Back to the Future at Duke

Sheryle Dirks takes the helm again at Fuqua's careers office. Plus: News from Chicago, Georgia State, South Africa, and more

Duke University's Fuqua School of Business has rehired the former head of its Career Management Center on an interim basis. Just as MBAs were making a final dash to find jobs and internships, Sheryle Dirks reappeared to take the reins from Jean Eisel, who left the school suddenly in mid-April.

Few details about Eisel's departure are available, and Fuqua will confirm only that she's no longer with the school. Eisel, who was at Fuqua for a little over a year, says simply that it "wasn't a match." She's currently consulting for other B-schools and says she hopes to retire within five years. Eisel's 30-year placement career includes nine years at Carnegie Mellon University's B-school.

SPLIT SITUATION.

  Dirks returned to Durham, N.C., after a yearlong stint at neighboring North Carolina State University. She'll be splitting her time between the two schools and putting plans in place for the summer and fall recruiting seasons. In September, Dirks will go on maternity leave for three months.

She notes that "things are improved" on the placement front. Job postings are rising, and she says more of Fuqua's 2004 grads have jobs, vs. the class of 2003.

For the momentum to continue, Fuqua will have to quickly sort out things in the careers office. That's because Duke MBAs, who pay upward of $70,000 for their degree, won't be shy about complaining if their job searches aren't successful.

Chicago Shares Campus Recruiting with Part-Timers

The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business has decided to merge on-campus recruiting for full- and part-time students, a move that's left some first-year MBAs and new admits a bit worried about their interview prospects.

Career-services director Julie Morton announced the change in a quarterly e-mail. Along with the good news -- that 15% to 20% more companies had signed up to interview candidates for jobs and internships in the next academic year -- Morton wrote that starting in the fall, eligible part-time students would now apply for MBA jobs alongside the full-time students at the school's main Hyde Park campus.

Initially, full-time MBAs rebuffed the decision. They imagined that Chicago's 1,400 weekend and evening MBAs would be encroaching on their turf. "Clearly, people hadn't understood what was written in that paragraph," says Morton, pointing to e-mails that both she and B-school Dean Ted Snyder received. "Students thought, 'My interview slot is going to be taken by a part-timer,'" says Heather Briggs, a first-year Chicago MBA and president of the graduate business council.

SMALL IMPACT.

  But the school insists that the merger won't seriously affect the 1,100 full-time MBAs. Only an estimated 100 part-time MBAs will meet the new requirements for on-campus recruiting. Weekend and evening MBAs who wish to meet with hiring companies must complete six classes on recruiting with the Career Development Office.

They also need to have completed at least 12 of the courses required for their 20-course degree. If the degree is being partially funded by an employer, they need written permission from their employers to look for work. "Most of the [evening and weekend] students...are advanced in their careers," so they won't be seeking entry-level MBA jobs, notes Mark Zmijewski, deputy dean for the school's part-time programs.

Furthermore, weekend and evening MBAs won't receive all of the recruiting perks enjoyed by full-time MBAs. They can't interview for summer internships, for instance. And while they're free to ask companies to consider their résumé for an invitation-only interview, only full-timers can bid for an interview slot during a company's open interview sessions.

SQUEEZE SESSIONS.

  Recruiters are hoping the merge will make their jobs more efficient. Over the last year, at least a dozen recruiters have complained to the school's Career Development Office (for weekend and evening MBAs) or Career Services Office (for full-time MBAs) about the hardships of interviewing students separately. They're frustrated that the school produces two separate résumé books for the MBAs just because they study on different schedules. They're also tired of shuffling eight miles north from Hyde Park to Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago, where part-timers study.

When they couldn't make the trip, they sometimes had to squeeze part-timers into their Hyde Park interview schedules, making for longer days. Recruiters pointed to more accommodating schedules at rival B-schools, such as the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.

In a May 31 follow-up e-mail, Morton and Snyder told MBAs and new admits that by offering access to more students, they were helping to ensure that recruiters would return year after year. "One of our biggest issues will continue to be sustaining relationships for which there is relatively small demand," they wrote. "Of note, over the last two recruiting cycles for permanent jobs, the median number of hires by corporate [recruiters] was one."

POSITIVE RETURNS.

  Morton notes that "to attract recruiters, we need to be able to listen to their concerns." That doesn't mean that the school will always act on those concerns, she adds, noting that students' needs come first. On Thursday, June 3, the school held a town hall forum to hear full-time MBAs' thoughts on the changes.

Luckily for Morton and Snyder, most of the unrest has calmed down. Briggs, the first-year student, says that with all the details in hand, her classmates now "realize that it won't affect full-time students that much."

For some part-time MBAs, the switch could make finding a job easier. They'll get more training before they meet recruiters. Having just one place to go for for interviews is also an advantage for those who are trying to balance work, life, and school.

Finally, there's the question of financial fairness. Chicago's part-time MBAs pay around $73,000 for their degree, about equal to what full-time students pay. Shouldn't they get the same shot at success?

Status Woes: 10 South African B-Schools Lose Accreditation

Ten business schools in South Africa lost accreditation from the country's Council on Higher Education on May 20, with another dozen being awarded conditional accreditation. South Africa now has just six fully accredited schools offering MBA degrees.

In an effort to crack down on subpar programs, the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC) of the Council ran a two-year study of 37 MBA programs offered at 28 public and private institutions. Judges rated the B-schools on such factors as teaching, learning, and how schools select their students. Schools in the lowest group met the judges' standards on just 15% of the 13 criteria on which they were measured.

The study's aim was to ensure that South Africa's B-schools provide skilled mangers to the local and international economies. Prem Naidoo, director of accreditation and coordination for the Council's Higher Education Quality Committee, says that with "MBAs recognized as adding value and helping companies become more competitive...it's critical that our managers are up to" the job.

CLOSING THE GAP.

  The popularity of the MBA degree has mushroomed in South Africa since the country's transition to a more global, democratic society. "We had stunted growth in management. It was based on race, and certain races were denied," explains Naidoo. "We had to close the gap." Even today, deans say there's a dearth of properly trained managers in the country.

What's worse, is "ill-equipped managers who live under the illusion that they have been thoroughly trained can be damaging," says Eon Smit, dean of the Graduate School of Business at the University of Stellenbosch near Cape Town. His is one of the six schools with full government accreditation.

Programs can reapply for accreditation in two years, Naidoo says, but "whether they'll be successful is another question." Even schools with conditional accreditation "have... a great deal of work to do to achieve minimum standards," according to the study.

BIG BACKLASH.

  Some schools that lost their accreditation want more justification. Regent Business School in Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng is demanding a judicial review of the accreditation process, says Dean Naren Bhana. Regent MBAs will be allowed to complete their studies but the school won't be allowed to enroll new students.

Meantime, graduates of the affected schools face a challenge in the workplace. An MBA at Regent, who identifies himself only as Nozuko on the school's discussions forums, recently posted a note: "I've been told by my company that they will not recognize [the degree], and at the moment, I'm frustrated. I'm not even going to write my June exams. It's disgusting. Where to from here?"

Georgia State Taps Huss as B-School Dean

The J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University in Atlanta has named a new dean. H. Fenwick Huss will take the reins on July 1.

Huss has been an associate dean at the college since 1998, focusing mostly on undergrads. His new role marks a renewed focus on the graduate college that he joined in 1989 as an associate professor in the school of accounting.

The university chose Huss from a list of 33 candidates from across the U.S. He got the nod because of his "intellectual leadership," says Ronald Henry, the university's provost and vice president for academic affairs. "He's also very interested in honing in on a much clearer road map for the college."

Huss's primary goal is to raise Robinson College's national standing. The school's part-time MBA program has around 1,108 students and is already highly regarded, but the university wants fame for its full-time program, too. Currently, Georgia State's full-time MBA program isn't ranked in BusinessWeek's biennial B-School ratings.

NEW BEGINNINGS.

  Part of Huss's plan is to make classwork more practical. He'll also lead efforts to recruit students more selectively, since the college has 7,800-plus graduate and undergraduate business students. "In a sense, we serve too many students," Henry says. "We think we can define more precisely who the top students are and market to them for the full-time MBA program."

Though MBA applications are down, the school says it's possible to quickly raise the average GMAT score among entering students from the average of 600 for last year's entering class. It will succeed, Huss says, "even if we experience a short-term decrease in the size of the program."

Then new dean also wants to create more opportunities for students to network, since one of the biggest challenges at a large urban university is to create a "sense of community," he says.

The college began a search for a new head in the autumn of 2003, when outgoing dean, Sidney Harris, announced his plans for a year-long sabbatical after seven years at the helm. Harris plans to return to the B-school to teach international trade and corporate governance, among other subjects.

Columbia Starts Fellowship Honoring Dean Feldberg

Donors and guests at the annual dinner for Columbia Business School on May 3 raised $10 million to establish a fellowship program in honor of departing dean Meyer Feldberg. Feldberg leaves his position at the end of June after running the highly ranked B-school for 15 years. Professor R. Glenn Hubbard will replace Feldberg. (See BW Online, 06/07/04, "This Outgoing Dean Gets An A-Plus").

The school will use the Meyer Feldberg Distinguished Fellowship Program to entice bright MBA candidates to study at Columbia. By comparison, last year's dinner raised $3 million.

UC Davis Announces Winners of Business Plan Contest

The latest B-school competition results have arrived from the University of California at Davis' Graduate School of Management. On May 20, the school's fourth annual Big Bang! Business Plan Competition awarded $15,000 in seed money to three California-based teams. MBA students at UC Davis ran the competition, which attracted 21 entries.

Getting academic departments from various universities to think collaboratively was one of the goals of the competition, says Claire Kurmel, chair of the competition and a member of the school's class of 2004. The competition's rules require each team to include either one UC Davis student, alumnus, or faculty member.

CUTTING-EDGE IDEAS.

  Judges from local venture-capital firms and companies awarded first place and $10,000 to Mujisan Pharmaceuticals, based in Mountain View. Its team is working to create a safer, less addictive alternative to morphine-like painkillers.

The second prize of $3,000 went to Instant Effects of Santa Barbara, which is creating graphics software that works with popular applications like Microsoft's PowerPoint. The competition's People's Choice award and $2,000 went to Davis-based Glycometrix. It's developing what it calls a highly accurate, noninvasive, and less costly test to detect ovarian and other cancers, based on the presence of particular sugars.

If previous winners are any indication, winning teams have a chance to move their companies forward. Last year's winner, biotech firm Sialogen Therapeutics, has just opened a lab in Davis and is negotiating for seed funding. Of course, Sialogen has yet to reach its goal -- to use a patented technology to break down cancer cells -- so the big bucks aren't rolling in just yet.

Contestants interested in submitting business plans for the 2005 competition will be asked to do so by mid-February. Prize money, which is donated primarily by businesses in central California, varies from year to year. This year's total fell slightly from 2003's $18,000.

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

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