5) A Vandy Dandy
27, 22, 25, 26, 29, 23.
Those are the last six rankings for Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management. Look like a program spinning its wheels? Maybe, but don’t write the “Ivy of the South” off just yet, particularly with the six-spot jump Owen made this year.
By the numbers, Vanderbilt Owen really doesn’t stand out. Survey-wise, academics and recruiters gave the school similar marks as programs like Emory Goizueta, Rice Jones, and Georgetown McDonough – which historically cluster around Owen in the U.S. News historically. What’s more, Owen’s 60.1% acceptance rate is the second-highest in the Top 25. And its GMAT average was the second-lowest among the Top 25. Heck, there are four programs ranked below it where graduates earned higher pay.
What makes Owen so special? Simple: Improvement and fundamentals. Let’s start with pay, which rose by nearly $7,800 over the past year. At the same time, three-month placement leaped to 94.6%…placing Owen in the company of higher-ranked peers like the Wharton School and MIT Sloan. Those numbers should only improve, with the school maintaining its eight-year streak of 100% of first-years locking down an internship. One reason? The school houses one of the best career services centers in the world.
“Our Career Management Center’s overall strategy is simple: Engage Early,” explains Sue Oldham, Owen’s associate dean of MBA operations, in a 2019 interview with P&Q. ”We recognize that recruiting is starting earlier each year as companies are searching for top talent and trying to get a jumpstart on the process. Our Career Management Center is very engaged throughout the entire recruiting and admissions process as we strive to deliver the Owen “personal scale” by walking alongside our students from the very beginning. Providing programming and preparation early in the process allows our students to be thoroughly prepared for recruiting opportunities, which can start as early as the summer before they even set foot on this campus to start their Vanderbilt MBA.”
An added bonus for Owen? Location. Sure, Nashville is a rapidly-growing Fortune 500 hub. Guess which industry is the most prominent in Music City? Think healthcare, not entertainment. In the wake of the Coronavirus, Nashville is ground zero for healthcare, home to over 500 healthcare firms that manage over half of the private beds in the United States. Sure enough, Owen boasts one of the nation’s top healthcare MBA programs, with the industry generally attracting 16%-20% of each Owen class. In other words, Owen may be poised for a breakout in the coming year – a place where its world-class Leadership Development Program prepares students to run increasingly complex operations and ambiguous situations.
“Owen allowed me to come in with somewhat of a head start,” notes 2015 grad Jameson Norton, CEO at Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics, in a 2018 interview with P&Q. “We’re talking a lot about how things are evolving and you’re able to learn about some of the potential disrupters and the ways that things are transforming. That helps you anticipate where things are moving. It gives you a vision for where we’re headed.”
6) Can Washington Olin Get Some Love?
What do you need to do to rise in the U.S. News rankings?
That’s what Dean Mark Taylor has to be asking himself. The dean of Washington University’s Olin Business School – P&Q’s reigning MBA Program of the Year – saw his program fall to 30th this year…tied with two other programs to add insult to injury. Five years ago, Olin ranked 19th…and 23rd in 2018. How is it losing ground?
Well, blame U.S. News’ metrics, which relies heavily on easily-manipulated data and unreliable survey data…all lagging indicators that don’t account for Olin’s bold pursuit of innovation. This summer, for example, the school rolled out its Global Immersion program. A week abroad at the end of the second semester like everyone else? Quite the opposite. The orientation actually kicks off with a 38-day program across three continents.
“Our students [spend] a week studying business and policy in Washington, DC, with our exclusive partner, the Brookings Institution,” explains Dean Taylor. “From there, our schedule had nearly 100 students traveling to Barcelona for two weeks, then on to China for 17 days before returning to St. Louis. This is the first WashU Olin cohort to participate in our fully rebooted full-time MBA. This deep global immersion in international business issues, cultures, and practices sets an important foundation for business today…The cohort [also] really bonds as everyone gets to know one another and works together—especially as they begin the program by being thrown into the deep end on the global immersion where, at some point, every student must adjust to a foreign culture.”
Genius, right? That’s not the only big investment that Taylor has made during his four-year stint as dean. The Olin MBA also revamped its curriculum to bolster its emphasis on analytics and leadership development – with more attention to ethics, decision-making, and impact that places students in the shoes of senior executives. At the same time, the program has adopted a more flexible schedule where full-time students can complete the program in as few as 14 months. Oh, and did you hear that Olin ranked as the top MBA program for entrepreneurship according to P&Q? Probably not, as U.S. News doesn’t rank Olin among its Top 20 in the field. Then again, U.S. News doesn’t collect data and conduct surveys in 10 different measures like we do, either.
Alas, Olin ranks #30, sunk by a 10 point increase in acceptance rate and average survey scores from academics and recruiters – you know, the surveys that somehow account for 40% of a rank. Still, there are positives in the ranking. Notably, MBA starting play jumped by nearly $14,000 in one year according to U.S. News. And average GMAT rose too. Still, don’t expect Olin to rise too much next year. That’s fine. After all, Olin is doing what business schools are supposed to be doing: stretching boundaries and satisfying its customers…you know, students.
WashU Olin prides itself on “knowing your name and your story and this was important to me,” writes first-year Raymond Wagner. “I did not want to be just another number in a large class. From day one, every member of the staff and faculty have known me by name and made it a truly welcoming experience. Olin Business School has that “Midwestern feel” that is welcoming and friendly.”