LOCATION AMPLIFIES IMPACT
Consistently ranked alongside Harvard and Wharton as the world’s top business school, Stanford GSB has also traditionally produced the highest starting pay. In January, the school reported that the Class of 2022 had received a whopping $257,563 in starting pay and bonus, up from $231,849 the year before. That’s hardly surprising considering the GSB’s prestige – and location. The campus sits on the edge of Silicon Valley, with the Bay Area less than an hour away. In California alone, their combined economic might covers 86% of its registered patents and 70% of its venture capital. Silicon Valley itself includes the headquarters of 30 Fortune 1000 companies, including Apple, Alphabet, Meta, Intel, HP, and Cisco. Just a few miles from campus, you’ll also find a 6-mile stretch known as Sand Hill Road – the Wall Street of the West Coast – home to over 50 top venture capital and private equity firms including Sequoia Capital, Kleiner Perkins and Andreessen Horowitz. Their investments have sparked household names ranging from DoorDash to TiVo to Zulily.
With such resources, entrepreneurship has become highly popular among MBA students. As Suhani Jalota, a ’22 grad jokes, not every MBA is running a company, “but capital is not as hard to get as a GSB student.” Exhibit A: Kimiloluwa Fafowora, a ’22 alum who raised $4.5 million dollars for her tech startup, Gander. She attributes some of her success to the GSB’s connections to the larger Silicon Valley ecosystem.
“Stanford GSB introduced me to a series of networks that have consistently fast-tracked our company. For example, through the GSB, I became a partner at Dorm Room Fund – the first student-run venture fund. After working with that team for about a year, their CEO, Molly Fowler introduced me to a VC who ended up co-leading our seed round. Our other co-lead was introduced to me by a fellow classmate, Sydney Sykes (partner at Lightspeed VC & co-founder of BlackVC). Had it not been for Molly, Sydney, DRF, and the GSB, it’s unclear whether we’d have the same success we have today.”
Of course, Stanford boasts a deep portfolio of entrepreneurship and innovation coursework, including hands-on headliners like Startup Garage and Lean Launchpad. Ask Nicole Rojas, a ’22 alum who raised $1.4 million in her pre-seed round, about the real differentiator at Stanford. Chances are, she’ll talk about something that is hard to pin down – and even harder to replicate.
“We always joke with friends and family, who are surprised by our leap into entrepreneurship, that “It’s in the water we drink and air we breathe at Stanford.” From day 1 of the MBA program, we saw messages like the one on Stanford GSB’s campus: “Dedicated to the things that haven’t happened yet, and to the people who are about to dream them up.” The energy around innovation and creativity is infectious.”
AN INTERVIEW WITH PAUL OYER
What’s next on the Stanford GSB docket? In February, P&Q reached out to Paul Oyer, senior Associate dean for academic affairs. In an in-depth Q&A, Oyer shared some of the latest developments and innovations in the program, along with its signature experiences and underrated aspects.
P&Q: What are the two most exciting developments at your program in the past year and how will they enrich the MBA experience for current and future MBAs?
Oyer: “The past year has been a time of transformation and innovation at the GSB as we have begun building the foundation of educating and inspiring future business leaders to think about the role of business in solving the climate crisis. The historic opening of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability has created new avenues for faculty research and teaching. We have six faculty who share appointments between the Doerr School and Stanford GSB and even more faculty who are doing research to understand the full impact and opportunity of climate change. Their research findings inform what is taught in the classroom – not only in our elective offerings, but also in our core curriculum. The momentum and excitement from our students around sustainability and climate tech is an energizing force and we’re excited to see the innovation and creativity among our students and alumni in the years ahead as a result of these efforts.
We are also excited about new faculty who are moving the needle on our research into critical social issues and expanding our curriculum in bold new ways. Two notable additions to our faculty include Jennifer Eberhardt, professor of organizational behavior who is teaching a course to help students develop tools and interventions to mitigate racial bias, and Andy Hall, professor of political economy, who is playing a key leadership role in a new initiative to explore the future of technology in our lives.”
P&Q: If you were giving a campus tour, what is the first place you’d take an MBA applicant? Why is that so important to the MBA experience?
Oyer: “There’s a quote engraved on the cornerstone of the Knight Management Center that perfectly captures the essence of Stanford GSB and is the natural starting point for a tour of the school: ‘Dedicated to the things that haven’t happened yet and the people who are about to dream them up.’ From there, a quick trip through the Arbuckle Dining Pavilion will convey a sense of the energy, excitement, and collaboration among Stanford GSB students. From celebrating birthdays to imagining new ventures, the dining pavilion is the hub of activity and the heart of our community where students meet for lunch, class meetings and coffee chats.”
P&Q: What is the most innovative thing you have introduced into the MBA program in recent years? How has it been a game changer for your program?
Oyer: “Many GSB graduates are drawn to product management roles after completing their MBA – in fact, 12% of the class of 2022 went into product management roles. There’s a belief among many that product management roles are a good training ground for future CEOs given the range of skills they need to have, so it’s easy to understand why our experiential product management course has been so well received among our students. In addition to classroom work, students work on real business challenges with sponsor organizations under the guidance of our incredible faculty. The class projects are with tech companies, however the skills and knowledge gained are applicable to many industries. This course is a gamechanger for many of our students who enter PM roles ready for the challenges of their new role and, equally important, armed with the confidence to know they’ll be successful.”
P&Q: What have MBAs told you is the most memorable, signature experience they’ve had in your program? Why did it resonate so much with them?
Oyer: “The diversity of experiences at the GSB makes it difficult to identify a single course that’s the most memorable for the majority of students. The top three that resonate the most strongly across our MBA students include Managing Growing Enterprises, Startup Garage, and Paths to Power.
Managing Growing Enterprises is a hallmark GSB course that does an excellent job of preparing managers and entrepreneurs for scenarios they’re likely to encounter – from dealing with challenging employees to managing boards and crises. We consistently hear from alumni that this class, taught through case studies and role play, helped prepare them for the early stages of growing their companies. Startup Garage is another highly-sought-after course for aspiring entrepreneurs. The hands-on experiential lab course provides students with a unique opportunity to bring their business ideas to life through the design, testing and launch of a new venture with mentorship from advisors who are founders, venture capitalists, and angel investors. And finally, Paths to Power, taught by Jeffrey Pfeffer, is one of our most popular electives. The course pushes many students out of their comfort zone as they learn strategies and tactics for increasing their influence to amplify their impact. Each student has a “power coach” available for 1:1 coaching and the course culminates in a “Doing Power” project during which students put into practice the ideas and strategies they learn during the course. It’s truly a transformative course for many GSB students.”
P&Q: What is the most underrated part of your program that you wish students knew more about? How does that make your graduates more valuable to prospective employers?
Oyer: “Prospective students may be surprised to learn that many of our courses are co-taught by practitioners who complement the theoretical teachings of our faculty with real-world examples based on their professional experiences. Learning a framework grounded in cutting-edge research as well as the additional context brought to life by business leaders who have applied experience enhances students’ understanding of business management and better prepares them to be effective and knowledgeable leaders throughout their careers.
Another benefit of our MBA program that may be a surprise to prospective students is the flexibility they have to take classes across Stanford University. Once core requirements are met, students can customize their experience and explore interests at the Engineering School, Law School, Medical School, Doerr School of Sustainability, and more. It’s an exciting feature of our program that allows students to explore areas beyond management education.”
P&Q: Where are some of your students’ favorite hangouts? What do they do and why do they gravitate there?
Oyer: “Coupa Cafe is a favorite campus hangout among students. It’s the perfect meeting place before or after class, the coffee is delicious, and the Northern California weather allows us to be outside much of the year.”
P&Q: What is the one thing that the best candidates do to give them an advantage in the admissions process?
Oyer: “The best advice for prospective applicants is to effectively demonstrate your potential to be impactful leaders – even if you don’t yet know which field you may choose to focus on, and help us see what drives your curiosity. Just as there is a wide range of ways leaders are successful, we welcome students with a wide range of personal, professional, and educational backgrounds. But the common thread among all of our successful applicants is curiosity, passion, a spirit of collaboration, and a strong desire to have a positive impact on the world as well as within the GSB community.”
Next Page: Profiles of 12 Members of the Class of 2024
Comments or questions about this article? Email us.