“Show me the money.”
Talk about a great movie line! In real life, it carries certain presumptions. The phrase conjures up a world grounded in finite responsibilities and clear answers, where leaders are finished products and change is predictable and manageable. MBAs know the opposite is true. Expectations are ever-evolving and growth is never-ending. That’s why many business schools follow a different mantra:
“Show me the way.”
That is a theme that reverberates across the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. That starts with intensive executive coaching. Think of the W. P. Carey MBA as a mentorship program, bar none. As part of the program, students are paired up with senior executives for the whole program. How serious is coaching taken at the school? The core curriculum devotes two courses to career preparation and mentoring, with students required to map out a career action plan in the first quarter. At the same time, MBAs can work with over 60 coaches, including Carole West, who headed HR strategy for Wal-Mart and Kevin Sellers, the chief marketing officer for a $27 billion dollar electronics firm.
A COACHING CULTURE
These coaches do more than simply pass along decades of hard-won lessons. They act as mirrors, helping students understand the patterns and attitudes that can hold them back. They also make students accountable for growth, so they can plot out a path to overcome obstacles and capitalize on opportunities. Neutral third parties, these coaches stretch students so they maximize their capabilities and mitigate their weak spots.
Bottom line: the Carey coaching culture enables students to gain self-awareness, recognize options, and establish a process to meet their long-term career outcomes. That was a big differentiator for Louise Hardman, a first-year MBA and engineer still figuring out where she fits.
“The W. P. Carey curriculum includes a program called Executive Connections that gives students an opportunity for a 1:1 mentoring relationship throughout the 2-year program with an executive leader in the Phoenix area,” she writes. “I immediately found a mentor in the program who had a background and career path that I aspired. I knew that the mentoring relationships I could build would be a source of learning that I could not find in the classroom. I also wanted to be able to use the mentor network to learn more about opportunities in Phoenix and become more involved in the business community.”
‘THE COMMUNITY REALLY CARES FOR MY SUCCESS’
Not surprisingly, the W. P. Carey MBA has earned plenty of accolades, more than living up to its “Where business is personal” tagline. Notably, it ranked among the Top 10 in Career Services and the Top 20 for Education Experience and Breadth of Alumni Experience according to surveys conducted by The Economist and The Financial Times respectively. This student-centric model became quickly apparent to Eshani Sharma, an insurance case manager after she arrived on campus.
“Along with traditional curriculum, the school emphasizes the importance of the personal connections that are crucial to succeed in business,” she notes. “My classmates, the staff, and all the professors truly care for my success; they celebrate my achievements and help me learn from my failures and being a part of this community has helped me understand what kind of leader I want to be.”
Leadership comes in different forms. Considering the diverse backgrounds within the Class of 2020, W. P. Carey first-years can expect to see it from nearly every vantage point. Atul Mishra, for one, set up three fintech enterprises in three different nations in East Africa to “serve the poorest of the poor.” Compare that to Denise Napolitano, who holds a Ph.D. in chemistry and last worked for the NYPD as a criminologist. Jose Antonio Cerecedo Lopez opened a restaurant…and then extended into a mezcal brand, while Srinija Boppudi started a home-cooked meal delivery service targeted to working professionals.
That’s just the start. Louise Hardman once developed a robot to automating the pick-and-place process for dry fabrics. Ryan Early insourced billing operations at Omnicare – which required her to build a team that could support over 200 clients. Not to be outdone, Megan Hucek managed the move of over 8,000 employees into three different facilities at State Farm.
MAKING THE POLICE BLOTTER…AS A TODDLER
Before that, Hucek was a star volleyball in college, one who was selected to be among the 10 women who comprised the Bring It Promotions USA Volleyball Team. Their claim to fame? They team beat the Swiss national squad. Before earning two Fulbright scholarships and founding his own investment firm, Moises Espinosa Lopez was a musician who began playing in bands when he was 14 – a role that eventually led him to become a recorded music performer, producer, and engineer. How is this for a great story from Ryan Early?
“I appeared on a police report at age three after shifting an idling car into neutral and rolling it into a couple parked cars. It’s a long story. No one was hurt (except for my mom every time I tell this story).”
How would the Class of 2020 describe their classmates? Turns out, “supportive” tops the lists. “Whether it is offering up notes or conducting a whole stats review session for 70+ classmates, people are always willing to help out, share knowledge and experiences, and support one another through all the challenges we overcome,” explains Megan Hucek. “It really does foster an inclusive and supportive environment for learning and development.”
Ryan Early seconds these sentiments. “My classmates have a broad range of industry experience, encompassing engineering, academics, consulting, finance, marketing, supply chain, etc. – even someone who worked in PR. There is a vast pool of expertise to pull from and many who are ready and willing to offer assistance. It is rare to find a group of people who root for each other to the extent my classmates do.”
APPLICATIONS JUMPS AS CLASS SIZE DROPS
In the 2017-2018 application cycle, the key number went up across the board for W. P. Carey’s full-time MBA program. That starts with applications, which jumped from 634 to 769 over the past year. Alas, the program offers a proposition that’s nearly impossible to beat. Thanks to a $50 million dollar gift from the school’s namesake in 2003, W. P. Carey is able to provide Forward Focus scholarships to every member of the full-time MBA class – an investment made with the belief that the school will eventually bridge the difference through alumni making larger gifts in kind. While the wisdom of this approach will take years to determine, it has undoubtedly reduced the risk and opportunity cost inherent to a two year MBA program – all while amplifying the appeal of the program’s curriculum, culture, and small class size.
“The generous scholarship was also a key driver that influenced my decision,” says Srinija Boppudi. “Without debt, I feel powerful and I can pursue my dreams without fear.”
Of course, this also requires tradeoffs. In the Class of 2020’s case, it meant slicing class size from 109 to 90 students. In the process, the school’s acceptance rate also fell four points to 20%. This also enabled the school to be more selective, which helped raise average GMATs from 682 to 694. In addition, the percentage of female students climbed a point to 40%.
The percentage of international students followed suit, increasing three points to 38% — with first-years hailing from nations as different as Brazil, Nigeria, Taiwan, Bangladesh, and Kazakhstan. Another 32% of the class comes from the American Southwest, though students from the Midwest (11%), West (8%), and Northwest (7%) are also prominently represented among the class. Academically, business and engineering majors account for the largest segments of the 2020 Class, running neck-and-neck at 35% and 33% respectively. The social sciences (11%). humanities (10%) and science and math (7%) round out the rest of the class.