B-schools' Latest Tactic: Super-early Recruiting

Summer admissions events lure more MBA hopefuls. Plus: News from Case Western, Fuqua, St. Thomas (not the island), and more

With fewer people applying to MBA programs everywhere, students at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania knew they had to take action. Even their own class of 2006 saw a 21% dip in applications. So a few MBAs agreed to help Wharton's admissions office host several rounds of early-admissions events this summer in places like New York, London, Paris, Beijing, Shanghai, Mexico, and Moscow.

Summer is an early time -- the earliest ever for Wharton -- to start the admissions process. Such events usually kick-off in September at most B-schools. But the pre-autumn push is an attempt to catch talent ahead of the competition, and to help applicants get their B-school packages up to snuff.

GLOBE-TREKKING.

  The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University has also ramped up its summer recruiting schedule. Since May -- the earliest the B-school has ever begun recruiting new classes -- admissions reps visited 21 cities around the world and made regional trips throughout Asia and Latin America. The admissions office plans to hit the road far more in 2004 than in 2003, visiting some cities more than once.

Sharon Thompson, senior associate director of full-time MBA admissions at Fuqua, says the busy summer is part of an effort to increase the size of the applicant pool. In particular, Fuqua wants an early shot at the recently deflated international markets.

But most schools lack the resources to travel much between May and August. "Too many offices are working with too few staff [members], and often can't travel earlier," says Liz Reisberg, executive director of The MBA tour. European schools also tend to struggle with summer recruiting, she says, because many are on vacation in August.

On the flip side, some schools are setting themselves up for last-minute recruiting efforts in 2005. QS Top MBA, which runs a series of tours throughout the admissions season, will hold MBA fairs in select U.S. cities in February, 2005, a time when most U.S. schools have already wrapped up their recruiting trips. Matt Symonds, co-founder and director of QS, the parent of QS Top MBA, says schools plan to use that late face-time to top-off their incoming September classes.

These extra efforts just might pay off. On July 16, 12 Wharton MBAs and alumni drew about 70 potential applicants to the school's first London MBA-recruiting event for the next admissions season. MBA hopefuls learned about the school's curriculum, its alumni network, and took home some admissions tips. Anne Titterington, a rising second-year, told MBAs about her school-organized trip to Antarctica last January, and she also answered questions about student life. "It's important to continually be promoting the brand," she says.

A New Dean Rocks Case Western

Myron Roomkin is leaving the political rancor of Washington in November for a more rockin' town. He's taking over as Dean of Case Western Reserve's Weatherhead School of Management. As the current Dean of American University's Kogod School of Business, Roomkin, 59, will head to Cleveland to take charge of a B-school that has faced some trouble over the last few years.In May, 2003, a shooting in the school's brand-new, high-tech, and uniquely structured Frank Gehry-designed building killed one student and injured two more. In June, 2002, the building's donor and namesake, Peter B. Lewis, caused an uproar when he withheld part of his donation to the larger university (the $3.9 million he donated for the building wasn't affected). Lewis was angry that trustees had allowed costs to get out of control, and was instrumental in ousting many board members as a result.

Roomkin joined American in 1998 after more than two decades as a professor and administrator at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. He'll replace former Dean Mohsen Anvari. Roomkin will work on rebuilding the B-school's brand and developing broader ties with Case Western's engineering and medical schools. "Weatherhead needs to broaden its competencies to supplement its excellent reputation...in disciplines such as organizational behavior," he says. He also says he'll work to raise the prominence of the school globally.A sculpture artist in his spare time, Roomkin is the latest face of many at Case Western. In August, 2002, the school hired a new president, Dr. Edward Hundert. Since then, a number of other colleges at the university have welcomed new deans.

Fuqua MBA Workhop Reaches Out to Minorities

In July, 76 newly admitted MBA students from five business schools attended a new, three-day workshop at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. The MBA Jumpstart Workshop was aimed at giving underrepresented minority students more information about careers in consulting and investment banking -- industries that are slow to hire minorities.

New MBA students are increasingly job-focused and are starting their job and internship searches before they even set foot in a Finance 101 course. But conference co-founder Elton Ndoma-Ogar says the hectic nature of B-school requires MBAs to start looking before they're mired in coursework -- and are too busy to seriously consider opportunities in the banking and consulting industries . "If you can start making career decisions before you get to business school, it helps the corporations, the students, and the schools know what resources need to be made available," he says. Plus "there's no such a thing as too much exposure."

The conference was limited to minority MBAs from The Wharton School, Chicago Graduate School of Business, Columbia Business School, Stanford Business School, and Fuqua. Ndoma-Ogar and co-founder John Burt, both minorities and Class of 2003 Fuqua grads, limited participation for this first-ever event. Next year, they may invite more schools. Corporate sponsors include Morgan Stanley, Banc of America, UBS, Lehman Brothers, and Merrill Lynch.

Romahlo Wilson, who is of African-American and Indian decent, attended the workshop for some one-on-one advice about a job in investment banking. He'll begin Wharton's full-time MBA program in August with about 800 other new MBAs. No matter how good Wharton's career-services office turns out to be, Wilson says he knew he'd benefit from the personal advice that recruiters, other MBAs, and alumni could offer. "I wouldn't have worked as hard as I now see myself working to get these positions had I not attended Jumpstart," he says. And with "upwards of $100,000" in expected debt, Wilson says the sooner he gets moving on his job search, the better.

St. Thomas To Open Entrepreneurship School

The University of St. Thomas' tiny College of Business in Minneapolis wants to become an entrepreneurial powerhouse, on a similar scale as Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. On June 16, the college broke ground on a $22 million building to house its new Schultz School of Entrepreneurship.

"By having a separate school [dedicated to entrepreneurship] within the College, it doesn't dilute its activity," says College of Business Dean Christopher Puto. "People can stay focused on advancing the cause of entrepreneurship."

The new site in downtown Minneapolis was made possible by a $50 million gift given by Best Buy (BBY ) founder Richard Schultz and his wife in 2000. The building is slated to open in September, 2005.

Along with the new school, St. Thomas can now offer entrepreneurship as a concentration within its quickly growing MBA program. (The school expects to enroll at least 45 full-time MBAs in September, vs. 28 in 2003.) Puto also recruited two rookie entrepreneurship professors from the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business. To cushion its small-business knowledge base, the Schultz School will host an entrepreneur-in-residence every semester, someone who's "already got it going" and can step away from work to give MBAs one-on-one advice, Puto says. Schultz also will be available to meet with students at the company headquarters and when he's on campus.

Puto says the College will host a new business-plan competition in the next year, awarding as much as $70,000 to winners on a regular basis, the kind of money businesses really need to get started, he says. With that kind of cash, and a hefty investment in start-up wisdom, the College hopes budding entrepreneurs will give them a second glance.

A New MBA Comes to Deutschland

Just when German mangers thought they'd seen enough education, another executive MBA program is toeing the line. Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and Frankfurt University's Goethe Business School are launching a joint executive-MBA program. The 22-month program, dubbed the Duke Goethe Executive MBA, will award graduates with MBA degrees from both Duke and Goethe.

Classes are set to begin in May, 2005, and the schools expect to enroll between 45 and 60 MBAs. The program is aimed at Germans and others living in surrounding countries.

At first glance, a joint B-school program looks like a tough nut to crack. Schools in Europe say that recruiting full-time MBA students from Germany remains a struggle. Many MBA-aged professionals already have a master's degree and don't see the value of getting a B-school stamp. But Ulrich Winkler, managing director of the Goethe Business School, says the executive-MBA market is a different story. "We have around 30 commitments from companies...to send students to the program," he says. "And we're confident this will keep coming." Fortunately, there's not much competition from nearby schools.

Duke professors will teach two-thirds of the initial classes, but Goethe isn't worried that MBAs will feel as if they're being spoon-fed an American point of view. The professors may be from Durham [N.C.], Winkler says, but they've got international experience, have taught across cultures in Fuqua's existing executive-MBA programs, and they'll have back-up from German professors.

Duke already runs a cross-continent MBA program that combines online learning with in-person classes at Duke's Durham campus and in Frankfurt. The Duke Goethe Executive MBA is the school's latest strategy to forge partnerships with a few business schools around the globe in the next five years. Goethe certainly fits the bill, but administrators are hoping that that execs, and the companies that pay for their program, see value in the degree, which costs around $56,500 (46,500 euros).

Saving Lives in China

Executive MBAs studying at IMD visited Shanghai in late May as part of the school's required, week-long Discovery Expeditions program. In a new segment to the program called Beyond Business, the MBAs came face-to-face with non-business issues affecting locals.

One group of MBAs visited with a doctor who performs heart surgeries on children. Dr. Chun Chen's work is mostly funded by the provisional Rotary Club of Shanghai's Gift of Life project, but the MBAs realized that extra money could help more sick children. "There are 75,000 new cases in China of children who need cardiac surgery to survive," says MBA Ron Kesselmans, 40. Dr. Chen is able to treat just 200 of them.

The students donated $6,000 to fund at least two more heart surgeries for underprivileged children in China. Kesselmans says he and his classmates are looking into additional projects that could help the heart surgeon and her young patients.

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

By Mica Schneider with Jennifer Merritt

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