Women at the Top applied a similar model in a more intimate setting. Here, Cate Goethals brought in female c-suite executives from across Seattle to share their professional and personal stories in what Marshelle Slayton calls a “small and safe classroom setting.”
“This class broke my own personal glass ceiling,” writes the University of Washington MBA who’ll be joining McKinsey after graduation. “This class helped me realize my own potential to achieve high ranked roles in companies and that I can do so while “balancing” the rest of my life. The group discussion and Q&A with speakers provided life-changing insight into what it takes to achieve such positions in today’s business world and that I too can and will become one of the Women at the Top.”
WORK 8 MONTHS AND GET CREDIT
The best courses also provided deeper insights into the world at large. That was the objective behind Emory University’s Economics of Business Environment, taught by Ray Hill (known affectionately as “Uncle Ray” at Goizueta). Rather than tackle narrow topics, Hill’s students applied business tools to unearth the true factors shaping the debate around issues like student loans and healthcare
“We discussed current issues and their microeconomic and macroeconomic effect on the US and the world,” writes Jay Mathes. “During these lessons, Professor Hill was able to clearly show us how one decision has rippling business, cultural, and political effects, and thus as business leaders we not only need to fully understand the direct, but also the indirect, impact of our decisions.”
The Class of 2019 also touted experiential courses that beefed up their resumes and prepared them for their future roles. Few did that better than the University of Michigan’s Living Business Leadership Experience. Working in teams, Ross MBAs partner with sponsor companies to run the day-to-day operations of a business unit. Not only do students rotate roles in areas ranging from marketing to finance to operations, but they also gain eight months of professional experience while still in school.
“The course is structured such that students work with partner companies to forward an initiative that is of high interest to the sponsor company,” explains Kashay Sanders. “Students actually engage in the messiness of execution and are not expected to merely provide recommendations. I work with NRP, a leading affordable housing developer, on how best to bolster services offered to affordable housing residents. Specifically, I lead a sub-team focused on managing student turnover between terms and building out resources for new team members to quickly ramp up when they join. What has been so rewarding about this project is that it enables me to blend my passion for social impact with my growing functional expertise in HR and team design.”
GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR SOFT SIDE
Hands-on learning is one way to help MBA candidates gain self-awareness. Of course, some schools have designed courses specifically to achieve that end. The most famous is Stanford GSB’s Interpersonal Dynamics. Popularly known as “Touchy-Feely,” the course embodies the maxim that “Feedback is a gift.” A signature elective taken by 90% of the GSB class, the course is predicated on candidness, with students gaining a bird’s eye view of how other’s perceive their behaviors…particularly of ones they are unaware.
“They stick you in a room with 13 peers and no prompt for 4 hours a week, and just about anything can ensue,” says John Ettinger. “It sounds crazy, and it can be a slog, but it forces you to scrutinize how you interact with others. In the end, it’s an invaluable chance for self-reflection. Personally, my biggest takeaway was that people follow leaders they like, but they stick with those they respect.”
Want more? Here are some additional courses that informed and inspired this year’s Best & Brightest MBAs.
“My favorite MBA course was Power and Politics in Organizations. This course focused on the inevitable structural and interpersonal dynamics that occur in organizations and how to develop the competencies needed to navigate and manage these dynamics. While I have always found myself to have strong interpersonal skills, there are myriad forces at work baked into organizational designs and cultures that can affect one’s career path or the success of a team that I had never before considered.
The biggest business insight that I gained from this class is two-fold. First, this course constantly reiterated the importance of good people and effective people-management to the health of an organization. Often in business, the technical skills are what is valued most. In reality, if you don’t have the right team or team dynamics, it doesn’t really matter how smart or skilled any of those people are. Second, it demonstrated that, if people are present in your workplace, you cannot avoid the undercurrents of politics and power. In fact, if you do not engage in the politics and strategically manage your power and influence, you could be setting yourself up for failure by missing out on critical opportunities to progress your career and/or your company.”
Elizabeth Hailand, Washington University (Olin)
“New Venture Strategy with James Schrager. The biggest insight that I gained was that it isn’t sufficient to evaluate a new venture – or, as the case may be, my own business ideas – with general predictions and approximate judgments. One must map out a clear strategy for growing and protecting the business, and “thinking in time” – going one step further to think about how your competitors are going to react to your new venture, and how you are going to respond as an entrepreneur.”
Anish Bhatnagar, University of Chicago (Booth)
“My favorite course was Global Business in UAE, because I had never conducted business or visited within the Middle East. This class gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in a new culture and learn first-hand from expats who have spent more time abroad than in their home countries. They informed us of the benefits and challenges of working abroad, the differences in managing international organizations, and how they have integrated a global mindset when making decisions. While I have always dreamed of working abroad, this experience solidified my commitment to achieving this goal. In contrast to what I sought before this class, I aim to live in a country to which I am unfamiliar because the greater the difference, the more valuable the insights gained.”
Stephanie Gomez, University of Maryland (Smith)
“My favorite MBA course was Web-Based Marketing because it allowed us to gain some real-world experience applying modern marketing concepts to actual businesses. We started with a project that involved keyword optimization for an airline, which helped me to develop my Excel and data analysis skills. Most notably, we worked with a local small business to revamp their online marketing strategy, developing data-based recommendations to maximize their ROI. This class was a rare opportunity to get outside of the classroom and make an impact, which is a major reason I went to business school.”
Chris Salinas, University of Florida (Warrington)
Go to next page for courses at Columbia Business School, Northwestern Kellogg, Cornell Johnson, and Yale SOM.