December 21, 2011
The application process for the full-time M.B.A. program at the UCLA Anderson School of Management has gone completely paperless. Starting this admissions season, applications are being evaluated solely on iPads, eliminating the need for any printed forms, essays, recommendations, transcripts or other documents.
Using a new mobile application provided by Matchbox, a Boston-based software company, the school has streamlined the review and analysis process, allowing admissions evaluators focus on finding the most distinctive candidates to admit, said Rob Weiler, a UCLA Anderson assistant dean and director of admissions and financial aid.
With an iPad stylus, an evaluator can highlight evidence and score each M.B.A. application across several metrics, including academics, focus, leadership, interpersonal skills and employability, said Craig Hubbell, UCLA Anderson’s associate director of M.B.A. admissions.
“Both speed and depth of analysis are enhanced with the Matchbox solution, in a process that is healthier for applicants, admissions officers and trees too,” Hubbell said.
“Matchbox provides a new flexibility for us to read applications in any location,” added Weiler. “Whether in the office, on a plane or in an admissions committee meeting, we can instantly view files to compare and contrast the key points of the candidates under consideration.”
Going paperless is especially timely, given the large increase in applications that the full-time M.B.A. program has received so far this year. Prospective M.B.A. students have responded enthusiastically to new innovations in the core curriculum and UCLA Anderson’s refocused outreach, driving applications up by more than 20 percent.
“The ability to readily target candidates who fit with our community will have a profound effect in the classroom and beyond,” Weiler said. “We look forward to seeing the fruits of our efforts in the stellar M.B.A. class of 2014.”
YOUNG mums shopping in the Copley Mall in downtown Boston last month found themselves being questioned about their use of soap by students from Harvard Business School. The students were not doing odd jobs to earn beer money. They were preparing to help a firm in Brazil launch an antibacterial cleanser.
Fieldwork—ie, going out and talking to people—is a big change for HBS. Its students used to sit in a classroom and discuss case studies written by professors. Now they may also work in a developing country and launch a start-up. “Learning by doing” will become the norm, if a radical overhaul of the MBA curriculum succeeds.
The 900 students arriving in Boston this summer for their two-year course were told they would be guinea pigs. The new practical addition to HBS’s curriculum is known as “FIELD” (Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development). Not all the staff and students are overjoyed to be experimented on. But the man responsible, Nitin Nohria, who became dean of HBS in July 2010, says that “if it works, the FIELD method could become an equal partner to the case method.”
Long before he became dean, Mr Nohria lamented the failure of business schools to fulfil their mission of turning management into a profession similar to law or medicine. Asked what should be expected from someone with an MBA, he replies that “obviously, they should master a body of knowledge. But we should also expect them to apply that knowledge with some measure of judgment.” MBA students have long been sent on summer internships with prospective employers, but HBS, like most business schools, did little else to help them with the practical application of management studies.
What happens in the second year of the new course is still being worked out. But the first year has three elements. First, team-building exercises. Students take turns to lead a group engaged in a project such as designing an “eco-friendly sculpture”. They learn to collaborate and to give and take feedback. These exercises are loosely based on ones used in the US army.
Second, students will be sent to work for a week with one of more than 140 firms in 11 countries. Already the new intake have had conference calls with these companies, ranging from the Brazilian soapmaker to a Chinese property firm, and gone off-campus to conduct product-development “dashes” like the one in Copley Mall. This sort of structured learning-by-doing is a world away from HBS’s traditional encouragement of students to “go on an adventure” outside of classes.
In the third novel part of the course, students will be given eight weeks, and seed money of $3,000 each, to launch a small company. The most successful, as voted by their fellow students, will get more funding. It remains to be seen if this amounts to much more than a souped-up business-plan competition, though Mr Nohria says he hopes some real businesses will be created. (If only HBS had thought of this when Bill Gates was thinking of starting Microsoft, or Mark Zuckerberg was creating Facebook—perhaps the school would have received shares in those firms.)
It is unclear how much the one-week working assignments will achieve. Pankaj Ghemawat, a management guru, says “the literature suggests that an immersion experience needs to be at least 2-3 weeks and be backed up with time in the classroom.” The HBS students’ classroom preparation will have to be pretty thorough, then, to make up for the brevity of their field trips. Moreover, some of the HBS alumni who have agreed to offer work experience at their firms say they are unsure what meaningful work they can offer the students.
Privately, some faculty members are sceptical that all this change will be worthwhile. In January, the vote in favour of trying the field method was “as enthusiastic as you could get from a faculty,” says Mr Nohria, wryly. He wisely ensured that ownership of the idea was widely spread by delegating design of the new curriculum to several faculty committees. The vote gave the go-ahead to run a “delicate experiment for 3-5 years to see if we can move the needle”, he says, compared with the 13 years it took to develop the case method into more or less what it is today.
The experiment does not come cheap, adding 10-15% to the course’s cost (students pay at least $84,000 a year), which HBS will bear while it figures out what works. A lot is at stake. For where Harvard leads, other universities may follow.
Maryellen Lamb, our new head of MBA Career Management, recently spoke with The Wharton Journal about the current state of recruiting.
Q: The student body has become more professionally diverse in the recent years. Is this making your job more difficult, to satisfy students’ recruiting needs?
I wouldn’t say it has made my job more difficult, it’s made it more interesting. Ten years ago, about 70% of the class got their jobs from companies with a mature recruiting process (consulting and banking). Now, it’s only about 50%, and the other half – students looking to conduct an enterprise search—is looking at PE, hedge funds, tech, energy, social impact, so in turn we’ve turned our focus to those areas while still maintaining our relationship with mature companies. We’ve dramatically increased our outreach to enterprise companies and we work closely with them on how to best market their roles to students. We also work with students to assist them with how to go about positioning themselves in the best light for these opportunities.
Last summer, we had 6 staffers in San Francisco for about 10 days attending Global Alumni Forum and visiting companies. We were able to meet with more than 40 companies from tech, startups, media, energy, VC, and CPG. It was an amazing trip and we were able to establish and/or deepen relationships, get a better sense of hiring needs and market trends, and most importantly, get a sense of recruiting practices and company cultures that we are able to share with students.
Q: How will you go about meeting the needs of some of Wharton’s non-traditional students?
I’m not a huge fan of the word “non-traditional” – the diversity of backgrounds is what makes Wharton great – our goal is to support all students in achieving their career goals. We are continually increasing our efforts via advising, career education and company outreach. For example, we’ve seen a significant increase in student interest in Entrepreneurship and our Entrepreneurship team has done a stellar job in the past year connecting with startup companies interested in Wharton talent, travelling to various conferences and events to further establish the Wharton brand. As a result, we have doubled the amount of startup opportunities available.
We understand that students come to Wharton with different professional toolkits, so we offer a range of programs at all skill levels for both mature and enterprise recruiting processes. For example, at the end of this month, we are offering a program called Crack the Case, which will help students prepare for case interviews regardless of their target industry. This training comes as we’ve seen more and more employers use the case method for interviewing.
Q: It appears that banks are pulling back on their hiring this year. How will MBACM react to this?
In 2008-9 when the banking world was falling apart, we were in the fortunate position of being a core school for nearly every bulge bracket bank. While they cut back on recruiting, they were still keen to hire Wharton talent, and we’re hearing the same thing this year. One way we’ve been able to minimize some of the fallout from tight hiring markets is to grow our relationships with more of the boutique banks. We also have a great alumni network to lean on when times are tough. We encourage students who are interested in corporate finance to think beyond banks and look at some of the great finance opportunities within industry.
Q: What advice would you give to students whose job search will extend beyond graduation due to factors such as recruiting channels used by their preferred industries or hiring needs of the organizations they would like to work with?
Everyone came to Wharton with work experience, a certain risk tolerance, and aspirations. When talking to people who are looking at enterprise searches that might take them into the spring or beyond graduation, I first try to assess their risk tolerance – if they don’t have the financial wherewithal to be unemployed past graduation or have serious family pressure around graduating with a job, I’ll encourage them to consider a different sort of search to help ease that pressure. If they’re aware of the risks and are passionate about doing something that might take until May/June or beyond, I talk to them about staying positive, not losing their passion, and about how every meeting and every conversation will help to grow their knowledge of the industry and develop their own personal network – and that’s incredibly valuable!
By Catherine Groux, US NewsAs technology - such as online education, e-books and social media - becomes an increasingly important part of higher education, it is also becoming a crucial aspect of the admissions process at business schools across the country.
Today, students who wish to pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree may find that their potential schools are supplementing standard admissions essays by using more technologically savvy methods of evaluating applicants.For example, since 2007, individuals who have applied to the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business have had to make a PowerPoint presentation as a supplement to their application, Bloomberg BusinessWeek recently reported. In doing so, the institution became one of the first to add technological tools to their application process. Kurt Ahlm, associate dean of student recruitment and admissions, said in an email that the PowerPoint presentations help the school get to know its applicants on a deeper level.
“Traditional essays were too familiar, and applicants had access to hundreds of essay-writing books, websites and consultants,” Ahlm told BusinessWeek. “We wanted to get at something that was more authentic, get an answer that was thoughtful, strategic and added some depth. Our culture embraces the challenge of making sense out of the unfamiliar, and we wanted to introduce an exercise that would capture that.”
Similarly, individuals who apply to New York University’s Stern School of Business are required to submit one of their application essays on a USB drive, CD or DVD. This format encourages students to showcase their creativity, as they are allowed to submit anything from short movies to musical narrations, BusinessWeek states.
Isser Gallogly, assistant dean of MBA admissions at the business school, said the unique application format allows faculty to see how prospective students will fit into the institution’s culture. Additionally, the subject gives applicants a creative, yet personal, topic to discuss during their in-person interviews.
In September, Columbia Business School also announced that it would introduce a unique element to its application process. The Wall Street Journal reports that students who applied to the school had to discuss their professional goals in 200 characters or less, creating an almost Twitter-size statement. Admissions officers from the business school said the short essays prompt students to display more honesty and authenticity.