By Eric Lucrezia, author of Getting into an MBA in the USA: the no B.S guide from The Candidate Coach.
America is known as the land of opportunity, a world leader in business, education, and entrepreneurship, as well as strong in marketing, communication, and innovation. Considering the MBA is an American invention, born of the prestigious Ivy League in 1908, seeking an MBA program in the United States seems to be the obvious choice. Despite ups and downs, the US has made a major comeback and still dominates the global rankings for full-time MBA programs, yet many countries around the world have produced their own MBAs that have risen to prominence and given their American cousins a run for their money. Countries like France, the UK, Canada, Spain, and more recently, China and India have earned their stripes in being top-ranked destinations for pursuing an MBA.
So what can business schools in the US do to maintain their lion’s share of the MBA market?
As we have all witnessed, a global pandemic has the capacity to ravage countries, tragically destroying lives, businesses, and in some cases, schools. The education sector has been forced to rethink how they do basically everything to remain competitive and relevant in a post-lockdown world. Like Shiva, the great god of destruction from Hindu tradition, the virus has effectively killed off many old systems and ways of thinking, giving rise to new ideas, solutions, and innovations.
One of the well-known advantages of many American MBA programs is the STEM designation. STEM itself is by no means a new acronym, standing for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and appears in many domains in North America, often in education. But in the case of the MBA, a STEM designation means the possibility of extending your post-MBA work visa from just one year to up to three years. For many international students, this is a game changer as a viable pathway to relocating long-term to the United States, and it is not necessarily limited to students pursuing careers in tech or traditional STEM industries.
But doing an MBA is so much more than relocating to a new country. It’s about what and how a business school delivers their program and the kind of experience you’ll have as a student.
So I thought we’d do a little tour around several regions of the US, where we can visit several top schools and see what’s new and innovative about their programs, reinforcing the argument that the US is indeed one of the best places in the world to do your MBA.
In the heart of downtown Chicago, known as The Loop, DePaul University’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business offers an MBA program attracting students from the US and all over the world. Part of the success of students at DePaul comes from how the school structures its professional staff. Business schools are large and complex organisms, whose administration can be cumbersome and even conflictual for students and the messages they receive. At DePaul, the teams of admissions and recruitment, academic advising, and career services are structured such that MBA students and their cohorts are followed by the same professional staff people throughout their student journey. This innovative way of organizing student services streamlines the guidance and support that students will receive, ensuring a more harmonious experience and better outcomes.
As the pandemic continues to impact in-person learning, DePaul leverages its Flex classroom space, a trimodal Zoom Room, enabled with integrated audio conferencing, wireless screen sharing, and video conferencing, but also allows for whiteboarding and scheduling with a simple touch. This provides for simultaneous face-to-face teaching, online synchronous teaching, as well as a recording of the classroom for those who need to catch up later. Taking the challenges of teaching online and converting them into opportunities is when innovation really begins. Professors are able to expand teaching techniques, for example, using the white board to discuss course content with one group while sending another into virtual breakout rooms to work on a problem. Students can later watch the recording of any parts they may have missed. I have tested this Flex classroom myself earlier this year as the keynote speaker for the International Student Job Search Workshop, and found the experience to be more dynamic than I could’ve imagined while delivering my talk and fielding questions from my home in Paris. I can easily see what an exciting opportunity this is for professors to have more impact than ever!
Speaking of making adaptations in the face of a pandemic, Boston Univeristy’s Questrom School of Business was quick to meet the needs of a world that changed nearly overnight. Considering that Boston is, as Winston Churchill once wrote, the intellectual capital of the US, steeped in tradition, one might not expect BU to design an innovative online MBA program that not only creates access for potential students around the globe, but also at a very affordable price of only $24,000 US. That’s less than half of what students pay for the traditional full-time MBA program on site. During the program’s six modules, students will learn the typical core business topics like finance, accounting, and marketing, taught by the same world class faculty, and earn the same credentials as those in the top-ranked on-campus MBA programs. The combination of prestige, global access, and a very reasonable price at BU Questrom truly democratizes business education.
In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, home of Carnegie Mellon University, you’ll find the Tepper School of Business calling for forward thinkers, future dreamers, problem solvers, and collaborators. As they point out, it is human intelligence that unlocks the power of data. It is this human aspect that is the focus of the Tepper MBA in their mission to help create an intelligent future, nurtured by hope, collaboration, cultivation, and the next bright bunch of applicants who will apply.
So how do they find the right applicants to join their ranks at Tepper? First let’s give credit to their approach on the admissions process. They believe in fully supporting their MBA applicants so that they will not only put their best foot forward and have the strongest application possible,
but that those who apply will have been sure to have fully researched the Tepper MBA in terms of curriculum, experience, and what career opportunities would most likely lie ahead.
They ensure this with Tepper’s Chart Your Path process, participation in which is optional, but incentivized by an application fee waiver. The cost of business school is certainly a hefty investment, so who doesn’t like to save a couple bucks here and there when you can?
Looking south towards Williamsburg, Virginia, the Mason School of Business at William and Mary University has been doing exciting things to teach crisis management to their MBA students. Fully knowing that business isn’t always peaches and cream, knowing how to properly deal with a major publicity crisis is an important skill, the Mason School of Business has created Sprints. These are intensive week-long simulations for first year MBA students, where on day one, students are placed in teams, learning various crisis communication strategies (as one example of a Sprint topic) and how to interact on social media platforms, investors, clients, etc. At the end of the day, each team is assigned a fictitious case. The next morning, the crisis strikes, and the teams are subject to a daylong barrage of tweets, social media posts, viral videos, and news reports that have been produced ahead of time.
Throughout the week, students must prepare a press conference, a meeting for investors, and other scenarii, leveraging roles played by actors to make it more real.
Everything is recorded so MBA students can evaluate themselves later in coaching sessions, and the week’s experience is graded, credit-bearing, and has awards at the end, so motivation and energy are high. The huge success of the Sprints depends on collaboration from university faculty and staff, alumni, and corporate partners. The program admits the effort put in for this one-week experience is often greater than that of an entire semester’s course, but the results speak for themselves - it’s entirely worth it!
Finally, as we head a little further down south, Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill campus offers four possible formats to their MBA program, along with 10 possible dual degree programs to choose from, for those who are interested in enhancing their MBA experience with a complimentary degree that offers greater specialization in areas like law, medicine, or environmental studies.
Kenan-Flagler prides itself in being an elite school with a family vibe, embodying what students call the “Carolina Way”, where students and staff alike consistently look out for and support one another - not the cut-throat environment for which many MBA programs are notorious.
They’ve cultivated a culture of collaboration, and that can be seen throughout the many flexible options and opportunities for their MBA students.
Many MBA programs offer a consulting project as part of their curriculum, but Kenan-Flagler has really perfected this through their STAR program (Student Teams Achieving Results). Over the course of the semester, students are grouped according to collective experience, compatibility to STAR projects, and their own interests. Students collaborate providing solutions to companies, often those associated with Kenan-Flagler’s Center for Business of Health, including GlaxoSmithKlein, United Healthcare, and Chimerix. While UNC is considered one of the leading national voices in education in the healthcare sector, the companies students can associate with