business

A Departure Date for Darden's Dean

Robert Harris will be stepping aside in 2005. Plus: News from LBS, Yale, the MBA hiring front, Maryland, the Mideast, and more

By Mica Schneider

The Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia has announced that dean Robert Harris will step down from the job on July 31, 2005.

Harris says his decision stems from a lengthy upcoming capital campaign that will run from Darden's 50th anniversary in 2005 until 2011. At age 54, he simply doesn't want to be dean for so many years, preferring a sabbatical and a return to the classroom instead. He currently teaches a core finance course to MBAs.

Long-serving deans are a rarity in B-schools. Harris notes that those such as Donald P. Jacobs, who served at Northwestern's Kellogg B-school for more than 20 years, are probably a thing of the past. "It's a hard job," he says, though he believes continuity in leadership has some advantages. "If a dean stays longer, you're more likely to be able to carry through on some long-term objectives. With the capital campaign, someone who will stay to 2011 is an important feature."

SHORT BUT SUCCESSFUL.

  Darden has had three deans in the past decade. Harris took over from Edward Snyder, who left the school in 2001 after a four-year term to lead the Chicago Graduate School of Business. Before Snyder came Leo Higdon Jr., who served from 1993.

Starting this autumn, Darden will be searching for a replacement dean, who'll be expected to help kick off and wrap up a capital campaign to raise $250 million for new facilities, scholarships, and faculty. (The school's endowment is already $250 million.) MBAs say while Harris' planned departure is "disappointing," he's stepping aside for the right reasons. Peter Coyne, president of the Darden Student Assn., says "it's probably more important to house an individual who will be there for the duration of the campaign."

Harris had a short, but successful ride at Darden. Since beginning his deanship, he helped secure $17.4 million in gifts, recruited seven full-time faculty members, increased the full-time MBA class size by 25%, and opened a $3 million Institute for Corporate Ethics, which is sponsored by the Business Roundtable and a dozen other B-Schools. BusinessWeek ranked Darden's full-time MBA program No. 12 in its 2002 listings.

LBS Student Seeks Degree after Nine Years

Nine years after attending London Business School, Lawrence McCann, 51, is still waiting for his master's in finance degree. The former Wall Street trader and MIT graduate completed his courses in 1996 with good marks, then moved his wife and two kids back to Connecticut. He planned to return to London after about a week and write a final paper that would formally complete the master's.

But on a Sunday evening ahead of his trip back to Britain, McCann was hit by a car whose driver fled the scene. Doctors considered amputating a foot, and a priest even administered last rites. LBS gave him time to recover from his injuries and the numerous operations that were necessary to repair limbs and nerve damage. The school also sent him letters discussing extensions on his final paper.

In early 2002, after a court sentenced the driver who hit McCann to three years in jail, McCann returned to LBS to discuss a new final project. To his surprise, the school had failed him in 1999 because he didn't turn in his final paper. He says no one had notified him of the decision.

DISASTER RECOVERY.

  What followed was a bureaucratic nightmare for McCann. After an appeal to the school's board of examiners, McCann was given another opportunity to complete his final paper. The school approved an outline of his project topic, and he submitted a 115-page dissertation titled Treasury Inflation Protected Securities: Today's Best Bond Buy. But LBS failed him in September 2003, reportedly saying that his subject was better suited for a PhD candidate and the paper lacked detail.

The school said he couldn't appeal the decision, but in January, 2004, after a few months of complaints and another trip to London, LBS officials told McCann he'd be allowed to write a new paper. Later in the year, when he was away from home, the school set his new topic deadline for July, which that was then moved to Sept. 10. McCann asked the school for more time to prepare, and some assurance that he'd get appropriate feedback on his next attempt. On Sept. 21, LBS said he could turn in another paper without a deadline. The catch: If he doesn't earn a passing grade, he won't have another chance to receive his degree.

With his faith in LBS waning, McCann says he's "somewhat less than trusting" that he'll come out on top. He's taking legal action to ensure, in the very least, that LBS offers a fair assessment of his new dissertation. Ideally, he'd like to resubmit his original paper for a full review, too.

ANOTHER TRY.

  In a statement issued by the B-school, Judith Fry, secretary to the examinations committee and boards of examiners, says, "Lawrence McCann has not failed his Masters in Finance degree. Mr. McCann still has the opportunity to complete the requirements for the degree and thereby to obtain his degree from London Business School." Laura Tyson, dean of London Business School, reiterated Fry's sentiments.

Having paid about $100,000 for LBS's program, McCann says he's anxious to put the ordeal behind him and return to work -- with a degree in hand. "It would be very difficult to go back to Wall Street without my master's in finance," he says.

By Mica Schneider

Yale Launches a Health-Care Exec MBA

Can a few dozen executives help turn around the U.S. health-care system? Yale School of Management thinks so. In August, 2005, it'll launch the Yale MBA for Executives: Leadership in the Healthcare Sector. The two-year course is aimed at execs from pharmaceutical, biotech, managed-care and insurance companies, as well as hospitals and other related organizations.

Yale's new program marks the B-school's foray into the EMBA market. The health-care-specific program will be more holistic than a typical MBA. It's not aimed at teaching students just about profits, losses, strategy, and marketing, says Howard Forman, the program's co-director.

FOCUSED EFFORT.

  Execs will take basic MBA courses for the first year and then focus on health-care issues in the second year. Classes will be held on alternate weekends. The EMBA kicks off with a two-week residence in New Haven, Conn., in the first year and a one-week residence in the second year. We want to "improve health services in [the U.S.] so that everyone can have affordable health care," Forman says. "We're so far away from that."

Around 45 million Americans lack health insurance, according to the Census Bureau. Health-benefit costs are also rising much faster than wage growth. In 2003, just 60.4% of working Americans had employer-based health insurance, vs. 61.3% the previous year, according to Census. The lack of universal coverage puts large U.S. companies at a disadvantage vs. companies in countries with government-sponsored health benefits, like Britain, Forman says.

In the best-case scenario, Forman hopes the EMBA will expose health-care executives to general business concepts, help them overcome finger-pointing about why the U.S. health-care system has flaws, and let them take what they've learned at Yale back to their jobs. They'll also have a chance to develop a more varied professional network and learn about each party's concerns. "Everyone wants to blame every one else" for the lack of adequate health care in the U.S. and rising costs, Forman says. "Right now, it's the pharmaceuticals' fault. A few years ago, it was doctors making too much money."

HEFTY BILL.

  Yale is the only school to offer a health-care EMBA that's within easy reach of Boston, New York, and Washington, where policy is often shaped. Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, located in Durham, N.C., will offer its weekend executive MBAs a chance to focus on health-sector management starting in February, 2005. The B-schools at Boston University and Temple University in Philadelphia offer MBA degrees in health-care management, but not EMBAs.

The degree costs $58,000 per year once execs factor in tuition, fees, books, and a laptop. Applicants need at least seven years of work experience to make the cut. Yale hopes to enroll 25 to 30 execs in its first class.

Career Council Says Recruiting Is Up Again

This year's MBA hiring outlook is looking good, according to the Career Services Council (CSC), a nonprofit organization that tracks B-school recruiting trends.

Mindy Storrie, head of the University of North Carolina's B-school career office and CSC's new president, says B-schools are informally reporting more recruiter activity on their campuses, including a rising number of presentations to MBAs and a stronger hiring outlook from recruiters who visit the campus. While B-school recruiting hasn't fully bounced back from the dot-com days, "schools are hearing back from companies that haven't been on campus for a couple of years," Storrie says.

Many schools are reporting that the past academic year was easier than previous years for foreign MBAs looking for jobs in the U.S. They "have to work harder to get the jobs," and much of their success comes down to their communication skills, she says. Member schools note that many of their foreign students were open to taking jobs back in their home countries.

Career services officers and administrators from more than 200 universities make up the council's 300 members. Storrie, who took the post in June, says one of her first tasks this fall will be to consider an auditing process of the salary- and hiring-trend information that each B-school submits to the council in autumn. "Everyone wants some comfort that when you share a number, that everyone interprets the question the same way and reports it the same way," she says.

Maryland MBAs Get Wired

Full-time students at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland are taking networking to the next level -- with BlackBerrys.

This fall, MBAs can connect with their professors, classmates, and administrators 24 hours a day using Nextel BlackBerry 7510 handhelds. The perk is an effort to test the limits of being connected to a community all the time, the school says. Professors are also watching how such devices might affect learning. The MBAs will be able to check e-mail, calendars, and use the devices as walkie-talkies. Soon, they'll also be able to check their grades and download course work.

Nextel donated some of the funds to pay for the handhelds, while the B-school picked up the rest of the tab. The BlackBerry retails at about $350.

"WHEN TO UNPLUG?"

  Maryland hopes its full-timers will learn to cope with information overload, something many are used to from their pre-MBA jobs. "We're trying to create the kind of stress they would experience at work," says Cherie Scricca, associate dean for master's programs and career services at Smith. "How do they decide when to unplug? Just because you've got access to a human being doesn't mean you've got the right to access them."

With 400 devices on campus, the school will also explore how the MBA community behaves. For instance, MBAs won't have to turn the BlackBerrys off during exams. One student could easily ping another for the solution to a question. "If they want to cheat, they're going to find a way to do it," says Scott Koerwer, associate dean for executive education and marketing communications.

"But now we can talk about ethics. Now we can talk about managerial decision-making," Koerwer says. "The type of environment we're creating is a reflection of what's going on in the outside world, but we're trying to bring it to the forefront." Which, until now, has been difficult to mimic in a classroom, he adds.

By Mica Schneider

From McKinsey to Wharton Exec Ed

The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania's executive-education arm has named Jonathan Spector as vice-dean. Spector, a former McKinsey & Co. director, took Robert Mittelstaedt Jr.'s place on Aug. 16. Mittelstaedt left Wharton in June to become dean of Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business.

Spector's consulting background makes for an interesting addition to Wharton's giant exec-education arm, which has annual revenue of around $40 million. Such programs are increasingly offering custom-made solutions to high-paying clients including the likes of Coca-Cola, KPMG Consultants, and Merck and often toe the line that divides teaching from consulting.

But Spector says his consulting finesse had nothing to do with his academic placement, and he says he won't bring Wharton exec education into the consulting business. Instead, "Wharton executive education is poised for some interesting opportunities," according to Spector. For starters, he would like to more collaboration among Wharton's research centers, MBA and undergraduate programs, and alumni.

"THE CLIENT'S NEED."

  To do that, he'll use what he calls a "classic approach from consulting," and try to build deeper, trust-based relationships with Wharton's clients. "Good consultants focus a lot on the problem, rather than on their services," he says. "They approach a problem not by saying 'what do we do?' but by asking, 'what does a client need?' That mindset of starting with the client's need...is being successfully transferred into executive education." The school will have to be agile as a result, he adds.

Despite the rise in popularity of tailor-made programs, Spector says open-enrollment programs, for instance, a finance course offered to execs from a range of companies at once, won't be pared down at Wharton. "We're absolutely not giving up on open enrollment," he says, adding that he would like to see existing custom clients lean on more open programs as a way to extend lessons from the top deeper into an organization.

Spector hasn't dabbled in the B-school world since earning his MBA in 1980 at Harvard Business School. His only tie to Wharton is through his wife, who earned her MBA there. After working at McKinsey, he was the CEO for two venture-backed corporations.

Chicago Gets New B-School Digs

The University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business is set to open its $125 million Hyde Park Center on Sept. 23. The seven-floor building features a dozen new classrooms, a pair of seminar rooms, 31 group-study rooms, and 42 interview rooms for corporate recruiters and admissions staff.

Students and faculty are getting a big upgrade from the previous B-school buildings, one of which dates to the 19th century. In the new digs, one study room has a working limestone fireplace so MBAs can curl up with their homework on winter nights. There's also a lounge with a pool table.

  
Chicago Hydeparkcenter
Chicago's Hyde Park Center

Chicago professors will move into a new building with around 170 offices. Accounting professors will share office space with marketing, operations, and finance gurus -- a layout that's intended to make the MBA program more practical and interdisciplinary.

HERE, TAKE THESE.

  The building was designed by architect Rafael Viñoly, who's known for his work on the Tokyo International Forum and for his upcoming expansion of the Kennedy Center in Washington.

Chicago is the latest B-school to enlist a well-known architect. In 2002, Case Western Reserve University hired Frank Gehry to design a $61.7 million building at the Weatherhead School of Management. The Chicago building is the biggest recipient of the school's $250 million capital campaign (the school is $69 million shy of its goal). Meanwhile, the old buildings will be parceled out to other departments in the university.

U.S. Sponsors MBA Training for Mideastern Women

A $2 million program sponsored by the U.S. State Dept. delivered 42 women from across the Mideast to the B-Schools at Emory University and Duke University in August. More than 300 women applied to learn general management basics from the B-schools and gain insight into Corporate America and American culture.

The State Dept.'s goal was to inspire Mideastern women to implement new business lessons at work and perhaps venture into businesses of their own, creating more jobs for young professionals back home. "We're not looking for a groundswell of change, you simply have to work at it incrementally," says Sonia Franceski, a manager for State's Middle East Partnership Initiative. But she notes that the program's initial concept was "designed to support economic opportunities and to promote freedom and justice throughout the Middle East."

After a month of courses, the students are now starting their internships with American companies. Dolly Choucair, a 26-year-old lawyer from Lebanon who studied at Duke, will first work for a law firm and then at Shell in Houston. "It's interesting to be exposed to the U.S. business experience," she says. Her classmates -- from Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, Gaza, Israel, Jordan, and Kuwait -- are also testing their knowledge at various companies across the U.S.

STYLE POINTS.

  Having management experience ahead of the program wasn't a prerequisite, but these students wield an average of five years of work experience. One of the themes for the 20 women studying at Emory was to look at business from a general manager's perspective, rather than a marketing or finance position. "It was a chance to exercise their strategic mindset" and to see how all the different parts of business work together, says Kelly Bean, director of executive education at the Goizueta Business School at Emory.

The women also learned lessons about their own management techniques. "It's critical and important...to be self-aware of your business style, communication style."

Overall, the group earned high marks from professors. "The business savvy the women brought to class was equal" to Emory's full-time MBA students, Bean says. "Everybody can always use further business education just to stimulate their thinking."

WILL IT RERUN?

  Some women have inquired about Duke and Emory's MBA programs, too. Awras Al-Azzawi, a 27-year-old Iraqi who lives in Yemen, says she's thinking about earning an MBA in order to convert her experience as an architect into a business function. She would like to see more management courses back home, too. "We have high-potential, intelligent people, but they need courses to verify their objectives in their company to back them up."

The State Dept. hasn't decided whether it will repeat the program in 2005. Franceski says she first needs to review this year's results. But at the very least, these women now have a network of business colleagues and some valuable experience working in Corporate America.

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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