The Graduate Management Admission Council will have new leadership this year for the first time in nearly a decade — and at a time of great disruption and change in graduate business education.
Sangeet Chowfla, president and CEO of the organization that administers the foremost entrance exam for global graduate business education programs, announced today (August 8) that he will step down in October after nine years.
“I am ready for a new phase in my life,” Chowfla tells Poets&Quants. “It’s been an absolute honor and privilege to have had the opportunity to lead GMAC over the last 9 years but everything has its time and my personal and family situation dictate that I step back from the demands of a full-time CEO position.”
GMAT TEST NUMBERS IN FREEFALL
Chowfla will be succeeded by Joy Jones, currently chief product officer and general manager of GMAC’s assessment line of business. Jones, a Stanford MBA, will officially take the reins as CEO and president of the global association of leading graduate business schools on October 1.
Chowfla’s resignation comes as the Graduate Management Admission Test — for decades the premier assessment used by the world’s business schools — faces unprecedented challenges amid widespread shifts in admission preferences. In January, P&Q reported that the number of GMAT tests taken in the U.S. plunged to a new low, falling to just 38,509 in testing year 2021 — a 47.7% decline from the pre-pandemic testing year of 2018, when 73,556 exams were administered in the U.S. In 2012, a year before Chowfla took over as CEO, GMAC administered a record 117,511 tests in the U.S., more than three times the 2021 total; in fact, test-taking volume in the U.S. has fallen every year since 2012, with only one exception, 2016, when exams inched up by little more than 600 tests.
Worldwide, 156,453 GMAT tests were taken in 2021, down 10% from the 173,179 tests administered in the previous year. From the pre-pandemic year of 2018, tests worldwide have fallen by 35.5%. From the peak testing year of 2012, when a record 286,529 GMAT tests were taken, the decline is a whopping 45.4%.
Meanwhile, the Graduate Record Exam has rapidly gained favor among B-school candidates, with the average percentage of GRE submitters at the top 25 U.S. schools growing from 13.5% in 2019 to 27.8% in 2020.
GMAC UNDER CHOWFLA BECAME ‘LEANER, MORE DIVERSIFIED, MORE GLOBAL’
In 2015, when GMAT’s decline was already unmistakable, Chowfla told P&Q in an exclusive interview that he viewed the test as only “part of the preparation process for business school” — saying its real role was less as an obstacle to surmount and more as a guide for applicants to decide where they will have the best graduate business experience.
“The GMAT is very reliable in terms of telling you the kinds of schools where you will be successful at and the ones where you may struggle in,” Chowfla said. “It is important to have a positive experience and be successful in the school that you go to. Use those GMAT results as a way to understand your capabilities. There’s no right or wrong answer – we don’t see the scores as good scores or bad scores. Scores just reflect a candidate’s capabilities. There is a good business school for every candidate.”
During his tenure, Chowfla smartly diversified GMAC, acquiring BusinessBecause, a website in the United Kingdom, and The MBA Tour, a major admissions events business. Those deals helped to further GMAC’s mission to promote graduate management education, as critical a role for GMAC as its goal as standardized testing for business schools.
Chowfla recruited his successor to GMAC in 2017 from the Associated Press where she spent 13 years in a variety of product, sales, business development and operations leadership roles. She oversaw all product portfolio and distribution platform management across the company’s multimedia content licensing, advertising and content service businesses.
Prior to AP, Jones worked at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, where she was an executive with the Telecom Media Networks consulting practice. She earned her MBA at Stanford University in 1995 and holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and applied sciences from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where she graduated in 1993 with honors.
In announcing his retirement, Chowfla says he intends to continue at GMAC in an advisory capacity. “I greatly value the contributions of Graduate Management Education and look forward to staying engaged in some manner,” he tells P&Q. “I look back with some satisfaction that we have built a stronger and more resilient GMAC. Leaner, more diversified in its service offerings, and more global in its outlook.”
NEW CEO WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN LAUNCH OF ONLINE GMAT
Jones, who joined GMAC five years ago, was unanimously chosen as Chowfla’s successor by the organization’s board after an extensive search by a global executive search firm. She will be GMAC’s fourth CEO.
Among Jones’s responsibilities since joining GMAC in July 2017: managing its assessments and preparation portfolio, which includes the GMAT exam. She headed the launch of an online GMAT in 2020, and in 2022 stewarded the debut of GMAC’s Business Fundamentals Powered by Kaplan, a new product line of “micro” courses in statistics, accounting, and finance.
“It is a great honor for me to be chosen to lead a long-standing and highly regarded organization like GMAC, with an outstanding 70-year history of connecting talent with opportunity through higher education,” Jones said in a news release. “As the organization enters into a new chapter in an ever-evolving global business environment, focused on innovation and growth as well as diversity and inclusion, I look forward to continuing to work alongside my dedicated colleagues at GMAC and in the business school community to advance graduate management education and ensure that talented people have the opportunity to improve the world we live in.”