“Reach for the sky.”
Go where the action is and take risks. Step away from your normal and surround yourself with different people. Listen and observe, test and scrutinize. Most of all, never stop striving and always be creating.
IE Business School’s motto may be “One World, Diverse Minds,” but its MBA program carries an insurgent spirit, always questioning and never satisfied. After all, it was founded in the 1970s by entrepreneurs, ones looking to integrate a global cohort and an interdisciplinary curriculum that could spark innovation and deliver results.
A private institution, IE could serve as a template for an education startup, now housing 7,000 current students and boasting over 60,000 alumni. Aside from staking entrepreneurship as a core value, the school was a pioneer in online learning, consistently ranking among the top programs in the world according to The Financial Times. It has even built a novel EMBA program in partnership with Ivy League stalwart Brown University. In 2021, IE upped the ante, opening the IE Tower, a 591 foot-high skyscraper campus that ranks as the 5th-tallest building in Madrid.
“It’s going to be a big step for us,” IE University Executive Vice President Diego del Alcázar Benjumea tells Poets&Quants in an interview. “This is going to be something quite impressive, one of the biggest and tallest vertical campuses in the world.”
And the tower’s niceties would put any American facilities to shame. Think 35 floors and 50,000 square meters, not counting another 7,000 square meters of green space — enough space to accommodate 6,000 students. The school is also embedded of a larger complex of skyscrapers, whose tenants range from KPMG to PwC. In other words, students can easily leave the IE Tower to network for internships and jobs or partner on projects. That doesn’t count breath-taking views of Madrid from the 24th floor terrace!
In fact, students really never have to leave the school during the day. It comes equipped with a four-lane swimming pool and recreation area that accommodates soccer, basketball and volleyball. Couple that with a meditation room, a 600 seat auditorium, art exhibition space, and even areas for students to rehearse and hold mini concerts. Across the floors, you’ll find 64 flexible classrooms and 30 unique student areas, including a Venture Lab to grow startups and a FabLab to design and prototype products.
If design spurs behavior, then the IE Tower has already become an unquestioned success. “For some students, it feels a little intimidating,” says Marc Smelik, vice dean of IE Business School’s BBA programs. “There is a corporate feel to the place that brings out a professional attitude in our students, and a lot of them could end up working in environments like this.”
The IE Tower has been so newsworthy that it drew King Felipe VI of Spain to its opening last fall. It has been jokingly dubbed, “The United Nations of Education” due to the program’s diverse student body, most of whom hail from outside Spain. At the same time, the school believes the tower will enable it to double its undergraduate enrollment in the next 3-4 years. While the school is deeply rooted in entrepreneurship and disruption, it is increasingly investing in STEM and sustainability.
Last year, IE installed Lee Newman as dean last April. Newman had spent the past decade as dean of IE’s School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and School of Human Sciences and Technology (HST), building the latter up to 1,500 students who are part of 17 graduate and undergraduate degree programs. As dean, Newman intends to push innovation at a breakneck pace, describing the school as a “bullet train.” That’s because he envisions the future of business education being rife with “upheaval,” as forces like the pandemic and corporate educational players act as looming “dark clouds.” Still, Newman deviates from educational orthodoxy by fast-tracking MBAs to specific careers over the time-consuming explore-and-experiment phase.
“You can’t ramp up employability in a business school until the career discovery phase is over,” he tells P&Q. “If someone tells me they want to start an MBA to be in marketing, we can start from day one to give them an amazing set of skills for that career. But that is not how a lot of people start business school. We need to create an explicit process of self-discovery to get people down that curve as quickly as possible because only then we can give you the skills to be successful in your career. A radical focus on a person’s career has to be a part of what a business education is.”
Despite the ever-evolving educational landscape — and IE’s love of speed — some areas remain the same. For one, IE’s MBA program will remain housed in Madrid’s City Center campus. For another, the school remains an entrepreneurial powerhouse, ranking 5th globally in P&Q’s MBA Entrepreneurship ranking (ahead of Harvard and Stanford, no less). A stunning 10.35% of IE grads start a venture right after earning their degree according to data collected by P&Q. Another 12% joined a startup after their MBA. Overall, 30% of IE electives teach entrepreneurship and innovation, with entrepreneurship being a central part of a third of IE core coursework. On top of that, over 40% of IE students are part of an entrepreneurial club during their time in Madrid. This combination of startup training, innovation-driven thinking, and can-do attitude make the IE experience all the more valuable says Eric Niu, a 2021 grad who started his own business after graduation.
“I came to IE with the goal to learn and create another business that solves a real-world problem,” he explains. ”People go to business schools for different reasons; some schools are good for a career change and some are good for soul searching. IE is more than that. IE pushes you to challenge the status quo and to create positive impact in this world.”
With a new building and new leadership, IE Business School is poised to do even more of that.