A New Kind of MBA Ranking System

With all the controversy around the reliability of college ranking systems, the Aspen Institute’s Beyond Grey Pinstripes ranking tries something different. As its name suggests, Beyond Grey Pinstripes is no typical ranking. It looks at how business schools engage with social and environmental issues, rather than inputs, like grade-point averages and GMAT scores, or outcomes, like salary and student/employer satisfaction.

An article in BusinessWeek (“Stanford Tops Green MBA Ranking”) looks at some of the highlights from the recently released BGP ranking report. One of the surprises is that Stanford’s Graduate School of Business replaces Schulich’s School of Business as the greenest business school in North American because of the many courses GSB offers on social and environmental issues.

The results of the BGP rankings were particularly important this year because they shed light on the effect the economic crisis has had on the way business schools deal with ethical issues in business.  Judith Sameulson, executive director of the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program, which conducts the survey, explains, “Student demand, increased faculty readiness and administrators’ growing desire to clarify how they approach these issues as a school have brought these ideas to the forefront in the last two years.”

The report has shown that there has been a 38% rise in the number of core classes at business schools dealing with social, ethical, and environmental issues in finance. The only question is: Is 38% enough to really prepare students for the complicated issues that they will find in the field?

The BGP rankings also highlight one of the fundamental, and frequently hidden, truths of the various rankings. And it is as true of BGP as of US News or BW: If the ranking doesn’t measure or rank something important to you, it is irrelevant to you. If it measures qualities important to you in a graduate business education, then its rankings and its data may be valuable and worthwhile. However, because of the prominence of the larger rankings, be they US News, Financial Times, BusinessWeek, Forbes, or The Economist, they are considered more “important.”

Don’t be fooled by the glossy magazine on the newsstand. If you are interested in social enterprise or sustainable development, BGP could be the most important ranking for you and a treasure trove of data and opinion. On the other hand, if you are not interested in these fields or in the distinct focus of BGP, then you can and will safely ignore Beyond Grey Pinstripes.

The same should be true of all the rest of the rankings. Look at their criteria. If they match yours, use the data and consider the ranking. However, in most cases, your criteria (and mileage) will vary. Then use whatever data you can conveniently find, and disregard the actual ranking or at least take it with a very large grain of salt.


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MBA Blogger Interview: Richard’s Journey

Next up in our series of featured MBA bloggers is Richard (aka Money9111), author of the blog, “Ellipsing My Way…to Business School.” Please enjoy Richard’s thoughtful answers and use them to help you make your way through the MBA admissions process.

Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself – where are you from, where did you go to school and when did you graduate; and what prior degrees do you hold?

Richard (Money9111): I was born in Milwaukee, WI but grew up in Old Bridge, NJ for most of my life where I was an avid gymnast and soccer player. I then attended Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ where I enjoyed pursuing a B.A. in Economics and a minor in Sociology, which I deem a lethal combination. During my tenure at Rutgers I was a member of the Co-Ed Cheerleading Squad, which then allowed me to become a full-time All Star Cheerleading Coach for World Cup All Stars in Freehold, NJ.

My professional background is rooted in Digital Marketing. I was initially drawn to the World Wide Web during the days of AOL. As an only child, being able to “stay connected” to my friends became an obsession and AOL was a conduit for me to do so. As result, it’s no surprise that I’ve spent four years in interactive marketing agencies in both New Jersey and New York as well as two and a half years doing digital marketing for Bloomingdales.com in New York. I have a passion for all things digital so when I’m armed with my MBA I’d like to pursue a career in the high-tech industry.

Accepted: Why did you decide to go to business school? What were some of the factors that motivated you?

Richard (Money9111): I decided to go to business school because I got in a place in my career where the next move would be dealing with business issues and personnel that I hadn’t dealt with before. In a lot of situations you only get one time to capitalize on an opportunity like that, and I wanted to make sure that I positioned myself best to be able to not have my next career move be the ceiling. So I realized that obtaining my MBA would give me not only the necessary experience needed but also a leg up on my competition. In hindsight, the network I’ve built to date already leads me to believe that my decision to come to business school will pay off.

Accepted: How did you decide on Johnson as the school you’d attend?

Richard (Money9111): For me, it all came down to research. I had multiple points of contact that I established throughout the application process. Every time I finished speaking with someone they would end with, “If there’s anything else you need or anyone you need to get in touch with, please let me know.” This simple phrase went a long way in my book. I knew that I would be able to get the most out of a community that exemplified my values. With that being said, as I went through the application process, I was drawn to Johnson because I then realized that I would be able to contribute everything I have to offer to a student body like Johnson’s that would be willing to receive it. It wasn’t a matter of the curriculum or the recruiting opportunities.

Accepted: Is b-school anything like what you’d expected?

Richard (Money9111): I love this question. Business school is 20% what I expected and 80% what I did not expect. That could just be a function of me drowning out all comments about what business school is really like, as I was going through the process. I think I may have been more concerned with how to get in to business school rather than what business school was like. I had no idea how busy I would be in business school. This is evidenced by the fact that I have an Accounting quiz in 4 hours (writing this at 3:30am). But this is the only time that I could find to answer all of the emails that I’ve said “I’ll get to that later” and work on my resume.

Also, one thing I was not aware of is how much learning goes on OUTSIDE of the classroom. I’m not just talking about in Career Work Group meetings or corporate briefings. I’ve definitely learned economic principles and the 4 P’s of marketing as well as how to make adjusting journal entries in accounting, BUT I’ve probably learned more about different people and different industries just from my classmates. Imagine meeting one of your classmates, who hails from another country, and taking him to Walmart for the first time in his life. Seeing his reaction to a return policy because they don’t have that back in his country, was priceless! I could rattle off many stories like that one.

Accepted: That’s a great answer – I’m sure you’re not alone when it comes to focusing so much on getting into b-school that understanding what you’re actually getting yourself into, in terms of how you’ll spend the next few years, can be overlooked. And we really appreciate you finding the time to answer our questions – hope you did well on your Accounting quiz! Next question: What’s your favorite class so far?

Richard (Money9111): Right now I’m taking Microeconomics, Marketing, and Accounting. Because I want to do High-Tech Marketing, I’d have to say that Marketing is my favorite class! I will caveat that with Microeconomics being a close second, “Said the Econ undergrad major.”

Accepted: Looking back, is there anything you’d do different in the MBA application process?

Richard (Money9111): If I were going through the application process again, I would have definitely tried harder to complete the GMAT sooner. I know I tried as hard as I could, but maybe even starting sooner would have helped. It was tough around the October/November timeframe when I was studying and taking the GMAT while worrying about completing my essays for R2.

Accepted: Did you do anything before starting b-school that made the transition back to student like easier?

Richard (Money9111): Because I am an MLT (Management Leaders for Tomorrow) fellow and a Consortium for Graduate Studies in Management member, I was able to attend a couple of conferences prior to business school that really helped me understand what I would be getting into. At both conferences I was able to speak with recruiters and understand what they would be looking for from 1st year MBA students. This was invaluable because it forced me to begin getting my story straightened out as well as my pitch and PARs (Problem, Action, Results). I definitely would not be as calm as I am now about recruiting had I not attended both conferences.

I also attended Math Camp here at Johnson. It was a 3-day long “camp” essentially for 8 hours a day. It was mandatory for some and optional for others, but I’m glad that I did it because some of the concepts I hadn’t seen before, so it was great to be exposed to the material prior to the start of school. In hindsight, I would have taken an Accounting class over the summer so that I could take the placement exam to exempt out. As you can tell, Accounting is not my favorite class!

Do you want to be featured in Accepted.com’s blog, Accepted Admissions Almanac? If you want to share your MBA journey with the world (or at least with our readers), email us at mbabloggers@accepted.com.

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College Admissions News Roundup

  • How to Read US News Rankings- An article in The Washington Post breaks down the many differences between this year and last year’s US News college rankings.  But the bottom line is there weren’t too many major changes, other than five colleges tying for 5th place. A piece in The New York Times tries to access the best way to utilize the US News rankings. The NYT article firstly warns readers never to take the rankings too seriously.  The most useful way to use the rankings, according to Reider, co-author of the guidebook, “Admission Matters: What Students and Parents Need to Know About Getting into College,” is to look at the characteristics you want in a school. If you like the characteristics at a top-ranked school like Penn, look for Penn-like schools with the same characteristics. Bottom line: First decide what’s important to you in a school, and then use the data in the rankings (not the rankings themselves) to choose where to apply.
  • Plummeting SAT Scores and Other Negative Trends- Inside Higher Ed looks at the truth behind why SAT scores plummeted this year. Unfortunately, the data shows that lower scores are connected to the increasing divide in students’ test scores based on race and ethnicity.
  • Penn Bounces Back with $1 Billion Return- The Daily Pennsylvania announces that its endowment return in 2011 was 18.6%. This means Penn’s total endowment is valued at $6.58 billion, a 16% increase from last year’s endowment, which totaled $5.67 billion.
  • Growing Divide Between Haves and Have-Not Colleges- The New York Times looks at the report, “Trends in College Spending,” which reveals that the gap between public and private colleges is growing. While private universities have increased their education-related spending over the past ten years by thousands, public community colleges’ spending has remained almost flat.
  • No More Overpaying: The 4-Year Degree Guarantee- The New York Times reports on a new agreement an increasing number of colleges are signing with students—if the students are diligent workers and meet with their advisors, the college promises them that they will not have to pay for more than four years of college.  If for some reason a student takes longer due to courses not being available or circumstances within the college’s control, the college will cover the cost of completing the degree.

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