Five Reasons Why Youngme Moon Should Be The Next Dean Of Harvard Business School

HBS After Hours Podcast hosts

Youngme Moon with fellow HBS superstars Felix Oberholzer-Gee (left) and Mihir Desai who host the After Hours podcast

3) Moon is also well-versed in what traditional academia must do with technology in the future. When she was senior associate dean for Harvard’s MBA program, she was deeply involved in the school’s efforts to launch its online learning initiative (see Harvard Business School Goes Online). Five years ago, in 2014, Moon was hands on in the development of the first online program of courses at Harvard called CORe (Credential of Readiness) That trio of online classes—Business Analytics, Economics for Managers, and Financial Accounting—has since been completed by more than 22,000 students, including nearly a third of the latest entering class of Harvard MBAs.. She helped to make many of the key decisions that have guided the school’s online strategy from the development of a proprietary software platform to deliver case study learning on the Internet and choosing the first market segment to enlisting full-time, tenured and endowed professors as online teachers and engaging online students immediately in the complexity of business issues instead of simple concepts.

4) It would be hard to find someone who is more all in at HBS than Moon. Over her 22 years at the institution, she has demonstrated a true passion for the school and what it stands for. Given her highly successful run in two key administrative jobs, Moon has no doubt received many calls from headhunters on dean searches. She has stayed put, working hard to keep Harvard Business School at the forefront of graduate business management. In 2015, when the school launched an effort to make the MBA a more attractive proposition to young women who are less likely to pursue graduate work in business, Moon was among the first professors to step forward and teach in a weekend program of case studies and discussions dubbed PEEK for rising juniors and seniors in women’s colleges (see A PEEK At Harvard Business School For Young Women).

When the school’s culture come under attack in a highly damaging article in The New York Times, her most memorable admonition to students was this: “Please remember. You were put on this planet to build a life. Not to build a résumé, and certainly not to build your net worth. You are here to build a life, a life full of impact and a life full of meaning…Honestly, the world needs fewer people going through the motions, doing things for the wrong reasons… and more people doing things they care deeply about.”

Moon deeply cares out Harvard Business School from the bottom up. One of the school’s long-lasting challenges is its risk adverse admissions decisions that are blatantly elitist at the expense of many academically gifted candidates who have not had the privilege of an Ivy League education and a stint at McKinsey, Goldman or Google. A recent analysis of the MBA students welcome to campus last year found that virtually half of them (49%) earned their undergraduate degrees from only 24 universities and that more than 14% had worked at only one of two companies: McKinsey or Goldman Sachs.

Like the late John McArthur, who discontinued the use of the GMAT in MBA admissions, Moon shares the concern that wealthy applicants have the resources to better prepare for standardized tests like the GMAT that are over indexed in admissions. Moon believes that colleges need to do a better job of tilting admissions to the deserving, less privileged candidates to gain the full benefits of a more diverse student population.

5) She absolutely gets it, knowing that an MBA–even from Harvard–isn’t merely a means to a bigger paycheck. It’s an opportunity to have a positive impact on the world.

When the New York Times published its highly provocative story on HBS six years ago, Moon wrote a lengthy five-page memo to the school’s 1,800-plus MBA students. Her words were both telling and inspirational, convincingly heart felt and a model of smart communications in a crisis that should lend confidence to her ability to lead through adversity with poise and restraint.

“This is what I believe,” she told the students (see HBS Does Damage Control).  “I believe that in everything we do, we need to defy the negative stereotypes people try to impose on us. We need to bewilder them with our generosity, our humility, our good humor, and our compassion. We need to be the opposite of defensive; we need to be open, self-critical, willing to shine a light on ourselves. And as we embark on different career paths, we need to make sure that our motivations are true. We need to be constantly asking ourselves, are we trying to create real value in the world, meaningful value in the world… or are we just in it for ourselves? Most importantly, we need to hold onto our ideals. Just because there are folks out there who are cynical about us does not mean we have to succumb to that cynicism ourselves. There will always be skeptics, there will always be doubters. Our best response is to simply carry ourselves in a way that gives lie to their preconceived notions about us.”


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.