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Taking MBA Mentorship Seriously

Steve Martin and Michael Caine star in the 1988 film “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”
Steve Martin and Michael Caine star in the 1988 film “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”Photograph by Orion Pictures Corp/Courtesy Everett Collection

In my first blog post for Bloomberg Businessweek, I argued that every MBA program has two curricula: “a formal one that lists courses in the catalog such as Econ 101, and an informal one. The latter takes place away from the classroom and isn’t required or optional. It’s invisible.” There are many ways this “invisible curriculum” can be expressed: guide, adviser, therapist, coach. For now I’d like to return to the one I started with, and the one I think remains the most important: mentors.

I am still stunned by the faith Doug McGregor, then president of Antioch College, had in me, a 22-year-old freshman just back from serving in World War II. Over a half-century later, I wonder how my life would have turned out had Doug not persuaded me to go to MIT. He also made damned sure I got in. (A side effect: an obsession with movies about mentoring such as Woody Allen and a long-dead Humphrey Bogart in Play It Again, Sam or Steve Martin partnering with Michael Caine in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.)