the vocabulary and confidence to work at the intersection of purpose and profit, which can, at times, be at odds. GSE also truly humbled me. There are so many leaders and organizations out there doing necessary and valiant work on the ground in fraught places like Cape Town. Despite this fancy degree, I have so much to learn from them if I am too hoping to make some sort of positive impact on this world.”

Billy Marks, Yale School of Management

Indiana University’s Neil Morgan

“My favorite MBA course was the Marketing Strategy course taught by Professor Neil Morgan. While it is difficult to pick out the biggest insight that due to the wealth of paradigm shifting knowledge gained through the course, one that struck me by surprise was the fundamental difference between a firm that is customer-led and one that is market-oriented. Customer-led companies focused on meeting consumers expressed wants, which leads to a responsive approach to trends with a short-term focus on customer satisfaction with the products or services provided. Coming into this class, I believed this was “business as usual” until I learned that there was a better way. Market-oriented companies focus on meeting consumers’ latent needs, which creates a proactive approach to product development to continue injecting value into the relationship with the consumer. This insight has found itself at the core of my own marketing philosophy and will be a strong foundation on which I build my career.”

Tyler Whitsett, Indiana University (Kelley)

Ethics and Sustainability. I loved the idea of such an apparently “non-business-related” course being included in an MBA. Business and sustainability considerations are becoming more and more intertwined, as reflected in economic debates (e.g., on the creation of “shared value”) as well as in global investors’ agendas (e.g., incorporation of Environmental, Social and Governance – ESG – criteria in portfolio analysis). This implies that future business leaders (that MBA students are supposed to become) will be increasingly called upon making decisions that involve controversial ethical issues, and we need to be prepared to take positions and defend them coherently.”

Barbara Calvi, HEC Paris

Go to the next page for more favorite classes at the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton School), Duke (Fuqua), MIT (Sloan), Northwestern (Kellogg), and NYU (Stern)

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