Sep 11, 2011

UCLA Anderson's New Curriculum

UCLA's Anderson School of Management today unveiled a new curriculum design for its full-time MBA program in an effort to better prepare students for the needs of employers.

The new curriculum, effective September, is based on four components: leadership and communication skills, career goals, specialization tracks, and a 20-week real-world learning project. The curriculum's structure is designed to better prepare students for entry into the workforce by allowing them to tailor the sequence of required courses. It offers students the ability to specialize in one of four optional career tracks -- marketing, consulting, finance or custom -- that allow students to pick electives to gain skill sets for the track they've chosen. The curriculum is bookended by specialized leadership courses at the start of the first year and a research project with a major company in the student's career track during the last six months of the MBA program.

"At the moment there is much more hit-or-miss around how students are prepared," said Judy Olian, dean of the school, in a telephone interview. "We address students' needs to be prepared early on in the curriculum for their career track."

The new career-oriented curriculum, the business school's first since 2004, is the result of conversations with the school's recruiters and the findings of reports commissioned from Deloitte Consulting Services. Anderson's top recruiters include Walt Disney, Cisco Systems, IBM, and Google, according to data supplied by the school to Bloomberg Businessweek.

"General feedback is that MBA programs can do more to specifically align the curriculum and the developmental experiences that our students have to the needs of MBA careers," Olian said. "We need people who, from day one, can add value, who are prepared."

Anderson's curriculum change is the latest in a new effort by business schools to restructure their teaching models for a world in need of innovative business leaders. Harvard Business School said in January it would make substantive changes to its curriculum by adding a required first-year course for leadership development and creating four half-terms to allow for more flexibility in the second-year elective classes.

- by Bloomberg BW

Cheating at Duke Fuqua?

When Duke Professor Dan Ariely suspected some of his students were cheating, he did what any behavioral economist would do: He let his students run an experiment. The results of the experiment show many students are still tempted to cheat, but a reminder of a strong, direct honor code could be a deterrent, to a point. Ariely's experiment is also interesting because it took place at a university that has already had a cheating scandal and takes cheating seriously.

Ariely, a professor at Duke's Fuqua School of Business, where disciplinary action was taken against 34 MBA students after cheating was discovered on a take-home final in 2007, teaches a class on behavioral economics to undergrads at Duke's Trinity College of Arts & Sciences. Last semester, he came to believe that some of the 500 students in that class were glancing at other students' papers during weekly quizzes based on the similarity of their answers, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Blog.

Those suspicions led Ariely to discuss his own research on dishonesty and cheating with his class. After the discussion, two of his students decided to conduct the assigned research project on the class, using their own classmates as unwitting research subjects in a provocative experiment, he wrote on his blog.

The two students sent the class an email from a fictitious student and included a link to a website said to contain the answers to last year's final exam. Half of the emails also included a postscript: "P.S. I don't know if this is cheating or not, but here's a section of the University's Honor Code that might be pertinent. Use your own judgment: 'Obtaining documents that grant an unfair advantage to an individual is not allowed.'"

The link, which contained no answers, allowed the researchers to track who clicked on it using Google Analytics.

- by Bloomberg BW

Deciphering MBA Application for Younger Applicants

- by Clear Admit

As many of our readers know, it has become increasingly common for younger individuals to apply to MBA programs. Whereas the average age and years of work experience at the leading business schools have traditionally hovered at around 28 and five respectively, many programs are now carefully considering the more youthful end of the applicant pool. Of course, the fact that admissions officers are taking a closer look at younger applicants does not mean that getting accepted to a top program is easy for this group. In fact, it may be difficult for younger applicants to present themselves as fully prepared to contribute to an MBA program because they often lack leadership experience and extended business exposure. This is especially true as they will be compared to their fellow applicants who have more years in the working world (often translating to more leadership experience and professional accomplishments). With this in mind, we’d like to offer a few tips that will help younger MBA candidates leverage the strengths of their candidacies and become increasingly competitive applicants at their choice schools.

Note: For the purposes of this article, we’ll define “younger applicants” as ranging from zero to two years of experience (e.g undergraduate seniors and folks who are one to two years removed from their college graduation).

1) Have an exceptional academic profile. Ideally all MBA candidates will be able to present stellar GPA and GMAT scores, but for younger candidates this is especially crucial. If younger candidates are likely to fall short in the “work experience” category, then their academic profiles are all the more important to show that they are prepared for the rigors of an MBA classroom. Therefore it’s better if your scores (GMAT and GPA) are above than the published averages for schools’ incoming classes. In addition, it will be to your benefit if you have received undergraduate scholarships and awards or graduated at the top of your class, as this indicates that you excelled relative to your peers.

2) Demonstrate your leadership experience and potential. Younger applicants may have only limited full-time professional experience. Without much time in the working world, there is often less opportunity to move up and gain the responsibilities that lead to management and leadership experiences. Despite this fact, one way to demonstrate your responsibility and management experience is through your participation in and leadership of extracurricular and undergraduate activities. In short, as a younger applicant, it is important for you to use whatever experiences you have had thus far (internships, collegiate activities, part-time work, community service, etc.) to demonstrate your leadership and responsibility, displaying your experience as well as your potential for personal growth and ability to benefit your target MBA programs.

3) Have clear goals. Presenting a clear vision for the future is always a good strategy, as the majority of MBA programs are hesitant to accept students who they feel will get lost in the program’s available choices once they arrive. For younger applicants this is even more crucial, as your relative lack of professional work experience could cause some concern about your ability to pinpoint your short- and long-term goals. It is therefore important that you provide details about your planned career path, as well as demonstrate confidence that you will stick to this plan. Applicants who have more years in the working world can draw on their experiences as proof that they understand their interests and work habits; as a younger applicant, you must demonstrate that you are able to do the same despite your relative inexperience.

4) Be able to explain why you are seeking an MBA now as opposed to later. It’s necessary for younger applicants to describe how the timing of their applications relates to their academic or work experiences to date as well as their future goals. Your challenge will be to convince your target MBA programs that you are able to make a valuable contribution to their schools without further work experience. In order to do this, you will need to demonstrate that continuing at your current job is not conducive to your future goals at this juncture. You might also suggest that there is some degree of urgency related to the pursuit of yours goals, due to applicable circumstances such as a closing market opportunity, taking advantage of an industry trend, or making a transition in your career. Having clear goals and a detailed career plan will help you explain why you must pursue a formal business education now in order to achieve your objectives.

5) Demonstrate your maturity. It’s important that younger applicants don’t let the adcom mistake their youth for immaturity. One of the ways you can demonstrate your maturity is by showcasing your ability to analyze your actions, accept blame, and grow and learn from mistakes and failures, as these are trademarks of a reflective and mature individual. An easy opportunity to do this is in essays that ask you to detail a failure, mistake, or setback. In these essays, it is crucial that you do not appear petty, arrogant, or unable to accept or grow from criticism, as this would only further emphasize your youth. Another way you can demonstrate your maturity is by focusing on your more recent work experiences and accomplishments. Some of these might be from college, as you may not have had time to prove yourself in the working world, however, it’s generally best to try and use the most recent experiences possible, as these will provide a clearer picture of who you are today. You may be tempted to use high school or grade school experiences as examples of leadership, challenges, and accomplishments, but because pre-undergraduate activities will make you appear younger than you are, they should ideally not be discussed in depth.

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Forbe's Top MBA Schools

The Forbes ranking, which focuses on the return on investment graduates achieve from attending business school, found that graduates in Harvard’s Class of 2006 saw their median salaries rise from $79,000 pre-MBA to $230,000 in 2010, the highest jump among U.S. schools.   To assess ROI, the other important ranking criteria, the Forbes ranking also pays close attention to what it costs to attend the top business school programs.
  1. Harvard Business School
  2. Stanford Graduate School of Business
  3. University of Chicago Booth School of Business
  4. The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania
  5. Columbia Business School
  6. Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University
  7. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management
  8. Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University
  9. Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia
  10. MIT Sloan School of Management
 For the full Forbes 2011 U.S. Business Schools Ranking, click here.

An Engineer to MBA Story

Successful entrepreneurs fascinated me since my high school and I always aspired to become one myself. My choice of pursuing Mechanical Engineering in college was not a strategic decision (The fact that I was good at Mathematics and Physics and that most Indians pursue engineering in college probably played into my decision). While in college I wanted to do MBA since I believed MBA would help me build requisite skills and relevant network that would be of great use when I am ready to launch myself as an entrepreneur. The question for me was always when do I pursue my MBA. After talking to many people, I was convinced to leave for a business school after working for a few years in order to get maximum leverage out of the program (For any one who is confused, I strongly recommend working at least a couple of years before pursuing MBA).

While I was recruiting in my fourth year at IIT Bombay, I was looking for opportunities that were not heavy on technical side but would help me develop managerial skills. ITC Ltd fit very well with my objectives where I ended up working for 4 years in a rotational development program. I worked in projects, maintenance, quality and production. At ITC, I appreciated the complexity in running organizations successfully – leaders, managers, culture and systems play significant roles in determining the success of an organization. Working in factories was a very enriching experience – not only was there a lot of action, but also huge interaction between departments and people. That helped me understand people’s behaviors, team dynamics, project management, employee communication and made me a better manager. I also cherish my interactions with unions at ITC. Dealing with unions not only improved my patience but also my negotiation skills making me more mature as a manager.

After my four years at ITC in different roles, slope of my learning curve started to decrease and I reached my ZOTRA (refer “Should Engineers get an MBA? If yes, when?”). As per my original plan, I applied to B-Schools and was fortunate to make it to HBS. After my first year at HBS, I see huge change in my thought process when I look at organizations and business models. This wouldn’t have been possible without the greatly designed course structure at HBS, brilliant faculty and interactions with diverse people.

The MBA journey: An engineer's MBA (What I learnt in my first year at HBS!)

As I mentioned in my first blog “My Engineer-To-MBA Story”, my motivation for pursuing MBA was to prepare myself to be an entrepreneur. Although I say this, I didn’t exactly know how an MBA would prepare me. One reason for an MBA that most engineers (including me) quote in their applications is they want to learn marketing and finance. Although this is true and very relevant to those pursuing those career paths, there are many other things that help increase understanding of businesses. When I was heading to HBS, a close friend told me “MBA will transform you”. I nodded my head wondering what it meant. Looking back now, I feel my thought process did change. In this blog, I have attempted at capturing the contributing factors below.

The first contributing factor is the classroom experience. I am referring to more than just learning a few frameworks in marketing and finance. In one year, we discussed around 350 cases among 90 students from 26 different countries. The case discussions not only gave me an opportunity to debate marketing/finance concepts but also an opportunity to look at various business models. The fact that I was part of the engaging discussion among people from different backgrounds (ranging from consultants to bankers to those who worked in industry) made it much more enriching. Before HBS, as an engineer I would/could think of a good business only in terms of a great idea and a good execution. Now I think of business in a more holistic way ranging from target market, customer segmentation, business model, strategy, operations, capital structure, human resources in addition to just idea and execution.

The second contributing factor is the peer group at HBS. Like I mentioned, the diversity is both in terms of geographic footprint and also backgrounds. Because of this diverse set of people with rich experiences, I was constantly learning beyond case discussions. For example often I would get into a serious discussion with another classmate about his country after the BGIE (Business Government and International Economy) class. In other situations, I would get into a serious discussion with a classmate who worked with Google to understand how different tech companies are from manufacturing companies. Beyond these, I constantly heard people discussing about startups, markets, economies, and government policies. Before HBS, most of these things didn’t make great sense to me. But now as I understand these things, I feel that I understand the world better than I used to.

The third contributing factor for me is the confidence I gained in myself after completing one year at HBS. This is not mutually exclusive from the first and second factors I talked above. The cases we discussed often forced me to think as a protagonist and form a point of view. Over time, as I formed opinion and debated with my classmates, my thought process got refined and I started developing business intuition. The transformation has indeed boosted my confidence. As I learnt more and more from my classmates who worked in different fields, I felt more comfortable about different industries and this sense of knowledge also contributed to an increase in my confidence.

I feel great about what I learnt in my first year and am looking forward to an equally enriching second year starting this week.

- Pavan Sirpa (Harvard MBA, Class of 2012)