I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Bill Sandefer, MBA Admissions Director at Tulane’s Freeman School of Business. He filled me in on the latest Tulane b-school happenings and general info and tidbits about the Freeman School.
Highlights from our conversation follow.
Linda Abraham: Will you start by telling us a little bit about the Freeman School of Business?
Bill Sandefer: Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business was founded in 1914 and became one of the founding members of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Two major players in the school’s advancement were Meyer Feldberg and James McFarland, who was responsible for moving the school to international levels of excellence.
Linda Abraham: Many cities are known for certain regional strengths, and the schools located in those cities benefit from those strengths. For example New York City is known for finance, and marketing. Los Angeles for media and entertainment. The Bay Area for IT. Texas for energy. What are the benefits that New Orleans offers Freeman and its students?
Bill Sandefer: At Tulane there is drive to focus on global community and business that stretch around the globe. We don’t feel like we’re location dependent. Students go to work everywhere and come from everywhere. New Orleans is two hours from NYC and three and a half hours from San Francisco by plane. We believe that being location-specific is not always a good thing if you want to be global. Similarly, if you want to provide a general management degree, then the school also should not be industry specific.
At the same time, the port of New Orleans is a gateway to Latin America. Tulane has historically been prominent in Latin American economics and we have continued that tradition.
One-third of all students come from outside the United States. We try not to let one region dominate. 15% of our students come from Asia, roughly 10% from Latin America, and the remainder of that one-third comes from Europe and Africa, creating a very diverse class.
Linda Abraham: What is distinctive about the Tulane MBA program?
Bill Sandefer: Students will walk away with heightened global sensitivity after participating in our Global Leadership Module. They will also gain practical, hands-on experience. This is a fairly quantitative program. Math counts here.
What qualities do you want to see in admitted students to Tulane?
Tulane students get to enjoy a very demanding and diverse experience. We certainly look for students who can handle the demands and contribute to and appreciate the diversity: Bright people who have developed, not only technically, but also in their ability to work with the world. Those qualities come through in part in the essays, interviews, and recommendations; but also in the jobs they took and the experiences that color their lives.
Linda Abraham: Tulane seems to focus on relatively few areas: Finance, Consumer Behavior/Marketing, Strategy and Entrepreneurship. Why not offer more?
Bill Sandefer: Our philosophy here is that the MBA is a degree that requires its holders to exercise the breadth of business skills. MBA students must learn how to work in teams and across functional areas, and not just as specialists. Our aim is to produce generalists. This is reflected in cases and consulting projects. The idea is that you should be able to walk into an interview and relate to any specialty.
At the same time, we recognize that students frequently want to and need to delve deeper into a particular area. If you graduate with a degree in finance, you’ll need to know valuation, but also understand other functional areas. About one-third of our curriculum is dedicated to breadth, one-third to providing a global, practical perspective, and one-third to students’ elective choices. With the electives, students can go deep or broad. They can use the electives for specific classes or for projects or research. They can also take up to three classes in other parts of the university (roughly half of the electives).
Linda Abraham: Where do graduates from the Consumer Behavior/Marketing Concentration go after Tulane?
Bill Sandefer: Graduates of our program have gone to AT&T, Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Sara Lee, HP, and Target. One of the most recent graduates got a job at L’Oreal in a brand management position.
Linda Abraham: Where do graduates form Tulane’s Finance Concentration usually go after earning their Freeman MBA? I noticed you have the Tulane Trading Center as an option for your students.
Bill Sandefer: We have coolest trading room in town! What we did was try to duplicate the Wall Street experience. The program is extremely successful. Our Trading Room is partnered with Thomson Reuters, Trading Technologies, and Logical Information Machines (LIM) – some of the best software you can get.
The trading room is part of a triumvirate of finance: A portfolio management program where students manage $2 million in real funds called the Fenner Fund. In Fenner, students do the market analysis, present the sectors, and move the funds. Students do real analysis on publicly traded companies in the Burkenroad Reports (the former CFO for the State of Louisiana runs the program), In Burkenroad students focus on publicly traded companies in the Gulf-south region, do the analysis, and publish the results on 44 companies a year. Along with trading, these experiential programs open up job opportunities in Houston, Chicago, NYC, Miami, and internationally.
Linda Abraham: Where do graduates from Tulane’s Strategy and Entrepreneurship go?
Bill Sandefer: These graduates don’t usually start business immediately. Entrepreneurship affects large businesses too. Entrepreneur Magazine has put Tulane in its Top 10 schools for entrepreneurs. We also have a center for family business.
Linda Abraham: What has been the impact of Katrina and the BP oil spill on Tulane?
Bill Sandefer: In every disaster there has to be a silver lining. And while I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, Katrina forced a lot of positive change. Katrina got MBA students involved in local community work that has translated into closer ties between the community at large and our entrepreneurs. This unique collaboration has been successful in introducing young people to entrepreneurship. Another post-Katrina initiative is Idea Village, an organization that began in order to help local residents restart businesses.
Since Katrina, New Orleans has reconfigured itself. Properties have been renovated to higher standards. The population has increased and people are excited about the city’s long-term future. Tulane University’s undergraduate program has more applicants than it ever had before.
Also, Tulane’s Energy Institute started just before Katrina, and since has helped with the BP oil spill. Professor Eric Smith was the resource for many of the people asking questions about the Gulf disaster. We now have a lot of grads going into energy.
Linda Abraham: Any concluding remarks?
Bill Sandefer: Our program is broad. One of the things I’m most proud of is that we are not a one-legged program. We have strengths in entrepreneurship and strongly support the idea of conscious capitalism. We have strengths in energy and finance – two crucial areas. Our students are running around the world learning about the rest of the planet, and that is really important as the business world becomes increasingly global.
Linda Abraham: Thank you Bill for helping us get to know Tulane’s Freeman School of Business!
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