Remembering a Global Guru

London B-School mourns Sumantra Ghoshal, a giant in strategic studies. Plus: News from ASU, Harvard, Las Vegas (yep, that's right), and more

London Business School is mourning the loss of Sumantra Ghoshal, a professor of strategic and international management. Ghoshal died on Mar. 3 at the age of 55. He had suffered a stroke just a week and a half earlier.

Ghoshal joined London Business School in 1994 after working at INSEAD. His research focused on strategic, organizational, and management issues facing global companies, and the impact that organizations can have on society. His findings resulted in a dozen books, 70 articles, and numerous case studies. His latest book, Transnational Management, which he co-authored, was published in September. His next co-authored book, How Effective Managers Harness Their Willpower, Achieve Results, and Stop Wasting Time, is due for release in May.

Even though Ghoshal wasn't London Business School's strategy department chair, dean Laura D'Andrea Tyson says that he was the "intellectual and spiritual leader" of that group. Not only did he teach classes but he also shared his international network of experts in strategy with his colleagues, Tyson says. At the time of his death, she adds, he was hard at work analyzing "issues of management education and the narrow conception of human nature on which management education is based."

A LEADER'S BURDEN.

  Outside of his work at London Business School, Ghoshal was the founding dean of the Indian School of Business, a fellow at the Advanced Institute of Management Research in London, and chairman of the supervisory board of Duncan Goenka, which operates 20 companies that sell tea, fertilizer, and other products in India. Ghoshal also was a member of the board of overseers at Harvard Business School.

The last time BusinessWeek Online talked with Ghoshal, he spoke on the topic of leadership, saying, "there's a huge personal cost that's borne by leaders and can only be borne when there's a clarity of the person's own visions and values." Ultimately, any leader is on his own, he added. "The very last step after a 10,000 meter run has to be taken alone."

ASU Recruits Wharton's Mittelstaedt as Dean

Arizona State University's has a new dean. Robert Mittelstaedt Jr., vice-dean and director of the Aresty Institute of Executive Education at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, will take the reins at ASU's B-school in June. The Carey School has lacked a permanent dean since June, 2003, when Larry Penley left to become president and chancellor of Colorado State University.

Mittelstaedt says he wants to push Carey to new heights. "It's clearly not a top-tier school now, but it's a decent school with 180 faculty and has some areas of competence, especially in marketing, operations, and finance," he says. Plus, Arizona State's new President Michael Crow has set "an aggressive agenda for the university," Mittelstaedt adds.

Carey lacks the reputational sway that No. 5 Wharton wields, but it isn't lacking in money. In 2003, it was handed $50 million from Polk Carey, the chairman of investment firm W. P. Carey & Co., on behalf of the W.P. Carey Foundation. ASU recently raised $560 million in its 2001 campaign and is gearing up for another fund-raising round in the next few years. Mittelstaedt's knack for finding cash -- he was associate dean for external affairs at Wharton during the first three years of a campaign that ultimately raised $425 million for the school -- certainly added to his appeal.

Harvard Widens Its Summer Program's Reach

For the first time in 20 years, a Harvard Business School summer program that originally focused on enticing African-American, Native American, and Hispanic students into Corporate America will invite rising college seniors from other underrepresented backgrounds to apply.

The change to the 2004 Summer Venture in Management Program (SVMP) comes as more schools revist a 40-year-old ruling: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids any recipient of federal money from discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin. While it can be argued that Title VI originally set out to encourage organizations to include groups that had been deterred from participating in many aspects of higher education -- mainly African Americans -- Harvard's shift follows repeated criticism from Virginia's Center for Equal Opportunity and California's American Civil Rights Institute, groups that oppose racial and ethnic preferences.

The Center for Equal Opportunity and the American Civil Rights Institute have sent letters to about 100 universities and schools, including a number of unnamed business schools, pointing out specific programs that they allege are in violation of Title VI. The letters aren't meant to end the programs, says Roger Clegg, general counsel at the Center for Equal Opportunity, but to "open them up" to more students.

DELAYED CHANGES.

  If schools don't change their program guidelines, the organizations file complaints with the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Education Dept. So far, Clegg says they've filed five complaints. All except one was withdrawn after the schools made late adjustments to the programs in question.

"The point we make is that there are students of all races and ethnicities who might have suffered from a lack of opportunities," says Clegg. "Just because a student is white, Asian, or Arab American doesn't mean that they must be millionaires and grew up in a mansion."

Harvard says it has been considering changing the program's guidelines for a while and that letters sent by the two organizations weren't the only factors in its decision. The groups' first note on March 12, 2003, addressed to Robert Iuliano, now Harvard's vice-president and general counsel, arrived after the school began recruiting candidates to its 2003 summer program. Harvard responded on Apr. 4, saying it was too late to change that year's program but that it would review the program as the 2004 course was planned. In August, Harvard confirmed that it would revise SVMP for 2004.

BROADER POOL.

  Faculty say the intent of the expanded program is the same as before. "It's about educational opportunity, educational diversity, and our attempt to attract the best students," says Benjamin Esty, professor of finance at Harvard and head of the program. When he and his colleagues select 85 new students (from more than 500 applicants) this spring for the week-long program, he says they'll simply be giving the nod to more people from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds or geographic areas that aren't normally represented in Harvard's MBA classrooms.

According to the school's newly revised SVMP Web site, suitable applicants might be "from a family with little business education or experience; the first family member to attend college; from a school whose graduates do not typically attend a top-tier, urban university; and/or a member of a group that is currently underrepresented in business schools and Corporate America (e.g., African American, Latino, or Native American)."

Harvard knows that the new program won't fix the racial and socioeconomic imbalances that linger in Corporate America. "There are a lot of areas where Corporate America, our school, and others have a ways to go," says Esty, who adds. "It may not be perfect, but it's the right step."

Still, many B-schools struggle to attract more than about 10% of their classes from underrepresented minority groups. So if they want to increase that figure, they'll need to find new ways of doing so.

Chicago Drafts a Northwestern Math Whiz

The University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business has recruited an academic dean from rival Northwestern University. John Birge, currently dean of Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering & Applied Science, will become a professor of operations management in July.

At first glance, the acquisition appears to help Chicago get beyond its historical -- and Chicago often claims, outdated -- reputation of being a school for quant jocks. (It has 13 academic departments.) But Birge's expertise -- operational and financial modeling, and mathematical modeling of systems with uncertainty -- shows that he would be a good match for Chicago, too. Birge will join three professors, three assistant professors, and one associate professor in the school's operations management department, which Birge says is coming into its own.

To help the department gain visibility in the near future, Birge says he hopes to open a research center in operations and risk management within his first year at the new post. As for funding for such an effort, "there's somebody who's putting in a little bit at the beginning," he says.

HEDGING STRATEGIES.

  Why didn't Birge take his operations knowhow to Northwestern's Kellogg Graduate School of Management? "Chicago is a better match," he says. "They're a little more quantitative in their approach."

Birge will teach three MBA classes, plus do his own research. His MBA lectures will focus on his specialty, to help students "understand the flexibility you have in operations and take advantage of current market conditions as a way to manage risk," he says. To hedge against currency fluctuations, that might mean shifting operations from one region to the next, rather than buying currency futures, he explains.

Michigan's Great Ideas Pay Off

Michigan Business School's Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies' Dare to Dream competition awarded its latest $35,000 in prizes to three student groups. The prizes, which are offered to Michigan students twice a year, don't require contestants to sweat over business plans -- just to have good ideas.

In the latest competition, students who dreamed up Arcanum Medical Systems received $20,000 for their idea. They plan to develop a patented mechanism to test blood-sugar levels without requiring a finger prick. Along with the money, winners will benefit from free advice from faculty, an entrepreneurship course at the business school, and free office space.

Not just any concept will fly. "We stay away from small ideas in small markets that don't change the world," says Tom Kinnear, professor of entrepreneurial studies and head of the Zell Lurie Institute. Winners must have business ideas that appear viable. They must have proved that they intend to develop the idea into a company and promise to make Southeast Michigan their headquarters (the contest is partially funded by the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan).

BRAGGING RIGHTS.

  The contest has already produced some success stories. Of the 19 winning ideas since it began, 18 are now bona-fide companies, each employing from 3 to 10 people. For example, second-year Michigan MBA Christopher Ongena, 30, is already expanding his business with the $18,000 he won in the fall Dare to Dream competition. Through his company, Asite Apartments, he buys and converts mismanaged apartments into hip rental units for young professionals in up-and-coming areas around Detroit. He now manages 10 apartments -- boasting no vacancies -- and says he plans to acquire an additional 15 to 25 units in the next seven months.

Ongena has spent his winnings improving his company's legal structure and building a sales and marketing Web site. Getting a grant from the Institute also gives students something to brag about to investors. "It lent a lot of credibility to my idea," he says. "And [the value of] having credibility around what you're doing is unquantifiable."

MBAs Rise to the Poker Challenge

About 85 MBAs ditched their finance textbooks and weekend assignments to play in the first MBA Poker Tournament at the Sunset Station casino hotel in Las Vegas on Jan. 23. Teams from about 20 B-schools competed in two tournaments -- a Texas Hold 'Em no-limit game and a table limit game -- to see who could get the most team members to the final tables. Chicago Graduate School of Business team beat rivals from Wharton School and Stanford Graduate School of Business, among others, and chose to donate its $1,100 in winnings -- or 10% of entry fees -- to the Alzheimer's Assn.

The rest of the pot went to the top three individual players, with the biggest prize of about $2,400 going to Tim Moriarity, a Chicago Business School evening MBA student. Moriarty, 28, spent some of the cash that night on a steak, and the rest went toward paying for financial-accounting course materials, plus a few shares in the stock market, he says.

The poker event was the brainchild of S. Bradford Jones, 32, a first-year MBA at Chicago Graduate School of Business. "I naively posted a message [on BusinessWeek Online's B-School Forums] suggesting that some students get together in Vegas one weekend to play poker," he says. "I received 25 responses in the next 48 hours from various students."

POKER AND BUSINESS.

  Turns out, MBAs are well-suited for the card game. "A lot of the characteristics of an MBA candidate are consistent with playing poker," says Harry Chernoff, clinical associate professor of operations management at New York University's Stern School of Business. "Business students have a desire and interest to make money in a competitive environment." The same might be said of B-school profs: Chernoff played at the final table in the competition, taking third place and $960 in winnings.

If the degree won't guarantee you a job, getting an MBA can at least improve your poker game, Chernoff adds. Schools teach MBAs to identify situational factors, understand and apply underlying conceptual models, analyze alternative decisions, and make a decision under time constraints to optimize your return, he says. "Sure sounds like a poker game to me," he adds.

The MBA poker tournament, which appears to be the first school-to-school match, joins a long list of other MBA tournaments. Such events range from the Winter Carnivals at Dartmouth, where the main sport is skiing, to the MBA Olympics in France every May at the HEC School of Management.

"EASY EXCUSE."

  Next year, Jones plans to attract 200 MBAs to Sin City for the tournament, and he hopes some MBA recruiters will participate as well. "A lot of industries rely on the skills used in poker: risk and reward, as well as reading your opponent to know when they're on tilt or acting on emotion," he says.

Will MBA recruiters find Vegas a good place to spot talent? Perhaps. But it won't take that to entice Moriarty back for another shot at the jackpot: "Vegas is a great town," he says, "so the poker tourney is an easy excuse to take a trip."

Do you have B-school news, events, or other tidbits to report? Send an e-mail with the subject line, "Gossip" to Mica Schneider

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE