The mantra of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business is it’s all about the idea. Students focus on generating, analyzing, comparing, and refining ideas in order to elevate them to better ideas.
The full-time MBA program consists of 20 classes plus Leadership Effectiveness and Development (LEAD). The flagship of the program is its flexible curriculum. Unlike many other top schools with lockstep first-year MBA programs, Booth does not require its MBAs to go through every class together. One key exception is the LEAD course, which all MBAs must take. However, by and large, students design a program tailored to fit their own career goals.
In 2009, after a faculty review of the curriculum, the school added a new academic concentration in analytical management and also required all students in the evening MBA program and weekend MBA program to take a leadership development course similar to the one required of full-time students.
In addition to analytic management, the school’s 14th concentration, students can graduate with an academic focus in accounting, econometrics and statistics, economics, entrepreneurship, and finance. Other choices include analytic finance, general management, human resource management, international business, managerial and organizational behavior, marketing management, operations management, and strategic management.
Graduation requirements for students in the full-time MBA program include nine required courses, 11 electives, and a leadership course; though in 2009, more approved substitute classes have been added to satisfy the nine required courses. To meet the 11 elective requirements students can choose from several hundred courses at the business school and other departments of the university.
Some of the new courses added since the curriculum review in the required portion of the program are more rigorous, an adjustment made to account for the more varied group of students entering the mainstream MBA program. The school added a hybrid finance class containing five weeks of corporate finance and five weeks of investments, for example, that is much more difficult than the standard finance or investment courses.
The three foundation areas of accounting, microeconomics, and statistics remained the same through the curriculum review. But the requirement to take breadth and general management courses was replaced by selecting classes representing functions (finance, marketing, and operations), management (decisions, people, and organizations), and the environment in which firms operate.
For six out of the seven times that Poets&Quants has ranked MBA programs since 2010, Booth has not only held onto third place among U.S. schools. It also has bested the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, often thought to be only behind Harvard and Stanford in overall quality. But Chicago has smartly used its greater resources to maintain a lead over Wharton which this year was behind Booth in four out of the five most influential MBA rankings from U.S. News, Businessweek, Forbes, and the Economist. Wharton outperformed Booth in only only the Financial Times ranking where the Philadelphia school ranked second to Chicago’s sixth place finish.
In U.S. News this year, Booth tied Stanford for second place vs. Wharton’s rank of fourth. In the Bloomberg Businessweek survey, Booth was fourth to Wharton’s sixth. In Forbes’ current ranking, based solely on return on investment, Booth bested Wharton by one place, sixth versus seventh. The biggest gap between the two schools occurred in The Economist’s 2016 ranking which had Booth in first place and Wharton a lowly ninth.
You can easily discount that kind of outsized result, but it would be much harder to deny the trend lines here. The school has poured a massive amount of funding into scholarship support which has allowed it to lure some of the best students into Booth and away from peer schools. Most impressively, the school has matched Wharton in the race for higher GMAT averages in recent years, erasing what could have been a big potential advantage in the U.S. News survey.
Much of the school’s improvement in the rankings can be traced to the previous Dean Edward “Ted” Snyder, who had a highly successful nine-year run in the job from 2001 to 2010. Dean Sunil Kumar, an academic from Stanford, left Booth this year and the school is searching for a full-time successor. It remains to be seen if the school will continue to aggressively support MBA students with scholarships that allow it to rival Wharton in the quality of its incoming class. One thing is for sure: Booth faculty are among the best in the world and it’s unlikely Chicago will lose profs to any other school.
As one Class of 2012 MBA told BW: “There’s no faculty at a business school like that at Booth in terms of being highly regarded, highly quoted, and fully accessible. I also appreciate the sense of humility or Midwestern values that permeates Booth.”
As is often the case, not everyone was completely positive about their experience. Another Booth MBA said: “The alumni network could use some work. Unfortunately the type of person that generally attends this institution is generally the type of person that is not entirely outgoing and/or willing to reach out.”