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The MBA Arms Race: MBA Programs Struggle to Stay Ahead and it Benefits You!

March 7, 2011 by

This article is by guest blogger Jeremy Shinewald, MBA, Founder/President of mbaMission.

In 1992, the Baltimore Orioles opened Oriole Park at Camden Yards—a throwback to traditional baseball parks, where intimate outdoor settings existed long before colossal domed stadiums appeared. Soon after, seeing attendance surge at Camden Yards, many other franchises followed suit, opening “retro” parks—Jacobs Field (now Progressive Field) opened in Cleveland in 1994, as did Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Seattle Mariners abandoned the Superdome for Safeco Field in 1999, and the Minnesota Twins abandoned the Metrodome in 2010 in favor of Target Field (at the risk of exposing players and fans to cold fall evenings in Minneapolis).  More than a dozen other “fields” and “parks” have opened since 1992 in the Oriole Park mold, and still more are scheduled to open in the next few years. But why am I telling you all of this, when this is a column about business schools, not baseball?

MBA programs actually behave in many of the same ways baseball teams do. When one MBA program advances, the others feel the need to immediately up the ante in response. In fact, building new facilities may be a perfect analogy: The University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) opened a new building in 2002, and the University of Chicago (Booth) followed suit in 2004. Next, the University of Virginia (Darden) and Dartmouth College (Tuck) launched significant renovations and expansions, which opened in 2004 and 2008, respectively. The University of Michigan (Ross) opened a new building in 2009, Stanford University (the Graduate School of Business [GSB]) opened a new campus at the beginning of 2011 and construction has begun on a new campus at Yale University for its School of Management, with Northwestern University (Kellogg) and Columbia University (Columbia Business School) promising to build a new facility within the next few years. And each new building promises more meeting space or new bells and whistles, such as the on-site gym and fitness facility at Ross, rooftop photovoltaic arrays at the Stanford GSB (which generate 12.5% of the energy the facility uses) and a cavernous atrium that serves as a central meeting place at Chicago Booth.

Our point is not that business schools are enjoying a building boom, though they are, but that MBA programs constantly strive to keep up with one another. As another example, even though business schools typically send very few students directly to asset management positions, many have student-managed investment funds with millions of dollars in assets under management, including the University of Texas (McCombs) with $13.5M, Cornell University (Johnson) with $11M, Virginia (Darden) with $5M, the University of California at Los Angeles (Anderson) with $2M and Chicago (Booth) with $1M.* The net result of this competitiveness is that the clichés and stereotypes about MBA programs are rendered invalid. For many years, a myth existed that Chicago Booth was “just a finance school” and that Kellogg was “just a marketing school,” but these programs compete for the best candidates from around the world, so they cannot afford to have such narrow offerings. In truth, Chicago Booth provides robust marketing resources through its James M. Kilts Center, and in aggregate, Kellogg has actually placed more students in consulting and finance positions than in marketing roles in recent years.

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So I want to use this blog to challenge your assumptions about your target MBA programs and get you to expand your horizons. If you send me a paragraph on a program or offering at a target school that defies the school’s stereotype and we use your submission in a future blog post, we will send you a free mbaMission Complete Start-to-Finish Admissions Guide and enter you to win two hours of free consulting. The deadline is April 1.  Please send your submission to


*These data were obtained from the programs’ Web sites at the time of writing and are subject to change.


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