In what could only be described as an extraordinary coincidence, Harvard Business School’s chief MBA gatekeeper announced today (Sept. 28) that he is leaving his job on the very same day that the chief MBA admissions officer at Stanford Graduate School of Business said she is also stepping down.
Chad Losee, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid at HBS, is leaving at year-end, roughly the same time that Stanford’s Kirsten Moss will depart her job. Losee said he is moving over to Yale University where he will serve as head of strategy in the university’s provost’s office. Moss has not yet announced where she is going, though a spokesperson told Poets&Quants that she intends to pursue a role that allows her to follow her passion in leadership.
Losee, who earned his MBA at Harvard in 2013, will be leaving Harvard after six and one-half years as admissions chief. He succeeded Dee Leopold, who was the business school’s primary gatekeeper for nine years. Like most admission officials, Losee managed the office through the pandemic, allowing the admitted candidates to defer their admission into the MBA program by a year or two.
ROLLER COASTER ENROLLMENTS MANAGED BY LOSEE DUE TO THE PANDEMIC
That decision led Harvard to enroll its smallest incoming MBA class in decades of just 732 students in 2020, roughly 200 fewer MBA candidates than a more typical class. In the past two years, HBS added those deferred admits to its classes and enrolled more than 1,000 new students each year.
Despite the obvious rivalry between the two business schools, generally regarded as having the best full-time MBA programs in the world, Losee and Moss were friendly with each other and on a first-name basis. Yet, they are as different in their approaches as they are personally. The soft-spoken Losee preferred communicating with most prospective candidates through a blog, those his posts were less frequent and not nearly as transparent as his predecessor; Moss was much more willing to be personally accessible and active in admissions webinars and events. Moss has had the enviable job of enrolling the most selective MBA classes in the world, with an acceptance rate nearly half that of Harvard. And when candidates are admitted to both HBS and Stanford, they tend to choose the school at the center of Silicon Valley.
She has also had the rankings advantage in recent years. Stanford’s MBA program has ranked first in Poets&Quants’ composite ranking for three straight years, while Harvard Business School last year slipped to its lowest P&Q ranking ever into fifth place from fourth a year earlier.
MAKING THE MOVE AFTER EARNING A DOCTORATE IN HIGHER EDUCATION MANAGEMENT
MBA applications to Harvard Business School were down by 15% for the latest incoming class this fall, a downturn felt by just about every business school with just a few exceptions. Nonetheless, Losee enrolled the largest incoming class in HBS history with 1,015 students because of pandemic-caused deferrals. The upshot: In his six full years, he set two records: Welcoming the largest MBA class in history as well as the smallest class in decades. Losee also announced this year that HBS would provide scholarships to cover the total cost of tuition and course fees for 10% of its students with the greatest financial need. But he also eliminated Harvard’s Round 3 deadline, decided against extending application deadlines during the height of the pandemic, and imposed a word limit on the school’s only application essay.
Through all the ups and downs of the admissions cycles, he maintained the school’s reputation for recruiting and enrolling some of the very best MBA applicants on the planet. Year after year, on nearly every measure of quality, Harvard Business School continues to attract exceptional students from all over the world. This past year, the school accepted a shade under one of every 10 applications, with the school traditionally hovering in the 11%-12% range. By the same token, 87% of accepted applicants ultimately enrolled at HBS, slightly down from the previous years where the percentage sat in the low 90s. The median GMAT held steady at 730, as scores stretched from 540 to 790. In fact, the 540 GMAT is the lowest that HBS has accepted since 2015 (510). Median GREs remained a daunting 326, as verbal and quant scores were evenly split at 163. Average GPA scores inched up to 3.70.
But there’s no doubt that it is highly unusual for the adcoms at both Harvard and Stanford to bow out at the same time. “The odds of being struck by lightning twice are about 1 in 225 million,” notes Jeremy Shinewald, founder and CEO of mbaMission, a leading MBA admissions consulting firm. “I wonder if the odds of these two resigning on the same day were higher or lower? I certainly don’t think this was choreographed and Chad clearly has another position waiting, so it has to be a bizarre coincidence. Still, application volumes are falling and class composition is under increasing scrutiny. Is it possible that the job just has a shorter shelf life than it used to? Admissions officers often seem like they have tenure like professors, but we have seen an unprecedented shakeup of late — Kate Smith at Kellogg, Amanda Carlson at Columbia, Diane Economy at Michigan. When do we declare it a trend and try to understand why so much turnover is occurring at once?”
FOR MANY MBA ADMISSION OFFICIALS, A RUSH TO THE EXIT DOOR
Linda Abraham, founder of Accepted.com and a long-time watcher of elite MBA admissions, put Losee’s departure in perspective. “My theory: Chat Losee is a relatively young man, and he wants to move up. He wants to grow,” she says. “Perhaps he didn’t see where or how he could do so at HBS. The position at Yale represents more challenge and responsibility for him at an elite Ivy League University. It’s an opportunity for him to stretch and lead.”
The rush to the exit door by MBA admission officials at Harvard, Stanford, Kellogg, Columbia, and Michigan brings into focus the pressures of a job that rarely pays as much as elite MBA graduates make in starting compensation. In addition to post-pandemic fatigue and the return of more travel, it’s an emotionally difficult job because admission directors are largely turning away highly qualified candidates, often at the chagrin of faculty, alumni, and donors.
“There are just a lot of other opportunities out there now and after several years of growth (personal + app growth, class profile strength) the current growth opportunities in the same role are just a little less,” explains Diana Economy, who left Michigan Ross as director of full-time MBA admissions last month to become a senior talent acquisition manager for Vail Resorts. “When you factor in the additional pay, new challenges in a different industry, and not working for faculty who have limited experience leading, it’s an attractive spot for at least a little while.”
‘TRANSFORMED BY HBS, FIRST AS A STUDENT AND NOW AS A MEMBER OF THE TEAM’
In a blog post under the simple headline ‘Personal Update,’ Losee expressed gratitude to HBS for the role it has played in shaping his life. His decision to leave and go to Yale follows his award of a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania last year. Losee’s dissertation on the barriers to higher education and other issues of access and affordability won him a national research grant and no doubt whetted his appetite for a pivot our of admissions. By taking a strategic role at Yale, he is also building on his earlier career as a Bain & Co. consultant.
“As I shared with my team earlier this afternoon, Harvard Business School has changed my life,” wrote Losee. “I distinctly remember being in your shoes applying to business schools, now about 12 years ago. I was hopeful but also worried that HBS might be out of reach for me, someone who grew up in a small, rural town in the western US. I will always be grateful to have been admitted to and subsequently transformed by HBS, first as a student and now as a member of the team.
“The remarkable thing about HBS is that my story is not unique. More than any organization I’ve known, this is a place dedicated to its mission: to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. As an Admissions and Financial Aid team, we are working hard to broaden who considers HBS by making the program more accessible and affordable. We believe that enrolling students from a variety of backgrounds will enhance the learning that happens at HBS and help us fulfill our mission.”
Losee assured candidates that he will remain at HBS through Round 1 and the end of the calendar year. “In the new year, my experienced and dedicated colleagues will continue supporting you as the search for my replacement unfolds,” he added. “Rest assured, the admissions and financial aid processes and criteria will remain the same during this interim period.”
WHEN SELECTING LOSEE, HBS HAD REVIEWED MORE THAN 100 CANADIATES FOR THE JOB
“Let me close by thanking you for the work you are doing in your own organizations, companies, and communities to make business a force for good in society. I have always felt that one of the humbling honors of our work is getting to know you and feeling inspired by your potential to make a difference in the world. Even with all the challenges today, you give us all a sense of optimism about the future, and we’re grateful for your interest in HBS.”
Abraham adds that the suddenness of Losee’s departure “will be a challenge for HBS. He will be missed. However, becoming head of admissions at Harvard Business School is the kind of position that should have plenty of applicants. I suspect Harvard will find an HBS grad to replace Chad.”
When Losee was chosen as managing director of admissions, the school noted that it had reviewed more than 100 candidates for the job. HBS chose Losee who had something of an inside track. After graduating from HBS as a Baker Scholar in the top 5% of his graduating class, Losee worked for a year as an HBS Fellow in the Dean’s Office. In that role, he collaborated with the school’s senior leadership on a range of strategic projects, including the launch of its online learning initiatve. In 2012, Losee was a summer associate in the office of Kim Clark, then the president of BYU-Idaho and before that a longtime HBS faculty member and dean of the school from 1995 to 2005.
In 2014, Losee returned to Bain & Company’s Dallas office, where he had worked from 2008 to 2011, including a stint in Stockholm. As a manager at Bain, Losee has led consulting teams in client engagements across multiple industries. He graduated in 2008 from the Honors Program at Brigham Young University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations summa cum laude.