Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management’s mission statement is “world-class business education at a personal scale.” At a university that is built to have students interact and explore multiple disciplines with business at its center, Owen has much to offer candidates.
“If you’re looking for a school to be anonymous, don’t come here,” says M. Eric Johnson, dean of Vanderbilt’s Owen.
Owen is unlike other business schools in that it is exclusively a graduate school, which makes the environment at Owen an intimate one.
“We invest heavily in providing high touch highly customized programming for our students, and creating a culture whereby everyone really knows each other,” Johnson says.
The culture at Owen has become one where students make it a priority to invest in their peers.
“We have a program we started a few years ago, the students started, called humans at Owen, which is a weekly time before our kind of happy hour on Thursday where students will get up on a stool and tell their stories,” Johnson explains.
Students have the opportunity to take on any topic from issues of race to what it’s like growing up in a different country. Owen prioritizes the needs of its students not only on an educational scale but on a personal one as well.
The multifaceted community at Owen is also a result of Vanderbilt’s connection with its other graduate schools. Full-time Owen MBA students may take courses for credit at other Vanderbilt graduate schools with approval. Many students choose to take interdisciplinary classes at the Law School, Divinity School, Peabody School of Education, Medical School and the Nursing School.
Owen’s MBA is based on a modular system of intensive courses, each seven weeks in length with a week of exams. Because students are required to take at least 32 classes to graduate, they are able to really explore particular areas of interest and branch into different disciplines. They’re also able to focus on a particular discipline like accounting or finance while fulfilling requirements for concentrations or specializations.
Owen requires 11 core courses of its MBA students, the majority of which are taken during the first two mods. Students are then able to tailor their degree to their career goals. Each student must complete at least one 12-credit hour concentration in a single discipline beyond the core. Those interested in a “deeper dive” into a discipline may choose to pursue a career-focused specialization of 20 credit hours.
Short breaks between mods are reserved for brief courses, immersion experiences, holidays, and more. Students interested in gaining real-world experience can take immersive courses and participate in excursions, in which students gain industry knowledge and learn about job opportunities.
One thing that stands out about Vanderbilt’s MBA rankings in recent years is that the school has consistently angled its way into the Top 25 list of U.S. business schools. Sure, there are some ups and downs in the data, something that you’ll find for just about every ranked school. But Vanderbilt has placed 25th in three of the past six years of Poets&Quants’ annual rankings, with a best showing in 2012 at 23rd and its weakest showing in 2015 at 29. The P&Q ranking is the best bellwether of a school’s rankings performance because it is a composite list based on the five most influential business school rankings in the world.
Out of those rankings, Vanderbilt has done exceptionally well with The Economist and U.S. News. In U.S. News, arguably the most-watched ranking in the U.S. marketplace, Vanderbilt has risen to a rank of 22 in 2016, a jump of five places from a year earlier, and from 36 in 2010. In The Economist’s global MBA ranking in 2015, where Vanderbilt competes with schools from all over the world, Owen Graduate School of Business rose to a rank of 23 in 2015 from 46 in 2010–a 23-spot increase.
The school has done less well in Forbes’ biennial return-on-investment ranking, slipping to a rank of 39 in 2015 from 30 in 2010, and in the now unpredictable ranking published by Bloomberg Businessweek. In the 2015 BW ranking, Owen placed 29th in 2015, down from 25 a year earlier. Owen also lost ground in the Financial Times, tumbling 10 places in 2016 to a rank of 71 in a four-way tie with the full-time MBA programs at Boston University, the University of Minnesota, and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
This is a school that pays attention to the rankings. After a disappointing performance in Businessweek’s 2010 survey, for example, when the school fell to a rank of 37 from 30 in 2008, some serious soul searching occurred. Owen ultimately reduced enrollment, beefed-up scholarship aid and went about significantly improving the quality of its students.