New Deans Changing the B-School Agenda

The new slate of deans taking the helm at Harvard Business School, Kellogg School of Management, Yale School of Management and other top programs will have their work cut out for them.

Thursday’s Wall Street Journal piece on B-schools try a makeover looks at three areas of interest: reputation, fund-raising and curriculum. The recent shift to a focus on ethics is a point of keen interest for HBS’s new dean Nitin Nohria, as well as for dean Sally Blount of Kellogg, who says, “We’re all coming in at a critical time for management education. We’re focused on ethics, of course, but also social responsibility.”

If a tarnished reputation weren’t bad enough, another major thorn for the deans today is dwindling endowments. Last year’s economic meltdown  strangled fund-raising efforts at elite schools, accustomed to large gifts –think $300 million to the University of Chicago in 2008–that drive business school updates, like new facilities and funding for new practice areas.

“While many in the business-school world believe fund-raising will get easier as the economy recovers, plenty of skeptics, including business school insiders, say that renewed efforts to change curriculum and the tenor of management education will be difficult.”

The next generation of business leaders will undoubtedly need additional tools to function successfully in the global marketplace. UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business announced its major curriculum overhaul earlier this week, and B-school programs everywhere are making curriculum adjustments”“from tweaking their course content to introducing new classes and seminars and even new degrees”“in an effort to convey the lessons of the economic crisis to their students.

“Ethics and citizenship are incredibly important,” but business schools can be a tough culture to change, professor Noel Tichy of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business tells the WSJ. Only time will tell in what direction this new crop of deans will head.
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