The W. P. Carey School, not to be confused with the Carey School at Johns Hopkins University, is a highly innovative and aggressive player in the business school arena.
The big news here in recent years is the rather bold decision to make its full-time MBA program free. Yes, you heard that right. In 2015, the school made the unprecedented and extraordinary decision to provide full scholarship support for every full-time MBA student accepted into the school. Not surprisingly, the first entering class in the fall of 2016 broke all kinds of records. When U.S. News publishes its new ranking of MBA programs in 2017, Carey—which ranked 35th this year—could very well find itself among the Top 25 schools in the nation.
Applications to its full-time program exploded, rising by 162% to 1,160 from just 443 a year earlier. That’s nearly ten applicants for every available seat in the class. The school’s acceptance rate of just 14% now makes Carey the fourth most selective MBA program in the world behind only Stanford, Harvard and UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Only a year earlier, Carey invited 31.4% of its applicants to attend.
With the big change, the school also revamped its MBA curriculum, increasing the credits from 48 to 60 with the addition of four courses that will provide more real-world training. The new courses are Decision-Making With Data Analytics; Executive Connections, which provides mentoring from retired senior executives; Intellection Fusion Learning Lab, pairing MBA students with master’s students in other disciplines; and Future Forward Leadership, which builds real-time skills in improvisation and decision-making.
“We know the skills of the future have to do with flexibility, agility, being able to scenario-plan, think through the changes that might happen and consider how they might go about adjusting their organization or strategy for those changes,” Dean Amy Hillman says.
Feedback on the course improvements was provided by faculty, alumni, corporate recruiters and the school’s team of in-house business executives. One of the executives who helped to refine the program was Bob O’Malley, now retired after working several decades in the technology industry, including 19 years with IBM in Asia and the United States. O’Malley is on the W.P. Carey’s “executive connections” team, where he mentors several MBA students. He also is an ASU alum, having received an MBA in 1973.
“Back then the program was primarily function and content driven. The professor had the content or the textbook had the content,” O’Malley says. “There was a little bit of experiential learning through case studies and a little bit of teamwork, not a lot.”
The school claims the updated program makes the experience more strategically focused. “For example, the class on global economics. Rather than strictly economics, it’s changed to ‘global business environments,’ which brings in different cultures associated with global business operations, which is more than just economics,” O’Malley adds.
Rankings Analysis: The W.P. Carey School had something of a setback in 2016, falling eight places to a rank of 44th from 36th, largely the result of its disappearance from The Financial Times list. But the dramatic improvement in the school’s entering class stats will make a very big difference in 2017, most immediately in the U.S. News’ ranking which is highly dependent on incoming class metrics. And as those better students graduate, the school’s salary and placement numbers are likely to improve as well.
For 2016, however, it was a tough year. The school placed 35th in U.S. News, down five places from 30th a year earlier. Forbes, which only ranks MBA programs biennially, did not publish a list in 2016 so the 2015 ranking of 47 remained. Carey’s Businessweek ranking was also static, with the school repeating its 49th place showing of the previous year. Carey even improved three spots in The Economist, rising to 28 from 31st in 2015. But that was hardly enough to offset the loss of The FT ranking which had placed Carey 39th best in the U.S. in 2015.