Could the next prime minister of the United Kingdom be a Stanford MBA graduate? If Conservative candidate Rishi Sunak, son of Indian migrants from East Africa, succeeds Boris Johnson, that could very well be the case.
At least that’s what reporting by The Guardian, one of Britain’s leading newspapers, recently found.
Despite Sunak’s claims that Stanford Graduate School of Business altered the trajectory of his life, encouraging him to take on “a slightly bigger, more dynamic approach to change”, few at Stanford remember him.
Sunak, who resigned as Chancellor from the U.K. government last month, has said that his MBA experience taught him “to think bigger” instead of having “a “more incremental mindset.” He earned his MBA from Stanford in 2006 after receiving a Fulbright scholarship to study in the U.S.
A DOZEN STANFORD PROFS & LECTURERS HAD NO MEMORY OF HIM
“While Stanford clearly made its mark on him,” according to The Guardian, “it’s less clear whether Sunak made much of a mark at Stanford, ranked first in the world by Poets&Quants. one of the highest-ranked business schools in the world.”
A former careers official at Stanford takes issue with that claim. “I remember Rishi and his wife, Akshata, quite well and very fondly,” Virginia Roberson tells Poets&Quants. Roberson was the associate director and international career advisor in the Career Management Center at the GSB from August of 2002 to September of 2013. “The Stanford Graduate School of Business experience involves much more than just time in the classroom,” she adds. “If you had asked classmates and staff about Rishi and Akshata, you would have gotten a much more accurate and richer picture of them and their time or impact at Stanford GSB.”
The Guardian reported that it found that a dozen professors and lecturers from the two years he spent in the MBA program “had no memory of teaching the man vying to become the UK’s next prime minister.” In fact, the former dean of the business school, Robert Joss, said he had a stronger memory of Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty, the daughter of the founder of Infosys, who Sunak had originally met at Stanford. Joss presided over the graduation of the class, handing out diplomas to 366 MBA graduates in the Class of 2006.
Sunak was not listed among the students in his 2006 MBA class awarded prizes at graduation for being among the 37 MBA grads named Arjay Miller Scholars who were in the top 10% of the class, for service to the university, or for contributing to the school’s social culture and sense of fun. Dozens of his classmates did not respond to The Guardian‘s request to share memories, or declined to comment.
‘I HAVE NO RECOLLECTION OF EVER INTERACTING WITH HIM’
The newspaper, however, contacted teachers on some of the school’s signature courses to ask them about Sunak, including entrepreneurship guru Irv Grousbeck, innovation teacher Andy Rachleff, leadership professor Charles O’Reilly and ‘touchy-feeler’ teacher Carole Robin.
“When he delivered a prestigious business school lecture in London last year, Sunak, now 42 and also a University of Oxford alumnus, cited one of his “inspiring” Stanford professors, the Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Romer, and described the impact of Romer’s lecture on innovation,” wrote The Guardian. “I have no recollection of ever interacting with him,” Romer told the newspaper.
Another now emeritus professor of banking and finance, James Van Horne, initially told The Guardian that he had not taught Sunak. After searching his corporate finance class records, however, Van Horne discovered that Sunak had been enrolled in one of his classes. “He was a good student and participated well, but beyond that I do not have a lot of recollection,” Van Horne wrote in an email to the newspaper’s reporters. Van Horne also actively participated in the graduation of the class.
‘YOU REMEMBER THE STUDENTS THAT GET IN TROUBLE’
Joss, who was the dean of the GSB at the time, said he barely remembered Sunak but vaguely recalled a “very bright and a very good student”. “My impression of all of our students was that they’re great,” Joss told The Guardian.
With roughly 400 students in each GSB graduating class, Joss added, it was not possible to get to know everyone deeply. “You remember the students that get in trouble or the students that won the big prizes,” he told the newspaper.
Joss said he did have a stronger memory of his wife. Akshata Murty, who Joss remembered as “very bright, very smart”. The Guardian pointed out that Joss knew her parents because Narayana Murthy, her father and the billionaire founder of Infosys, was a member of Stanford business school’s advisory council. The two were married in Bangalore in the same year they graduated with their MBAs. Sunak says he even switched his class schedule in Stanford’s MBA program “to be in a particular class” to sit next to Murty.