So far, the current application cycle is going very, very well for Notre Dame.
Through Tuesday (February 18), the university’s Mendoza College of Business had received 431 applications to its full-time, two-year MBA program, two more than it received in all of 2018-2019 — even though there are still two more rounds to go. Compared to this point last year, MBA apps are up 35%, Dean Martijn Cremers tells Poets&Quants.
It’s a major rebound for a school that lost more than 25% of its app volume over the previous two cycles, dropping by 149 applications to 429 in 2018-2019. That decline sparked a jump in acceptance rate, from just under 48% to just over 53%, as enrollment dropped from 123 to 116.
“It’s still early, but our entries and the numbers have shown that our marketing and admissions are doing great work,” says Cremers, adding that a fourth-round deadline is approaching on March 17, followed by a final deadline on April 14. “Our numbers are looking good. I feel like we’re already in the home stretch. We had a key admissions deadline last week.
“For many programs, we already have more applications now — even though we have some months to go — than where we were a year ago.”
CONTRIBUTE, COOPERATE, COMPETE
The rebound coincides with Cremers’ elevation to dean last March after eight years as a finance professor at the school, and 10 years before that at Yale School of Management. It also coincides with the launch of the Mendoza College’s new brand strategy, Grow The Good In Business, announced this month. The new motto replaces Ask More Of Business in a move that better aligns with the new dean’s philosophy.
“I’m in my first year as dean,” Cremers tells P&Q. “I’ve been at Notre Dame since 2012. And I thought this was a good time to reach out to many, many people. So we did a lot of focus groups, interviews. We got a lot of feedback from all my current students, faculty, staff. We also reached out to students who applied that did not pick us. We did some market research, and we overhauled the school website.
“And in the process we decided that it would be good for us to update our tagline, which we think is more than a tagline. We think of it as more of an imperative, if you like: ‘Grow the Good in Business.’ It’s different from our previous taglines. First, it’s action-oriented. And it’s also very positive to act like our maxims, if you like — that there is good in business. There are parts of society that perhaps question that, and certainly there have been many scandals in business. But our perspective is that business is a fundamentally good thing.
“It really consists of three parts. I call them the Three C’s: contribute, cooperate, and compete. And so we want to emphasize the positives., and then also have the imperative that we need to grow that.”
A COURSE THAT SERVES AS A MODEL FOR A PROGRAM
To understand Cremers’ philosophy, it helps to know about his affinity for an elective course that is soon to be part of the core at Mendoza: Business on the Frontlines. BOTF sends MBA students to under-developed, post-conflict countries around the world to examine the impacts of business. The course, now in its 12th year, sends about two dozen students and faculty to work directly on business and peace-related projects with partners in the field, “primarily international humanitarian organizations,” according to the school’s website.
A BOTFL project might focus on agriculture, infrastructure, or mining; projects have also extended to “micro-finance, youth unemployment, post-civil war reconciliation, business incubators, health and nutrition, human trafficking, child prostitution, and disaster preparedness.” Since 2008, BOTFL teams have worked on nearly 30 projects in nearly 20 countries.
BOFL is the linchpin experiential course in the Mendoza MBA, Cremers says, because it captures so much of his — and the school’s — educational philosophy. Which is why he mandated more than doubling the number of participants to 56 this year, and hopes eventually to grow the number of MBAs taking BOFL to 100 annually — in other words, nearly all of the MBAs at the college.
“Think about the Three C’s,” Cremers says. “Business needs to contribute to you, as a person. Business needs to cooperate with all of the stakeholders, with a particular responsibility to those with the greatest needs. And I would include sustainability and the environment in that. And then business needs to compete. But that has two different meanings. Most importantly and certainly at the business school, it’s about having our students compete toward the best version of themselves, that they grow as persons while they are at Notre Dame. And they do so in an environment that is conducive to that and where there’s an emphasis on ‘we do this together.’ So you grow toward the best version of yourself, often by helping others to do the same.
“And so it’s a real community where we care about each other, and we’re small enough to actually know everyone. We find all these elements in Business on the Frontlines. We get to know not just all the students, but really get to know the faculty and the staff supporting the program. But I think it is about wanting our students to succeed. Or I like to use the language of ‘growing towards the best version of yourselves.’
The idea, Cremers says, is that students develop by doing with others, and often through serving others — not a surprising approach at a Catholic university. “And that,” he says, “leads to you competing with excellence in the external marketplace in terms of how you contribute to the business services of the business that you work for, and how then that business competes in the various markets. That’s what we mean by ‘good.'”
See the next page for P&Q‘s Q&A with Mendoza College Dean Martijn Cremers.