Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On Campus: Getting Back to School

Yale SOM's new campus: One year away
In late August, there's always a vibrancy on the campuses at business schools (including the Consortium 17) across the country as they prepare for the fall sessions.  New MBA students arrive on campus--wide-eyed, anxious, and excited about new experiences, new classmates and the challenges of in-depth study of finance, accounting, marketing, policy and recruiting.  Second-year students arrive after the intensity of summer internships (and with full-time offers for the fortunate ones), ready to resume studies in cherished, more interesting electives after the core courses are done. 

Professors and deans get excited, too, as they are buoyed by the interests, eagerness and dreams of students. Always there is electricity during the early days of school in the fall, until students drift into an October grind, when it's time to ward off the pressures of upcoming midterms and recruiting chores.

But for now, it's August, and there are new faces and bundles of energy. New MBA Consortium students at Cornell have already touched down on campus and begun orientation.  Its MBA Class of 2014 comprises 40 Consortium students; 17 have expressed an interest in finance or financial services.

During its first week, all Cornell first-year students were treated to a riveting keynote address from management consultant Frans Johansson, who spoke on "The Intersection."  Johansson told the MBA first-years that business careers, ideas or projects accelerate or take off when they reach a certain "intersection," where "unexpected ideas," diverse people, and "cross-thinking" merge.

He encouraged students to recognize those "intersections," leverage them and take advantage of them--as if to say students should recognize when they are in that right place at that right time or at least should capitalize on the influx of diverse ideas, diverse people and special situations when they are in the right moment.

Last week the New York Times reviewed Yale's efforts to stand out from the business-school pack. Yale's new dean Edward Snyder comes armed with ideas, a plan and a new building. Dean Snyder  left Chicago's Booth School to venture into New Haven, likely enticed by the odd-ball heritage of Yale and its experimental approaches to business-school education.  Since its mid-1970s founding, Yale SOM has always been a business-school maverick or has always been perceived that way, even after it changed its degree from an MPPM (master's in public and private management) to an MBA years ago.

If other top schools are careful and methodical about education overhaul, Yale SOM has traditionally taken risks and tried new approaches.  Most recently, it instituted a novel "integrated curriculum" for first-year students. It wanted to destroy the pillared approach, where finance types keep to themselves and operations and marketing types remain in their own domain.  Hence, all courses attempt to address concepts or issues, for example, in finance, marketing, operations, employees, shareholders, management, social responsibility and global impact. The new approach is apparently working, as it launches its seventh year this fall.

Yale SOM also counts down the days when everybody in the school can move into its brand-new campus (Evans Hall) next year.

NYU-Stern recently announced a new degree--not to replace the MBA, but to recognize the crucial importance of data mining and data management in business.  This fall it introduces the MS in business analytics within the Stern business school.  Some MBAs will contemplate supplementing their degrees with this new one-year program, although Stern didn't announce such a joint-degree program.  The program recognized the mammoth amount of data available to business managers and helps business managers learn how to use it to an advantage. It also helps students and managers use statistics and quantitative analysis to form business strategy, make decisions, and manage revenues, profits, costs and balance sheets.

The new degree will take a four-prong approach to analytics:  (a) mining data, (b) interpreting it, (c) modeling and (d) visualization.

The arrival of fall also brings on a flood of media-related business-school rankings.  The rankings are widely dreaded, often criticized, usually questionable, always controversial, wildly varied, and sometimes puzzling.  But everybody takes a peek at them--from first-year students, applicants, professors, recruiters, and, yes, deans.  With so many lists and rankings, there may no longer be one authoritative list. 

If readers don't take them too seriously, some rankings can be amusing or at least can highlight special strengths of certain schools.  Advanced Trading, a website and publication focused on sophisticated and complex trading (including high-frequency trading and global markets), provided its list (not a ranking) of the top 10 "Quant Schools," the top business schools for quantitative research and trading analytics.  Four Consortium schools made the list: Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, UC-Berkeley, and NYU.  The list was based on a survey of senior Wall Street managers and traders, hedge-fund managers and others.

DiversityComm, Inc. regularly provides lists of companies, organizations and schools that emphasize or promote diversity. This summer, it offers a list of the top MBA schools for African-American students. Its criteria revolved around each school's outreach and accessibility to black applicants, students and graduates. It's no surprise 15 of the 17 Consortium schools made the list (all the Consortium schools, except Emory and Wisconsin).

Tracy Williams

See also:

 CFN:  Composing the Class of 2014
CFN:  Rankings: Take a Peek, but Be Cautious--2009
CFN:  Yet Another Ranking of Business Schools--2010 
CFN:  Gearing up for the Fall, 2009 

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