10 Business Schools To Watch In 2022

Class of 2023 members outside Ross

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

Every year, the Ross School seems to make P&Q’s 10 Schools To Watch list. It’s redundant, some say. Why not make room for another business school?

Here’s a better question: Why aren’t more schools like Michigan Ross?

Ross is the home of non-stop innovation, a pioneer in experiential learning that continuously adds to its portfolio of company-sponsored projects and student-run funds. “We are built on innovation,” says Brad Killaly, associate dean of MBA programs, in a December 2021 interview with P&Q. “We listen to our students and we listen to our alums. Innovation and creativity are celebrated. We have a culture rolling up our sleeves and trying and doing. That comes from faculty, students and alumni, and from staff. The boldest thing we have done is our ability to make investments in our curriculum, in our community, and in our co-curricular activities to educate and inspire students. It’s our unwavering commitment and success in innovating new courses that equip our students with the most current skills.”

What does that all include? Well, why not go through Ross’ greatest hits playlist? That starts with MAP, the Multidisciplinary Action Projects, a curriculum centerpiece that is entering its fourth decade. Here, 4-6 member MBA teams work on consulting projects across the globe, with the school boosting their offerings in areas like analytics, AI, and digital disruption. Last year alone, Ross MBAs completed 68 MAP projects from over 100 sponsors ranging from Dell to the NFL. In the process, Ross enabled career transitioners to gain much-needed industry experience and network connections.

That’s just the beginning! During the Living Business Leadership Experience (LBLE), Ross MBAs run an entire division of a sponsoring company, handing every function from sales to finance to supply chain. In Ross’ annual Crisis Challenge simulation, students adopt the roles of executives, board members, and politicians as they wrestle with a corporate catastrophe over 48 hours. And then there is the +Impact Studio, where interdisciplinary teams across the university develop solutions to large scale social issues like poverty and hunger. That even includes a Founders programs to support entrepreneurs in the space.

“Last year, the +Impact Studio course won the Aspen Institute’s prestigious “Ideas Worth Teaching Award” which recognizes “visionary faculty and the courses that tackle society’s largest, most embedded challenges of our time,” explains Soojin Kwon,  managing director of MBA admissions and the student experience, in a 2021 interview . “Recently, students in the course have been developing innovations to address challenges brought on by the COVID-19 crisis and related economic landscape with a focus on the most under-resourced and vulnerable during the recession — women and minority-owned businesses and nonprofits.”

And then there are the student-run funds, with $10 million dollars under management (with the school also maintaining an additional $10 million dollar “kitty” to invest in University of Michigan ventures). In fact, no business school can match Ross for the sheer size and diversity of such student-managed funds. And the number continues to grow. This past year, for example, the school started the Michigan Climate Fund in partnership with the university’s School for Environment and Sustainability. The goal, explains Kwon, is to provide support to early-stage companies in environmental solutions and sustainability. Such funds, which operat under Ross’ REAL.INVEST umbrella, only reinforce Ross’ learn-by-doing philosophy.

“Our newest fund is the International Investment Fund, developed in partnership with the William Davidson Institute, and also the first of its kind,” Kwon tells P&Q. “It invests in and supports small- and medium-sized enterprises in emerging economies, starting with India and expanding worldwide. Our Social Venture Fund was the first student-led impact investing fund at a business school. Ross MBA student Katie Wheeler was quoted in a recent Financial Times article, calling the Social Venture Fund the “best action-based learning of its kind.”..Another unique fund is the Zell Founders Fund, which supports graduating or recently graduated U-M student entrepreneurs…In August, the fund made a $100,000 investment in Just Enough Wines, a premium quality canned wine company started by Kaitlyn Lo, a 2021 MBA grad…Other student-run funds at Ross include the Wolverine Venture FundZell Lurie Commercialization FundMaize and Blue Fund, and Real Estate Fund.”

Ross Building

No one will ever excuse the Ross School of being complacent. Last year, for example, the school expanded their STEM-designated track, while launching a new Masters in Business Analytics. An anonymous donor boosted scholarship opportunities with a $5 million dollar gift. Perhaps the biggest news, however, was the resignation of  Dean Scott DeRue, a 14-year faculty member whose 5 year tenure has been marked by expanding programming — particularly in experiential learning. While a loss, Michigan Ross has consistently ranked as the best-run business school in Princeton Review student surveys — a sign that DeRue’s team is plenty ready to pick up the slack.

However, another Ross development, which failed to make headlines, may be the school’s biggest news. In September, the program ‘soft launched’ a Quantitative Readiness Course, a series of six self-paced online modules, containing roughly 20 hours of coursework. Free to take, the course is available to online and weekend students. It enables candidates who score 80% or more to bypass Ross’ GMAT or GRE requirement. Even more, it gives applicants a chance to “test drive” the rigor of an MBA course. The QRC has certainly made an impression, with 200 potential candidates already enrolled after its first two months.

“I know at least two people have gone through the course completely, passed the exam, and qualified officially for a waiver,” says Patricia Russo, Ross’ managing director of part-time MBA programs. “One of the cool things about this is, in a part-time program, most of our students are working full-time and then they’re having to take courses. I think one of the really great things about this course is that it prepares students for that mindset: ‘I have to work and then I have to go home and I have to do this thing.’ So I think it’s a good way for students to prepare for that kind of life.”

At the same time, the school made a forceful move into the healthcare space with the introduction of the Pinkert Healthcare Accelerator in 2021. “[The Accelerator] aims to support needed innovation by helping students develop and launch their creative ideas for addressing major challenges in healthcare,” Soojin Kwon notes. “The new accelerator – which is managed by the Zell Lurie Institute at Michigan Ross – provides student teams with grant seed funding; mentorship from U-M faculty, staff, and alumni; and advice from a board of leaders in healthcare entrepreneurship and investing. I was impressed with the 13 student ventures that were accepted into the Pinkert Healthcare Accelerator’s first cohort last year. Among the healthcare solutions, those ventures addressed were: transitional aid for postpartum parents to ensure a healthy postpartum environment; inventory management to provide hospitals with real-time data on medical supplies; and a product that replaces plastic prescription bottles with a 100% recyclable solution.”

The Pinkert Healthcare Accelerator taps into one of Ross’ biggest strengths: Entrepreneurship. Last year, the school ranked 7th among MBA programs in P&Q’s Entrepreneurship ranking, with 18.5% of 2017-2020 graduates launching a venture after graduation. Ross also ranked 3rd in The Economist’s 2021 MBA ranking. Here, it earned the highest scores of any MBA program Personal Development, Alumni Effectiveness, and Educational Experience according to the Economist‘s student and alumni survey (and Top 5 for Culture and Facilities too). In a 2021 U.S. News survey of business school deans and MBA directors, Michigan Ross ranked among the 20-best full-time MBA programs for every specialization measured, ranking among the ten best in Marketing, Management, Accounting, Finance, Operations, Entrepreneurship, Supply Chain, International Business, Nonprofits, and Project Management. In similar surveys last year, Ross ranked 2nd for Teamwork (Bloomberg Businessweek) and 3rd for both Teaching Excellence and Family Friendliness (Princeton Review).

And the Ross appeal is more than across-the-board excellence and unrivaled hands-on learning opportunities. “People love it here,” says Diana Economy, director of full-time MBA admissions, in an interview with P&Q. “We get people who are really down to earth. They love their MBA experience and they get great jobs.”

The word is out with prospective applicants. Last year, the Ross MBA saw its applications jump by 55.9%. The Class of 2023 also drew a record number of women (46%), who now reprsent over two-thirds of club leadership this school year. At the same time, Ross benefits from scale, including a Top Ten undergraduate business program, an emerging online MBA program, and a larger university that ranks among the best research universities in the country. And there is one more benefit that MBAs sometimes forget, adds Soojin Kwon.

“The power of the Michigan alumni network cannot be understated. There are more than 640,000 U-M alumni in 179 countries around the world, including over 52,000 from Ross. Our alumni are engaged and show up for fellow alums and current students. As one example, the Michigan Ross alumni network earned the top spot in The Economist’s 2021 ranking of alumni effectiveness.”

That…and Ann Arbor isn’t a bad way to spend two years, either. “Although Ann Arbor is a small little city, it is one of the coziest places to live in,” writes Neha Tadichetty, a 2021 P&Q Best & Brightest MBA. “It has something for every kind of person. From river walking to rock climbing, from a quick 45-minute drive to Detroit to a four-hour road trip to some of the most amazing skiing resorts, Ann Arbor has access to a wide and exciting range of outdoor life. At the heart of it all, Michigan Ross provides ample opportunities for students to engage and thrive in this all-rounded experience through its clubs and social events. Contrary to popular belief, the winters open up a range of new activities that we Wolverines look forward to every year.”

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