If you believe in stereotypes, you probably buy into the belief that Harvard Business School is the button-downed, jacket-and-tie place, while Stanford Graduate School of Business is more breezy and casual. It’s East Coast vs. West Coast. Stuffy vs. light. Corporate vs. entrepreneurial.
When both schools recently decided to virtually welcome the MBA Class of 2022 to their campuses, it may come as little surprise that those differences were unwittingly reinforced in the videos put out by Harvard and Stanford.
In the new normal on the East Coast in Boston, Dean Nitin Nohria speaks from his darkened wood-paneled office in a blue suit jacket. On the West Coast in Palo Alto, Stanford GSB Dean Jonathan Levin is in a short-sleeved cotton polo shirt and white khaki slacks, strolling the campus. Even underlying soundtracks underpin the differences, with Harvard’s more pensive, even somber, Muzak versus the more jaunty, open-road tune under Dean Levin’s more conversational narration.
‘OUR EDUCATION CURRICULUM WILL ASK YOU TO CONFRONT WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A LEADER’
The formality of the Harvard approach is also reflected in the content. At HBS, Dean Nohria and Professors Jan Rivkin and Matt Weinzeirl–all speaking from their offices–encourage students to reflect on the leaders they want to become and to dream bigger. It is a virtual version of the more typical and routine welcome Nohria would deliver to new students packed in a Harvard auditorium.
“Despite these very challenging circumstances in the midst of a global pandemic,” intones Norhia, “I continue to believe that your time at Harvard Business School is filled with as much promise of being transformational as at any time before. Our education curriculum will ask you to confront what it means to be a leader: What motivates you to lead and what will motivate others to be led by you.”
In contrast, Dean Levin strolls into the school’s Coupa Cafe for a coffee and then walks the town square outside, giving students a relaxed tour of the campus, sharing some of his favorite places, including the university’s Rodin Sculpture Garden, noting that it is one of the few museums his children enjoy. He reads the inscription on the cornerstone of the school’s Knight Management Center: “Dedicated to the things that haven’t happened yet and the people who are about to dream them up.”
‘WE CAN’T WAIT TO SEE WHAT YOU DREAM UP’
Levin, wearing a black COVID mask, reflects on his own personal story and his connection to Stanford which started in 1990 when he first came to Stanford as an undergraduate. He encourages the MBAs to meet the students beyond the GSB in law, medicine, education, sustainability, and engineering.
“Of course, the physical campus is one part of what makes Stanford special but it’s not the important part,” concludes Levin. “It’s the people you will meet and the relationships you’ll form that will truly make your time here memorable. Welcome to the GSB. We can’t wait to see what you dream up.”