We don’t put much stock in those often-published lists of cities ranked by everything from affordability to livability. After all, most of them are hastily prepared exercises in clickbait for Google’s search engine.
But the latest execution of Outside magazine’s 20 Most Livable Towns and Cities In America got us thinking. If you wanted to spend a couple of years (and maybe more) in an ideal location to study in a highly ranked MBA program in the U.S., where would you go? The list, recently published by Outside, is a pretty good place to start, particularly if you are searching for MBA programs in the most multicultural American cities that are inclusive, green, affordable, and offer socioeconomic and cultural diversity.
Among the 20 named cities on Outside‘s list, there are at least a half dozen that offer excellent MBA experiences in attractive cities for all the reasons above. In five cases, no less, these schools’ MBA programs routinely rank in the Top 25. And there are several surprise destinations that help to put a spotlight on a few of those hidden gem MBA programs that can sometimes get overlooked by starry-eyed MBA applicants who put too much focus on the schools at the very top of MBA rankings.
Outside Take: “If you haven’t been to the South’s largest city in a few years, you might not recognize it. From the expansion of the Atlanta BeltLine, which will soon be a 33-mile path that connects 45 neighborhoods in the heart of the city, to a $5 million investment in 20 more miles of protected bike lanes, this bustling metropolis is banking hard on livability and open space. And that’s just the start of one of the largest urban green initiatives in the country. The 280-acre Westside Park will open this October, eclipsing Atlanta’s central Piedmont Park by some 100 acres.”
“The Melting Pot of the South.” That’s one description of Atlanta – to go along with “The Hollywood of the South” and “Silicon Peach.” At its core, Atlanta is a city rich in history, steeped in commerce, and open to all. Prospective MBA students have not one but two great study options in Atlanta: Emory University’s Goizueta Business School and Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business. Both schools offer excellent Top 25 MBA programs, with Goizueta’s ranked 22nd on the latest Poets&Quants composite list, and Scheller at 25th. Scheller, literally across the street from Technology Square. known as “Tech Square,” is located across the Downtown Connector and embedded in the city. Opened in August 2003 , the district was built over run-down neighborhoods and has sparked a revitalization of the entire Midtown area.
“Atlanta is a vibrant city,” says Siva Prasad Kalimuthu, who joined Goizueta’s Class of 2023 this fall. “The concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the city opens a lot of opportunities for MBA grads. Forbes ranked Atlanta as one of the top 5 cities poised to be a Tech Mecca. The networking prospect during the MBA itself would help students integrate early into the tightly knit tech-business community. Personally, I am attracted to the idea of attending the Startup Chowdown at the Atlanta Tech Village. It is a weekly gathering of innovators, entrepreneurs, and the likes.”
You’ll find no disagreement from Suzy Livingston, a Florida native who is in Scheller’s Class of 2022. “As a non-Georgia native, I can unbiasedly confirm that Atlanta is a fantastic place to live and learn,” she adds. “I have enjoyed getting to learn from company leaders and business professionals in Atlanta such as UPS, Delta Air Lines, and KPMG. Being in Atlanta also provides many opportunities to work directly with businesses in the area through internships or classes like pro-bono consulting. Besides enjoying the Atlanta weather, I really like how diverse the city is. My friends and I have loved hiking, trying out local restaurants, and hanging out at Piedmont Park.”
When it comes to the bottom line, ROI on an MBA investment, Emory and Georgia Tech post-employment reports that are among the best career outcomes of any business school in the world. This year 99% of Emory’s MBA Class of 2021 had received and accepted job offers three months after graduation. At graduation, 91% of the class received a full-time offer. Both marks represent the best employment rates in the school’s history. It’s not just the placement rates — it’s the money, too. Goizueta reports that this year’s MBAs earned an average starting base salary of $134,700, up $4,588, or 3.5%. Over the past four years, Emory MBA salaries have grown nearly $14,000. Moreover, Goizueta’s 2021 MBAs saw a bump in signing bonuses as well, with the class average growing to $29,151 from $28,076 in 2020.
It’s a similar story over at Scheller, which saw 97% of the MBA Class of 2021 obtain employment within three months of graduation, better than even pre-pandemic figures. Perhaps more importantly, the school announced that every Scheller MBA graduate who was seeking employment is now employed or has an offer. Alongside favorable employment rates, Scheller has seen a rising number of MBAs land highly sought-after consulting and high-tech jobs; in 2021, those industries accounted for 58% of Scheller MBAs. Meanwhile, the average base pay for the Class of 2021 was $123,843, continuing a multi-year trend of consistent increases – over 20% in the past 5 years.
“Once again, Scheller MBA graduates achieved a remarkably high level of employment – but more importantly, in virtually every case our graduates joined one of their A-list, target companies,” says Dave Deiters, executive director of the Jones MBA Career Center. “Scheller is fortunate to enjoy continued recruiting relationships with so many premier companies. It’s a great formula: world-class MBA students and world-class employers coming together!”
St. Paul, Minnesota
Outside Take: “With 26 miles of Mississippi River waterfront, the thriving state capital has always had beautiful bones, with distinct neighborhoods and ample greenspace. But its first Black mayor, Melvin Carter, is making impressive strides in building a city that, in his words, “works for all of us.” Increased investment in equitable and dispersed parks, immigrant and refugee resources, and outdoor programming for adults and youth of color are making it easier for everyone to get outside.”
The best bet for MBA prospects who want to feel that St. Paul vibe? It’s the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management in sister city Minneapolis. The Twin Cities, as they are called, is a great place to live and learn. Ullas Pathak, who came from India to join Carlson’s Class of 2022 of MBAs immediately bought into the place as a major attraction. “I was really excited about Carlson due to its location in the Twin Cities Area, headquarters for more than 15 fortune 500 companies, and the exposure it provides to create a balance between the corporate and academic world,” he says. “The Twin Cities area and community within has multiple engagement avenues for cross-functional collaboration for the betterment of society and personal development.”
With a full-time MBA program ranked 35th best in the U.S. by Poets&Quants, Carlson is among the schools that is most connected to its corporate neighbors who are highly supportive of the school and its graduates. Professors leverage those connections well because the most distinct part of the program is the 15-month experiential learning experience that every student must undertake. The “enterprise” experience — in one of four areas such as brand, consulting, ventures, and funds — accounts for one-sixth of an MBA’s entire workload. Students are placed in small teams managed by both a professional and academic director and put to work on real problems with local companies. Carlson MBA candidates interested in finance or investment management, for example, can help manage a student-run mutual fund with $50 million in assets from actual clients.
Even last year, in the midst of COVID-19 which caused nightmares for recruiting, Carlson reported that 88% of the MBA Class of 2020 had found work by graduation, same as the year earlier, and 90% by three months afterward, only a slight decline. Salaries, bonuses, and negotiated vacation time all were up. And in perhaps the school’s most remarkable achievement, in a season of rescinded summer jobs, 100% of Carlson’s Class of 2021 MBAs accepted internship offers. — particularly for recruitees — in spring and early summer, 88% of the MBA Class of 2020 had found work by graduation, same as last year, and 90% by three months afterward, only a slight decline. Salaries, bonuses, and negotiated vacation time all were up. And in perhaps the school’s most remarkable achievement, in a season of rescinded summer jobs, 100% of Carlson’s Class of 2021 MBAs accepted internship offers.