This Q&A represents a distillation of an hour-long meeting I had with Dr. Paul Danos, Dean of the Tuck School of Business Administration at Dartmouth. If you want to understand Tuck’s values, culture, and goals, read it (long post).
Tuck’s MBA program is at the top of all the major business school rankings, including BW, US News, the Wall St. Journal, Forbes, the Economist, and the FT rankings. To what do you attribute the excellent reputation of its MBA program?
Tuck offers one of the most rigorous academic programs anywhere with lots of personal contact from professors. It is competitive in a healthy sense while at the same time being a supportive environment–piranhas are definitely not welcome. Tuck provides a well-rounded, holistic business education stressing values and the personal touch.
But that answer could be given by deans of many top business schools.
Let me try to better describe what I mean. Tuck exemplifies an “ other ” orientation and creates a circle of giving. By that I mean that the school culture encourages, demands, and projects caring for others.
Our faculty own the MBA program, and that ownership has led to an extraordinary level of commitment to teaching and to the students. The administration and faculty focus on the students, and we pride ourselves on our personal touch. All of our professors teach in the MBA program, and we have great professors who want to teach and who are thought-leaders in all of the business disciplines. The faculty we attract and hire are involved and interact with the MBA students.
The administration is also part of this culture. We put the students’ learning first. For example, Tuck is currently planning to add more outstanding faculty positions without increasing the student body. Obviously, that step will increase costs without a commensurate increase in tuition revenue, and it is possible because our alumni believe in our personal style of education. Because it will increase our qualitative edge and the personal connection between faculty and students, they will support it.
Among top schools, Tuck has one of the highest percentages of students without a formal undergrad business education. At Tuck the students get an excellent business leadership education and our graduates leave Tuck with a strong foundation in quantitative skills, an integrated approach to business, and to the extent they want they can specialize in one or more fields.
How do the students respond to this environment? By giving. They immerse themselves in the Tuck environment and respond to the demands with an extraordinary level of commitment themselves. The real proof that they accept the Tuck culture of giving is provided by our alumni: 64% of Tuck alumni support Tuck financially year after year. Our alumni give at a higher rate than at any other school by a large margin. [LA: Most schools are in the 20% range; 40% is excellent; and the next highest top school, Yale, is at a 47% alumni giving rate.]
Tuck has a culture of giving that starts with the faculty and administration, attracts a certain type of student, and carries through to alumni.
What does Tuck want to see in its MBA applicants?
- Academics. They are important. We look at the transcripts, GMAT, and the quality level of past education.
- Experience. Has the applicant done something significant? It doesn’t have to be in business, but we want to see that he or she added value and made a difference and most important that they have leadership potential.
- Understanding of and a willingness to participate in the Tuck culture.
- Global mindset. Business today is global, and Tuck is international. In the class of ’08 37% of our student body is from outside the US. Our faculty is also heavily international, and we have an extensive offering of study abroad and global consulting projects.
- Commitment to working hard. Tuck is a demanding total immersion program. Students need to balance extra-curricular activities and the rigors of coursework. Their study group partners will depend on them. Do they share the contributive mindset that personifies the Tuck culture? Will they give and give and give to their study group, project teams, and individual classmates?
In what direction do you see Tuck going?
I see an increasing emphasis on closeness and enhanced learning opportunities with the faculty. We currently have lectures, case studies, projects, and specialized courses. We use the method of instruction that best fits the topic. But I think there is an additional dimension, and we are working to add more of it to the Tuck curriculum in the coming years. This dimension will entail a deep dive into faculty expertise and research so that Tuck students will develop a very sophisticated ability to judge the many claims about business that bombard business leaders. We will add more and more opportunities for them to gain exposure to pioneering research and cutting edge business knowledge.
Tuck is also expanding its Leadership Program that is built on a long tradition of teamwork. Our Leadership Program, by the way, is another example of the circle of giving. First year students at Tuck participate in a core leadership program and are mentored by second-year students who participated last year. Each year the second-year students have the opportunity to mentor first year students. And each first year student gets feedback from their teammates and coaching on leadership traits.
Where does Tuck stand regarding “early career applicants” in MBA admissions?
We want our student to have at least two years of work experience and our average is 5 years. Students benefit from the program more, are able to contribute more, and have better job opportunities upon completion with full-time work experience under their belts.
The traditional gender gap at business schools and concern that requiring experience was having a chilling effect on women’s enrollment in MBA programs have contributed to increased recruiting of early career applicants by a number of top schools. I am happy to say that Tuck this year, despite its experience requirement, and because of its overall excellence has had its highest percentage of female applicants ever.
What is the question you wish I would ask?
Why should a professor who is heavily invested in research be the best teachers of MBA’s?
Consider it asked.
Simple. Faculty, because of their breadth and depth of knowledge, are the best teachers for future leaders. Research faculty are on the cutting edge of knowledge as a result of their research. The researchers who are both thought-leaders and also committed to imparting the knowledge they gain from their research are the ones hired to teach at Tuck.
Are you concerned about the business school Ph.D. shortage?
It is a concern, and other schools are turning increasingly to practitioners, but I don’t believe that using a large percentage of practitioners is the best answer. We believe in having thought leaders, steeped in the rigors of research, teach most of our courses.