Monthly Archives: February 2011

Alison Davis-Blake to Take Over as Dean at Ross

Recently the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business announced Alison Davis-Blake will become the first ever female dean of the school, effective August 22. The announcement marked the end of a ten-month-long search to find a replacement for Robert J. Dolan, who will step down on June 30 after serving as dean for the past decade.

For the past five years she has served as the dean of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, where she became the highest-ranking woman at any U.S. business school at the time of her appointment. There she made a name for herself by significantly improving the school’s fundraising efforts and improving the school’s overall national standing.

Ross professor Jerry Davis, who led Ross’s Dean Search Advisory Committee, said in an announcement released by the school:

“She impressed the committee with her grasp of the broad competitive landscape of business education, its future trends, and the factors that distinguish Ross from the other top schools,” he says. “She has had great success working with faculty, staff, students, alumni, and donors at Carlson, and the school’s reputation has risen accordingly. She also has great experience with globalizing the educational experience of students at Carlson, managing alliances with schools in Europe and Asia, and implementing a required overseas experience for undergraduates.”

Just as was the case with Sally Blount’s appointment at Kellogg last year, many news outlets led with the fact that Davis-Blake will be Ross’s first-ever female leader, but her track record stands on its own regardless of gender. She has moved up through the ranks relatively quickly, starting out as an assistant professor of industrial administration at Carnegie Mellon before moving to the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas in 1990. There she moved up from an instructor to eventually serve as the school’s senior associate dean for academic affairs before leaving for Carlson in 2006.

While Dolan will be a tough act to follow — his legacy includes garnering a $100 million naming gift from Michigan alumnus Stephen M. Ross — Ross believes it has found a worthy successor in Davis-Blake.

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Haas Adds Executive Education for Alumni

Just weeks after Wharton announced that it would offer ongoing executive education to its alumni, UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business announced last month that its new alumni will be eligible to attend any open-enrollment offering at Haas’s executive education center, within five years of graduation. This offer applies to all Haas graduates from the Class of 2011 and later.

Recently Wharton made waves when it announced that all of its alumni will be able to attend “enrichment classes” every seven years, free of charge. We loved when that news hit in December, and we’ve been hoping that other top MBA programs would follow. It looks like Haas was the first one to make a move.

But, like most things in life, there are a few catches: Haas only will offer two free days of free executive education, it must be used within five years of graduation, and if you graduated from Haas before 2011, then you’re out of luck. We’re sure that at least some Haas administrators have been wringing their hands over a possible influx of recent alumni in the school’s executive education classes, but this strikes us as a somewhat timid toe in the water. Perhaps the school wants to see what the response rate is among alumni before possibly expanding the program.

While we would have like to have seen Haas go as far as Wharton (or even further!) in its commitment to the “Students Always” model, we certainly think that this announcement is better than no move at all. We can’t wait to see which business school is next to more fully embrace the concept of lifelong learning in graduate management education.

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2011 Financial Times Business School Rankings

The Financial Times recently released its new global MBA rankings for 2011. London Business School hangs on to the top spot, but Wharton has moved back into a tie for #1 after falling to #2 behind LBS last year.

Here are the Financial Times’ top ten global MBA programs for 2011:

1. London Business School
1. Wharton
3. Harvard Business School
4. Stanford GSB
6. Hong Kong UST Business School
7. Columbia Business School
8. IE Business School
9. Sloan School of Management (MIT)
9. IESE Business School

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What Business School Rejection Letters Are Really Telling You

Getting rejected is hard. Getting rejected by a top-ranked MBA program is really hard. What makes it even more painful is that few business schools give rejected applicants specific feedback on why they didn’t get in. Applicants just want to know what they “did wrong” to not get in, but, even when schools do provide feedback, the applicants normally end up confused and still guessing about what to do next.

Why won’t they spill the beans? Are admissions officers trying to obfuscate the process, keeping you in the dark so that you can’t “game” the system? Are they just cold hearted, not caring about you, especially once they’ve decided they don’t want you? No and no. The truth is that, when someone gets rejected, it’s often because the school just couldn’t find any great reason to admit them over thousands of other applicants.

Rejection letters often contain lots of references to “an unusually strong year” and the fact that “the admissions office reviewed more great applications than it has spots to offer.” While this may sound like a lot of hot air that they blow to make you feel better, therein lies the real reason why many applicants get rejected. Think about it: Next year’s incoming class at Stanford GSB will be a bit smaller than 400 students. Out of the 7,000+ applications the school receives, do you really think that only a few hundred are strong enough to be admitted? Of course not. The number is probably in the thousands. Separating out the approximately 2,000 great applicants (that’s a rough guess) from the rest is the easy part; it’s deciding which of those 2,000 to admit is where things get hard for the admissions office.

Invariably, they’ll see hundreds of applicants whom they really love, but who just aren’t presenting that one knockout thing that makes admissions officers choose them over the next (very similar) applicant. Two applicants with amazing international banking experience, identical GMAT scores, perfect letters of recommendation, and essays that could make the reader cry… There’s no law that says the school can only take one, but they have to start making hard choices at some point, and soon enough the admissions director will start leaning on his or her team to start reducing the number of bankers in the class, or to only take another consultant if he walks on water, etc.

So, MBA admissions officers start to make tough choices. They’re forced to pass up on some applicants simply because they only have so many spots left, and they can’t justify devoting a spot to those applicants because they just not quite great enough to justify it. Every year thousands of MBA applicants get the “It’s not you, it’s us” letter, and for at least a few hundred of them for a given school, the admissions committee really, really means it.

The way to avoid falling into this bucket (or, more accurately, to minimize your risk of falling into it) is to present something truly outstanding about yourself, something that really stands out and will stick in admissions officers’ minds when they start negotiating and whittling down the class. Make sure your essays help them feel like they’ve gotten to know you as a person. Submit recommendations in which the writers scream from the rooftops, “This kid is a rock star!!” Nail your interviews so that they have no questions about your maturity and your ability to worth with others. Display a knowledge of (and a passion for) the program that leaves no question in the admissions committee’s mind that you will matriculate if accepted. And, perhaps most importantly, don’t force them to overlook any weaknesses in your profile. Make their decision an easy one.

The above steps are obviously more easily said than done, but they really are the best way to avoid falling into the “We really like you, but just can’t quite find room for you” bucket. Do it right, and when the admissions office talks about the “unprecedented number of highly qualified applicants,” you’ll be one of them.

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