Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Aspen's Alternative MBA Rankings Reflect a New Set of Values

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Aspen's Alternative MBA Rankings Reflect a New Set of Values

Article excerpt

This year, more than 250,000 students will set their sights on a coveted MBA degree. They will take the GMAT tests and begin the process of sorting through the many options for pursuing their goal. But an increasing number of these students will choose an MBA program based on a different set of values than their predecessors. Instead of looking at the usual Return on Investment (ROI) model focusing on what fields of study might be the most lucrative, this group will make their decision based on values, ethics and issues of social concern, such as the environment.

And that's where the Aspen Institute's Business and Society Program can help. Through its Beyond Grey Pinstripes initiative, the institute offers a ranking of MBA programs that have successfully integrated social and environmental stewardship into the curriculum. In other words, these rankings abandon the usual approach based on admission criteria, starting salaries for graduates and surveys of management consultants. Instead, the institute issues rankings that use an analysis of how well business schools are training future executives to deal with the broader social and economic issues impacted by their profession.

"Many young business school candidates want to make a good living and stay true to their ethics, environmental concerns and social causes. So they turn to the institute to find the right school," writes Judith Samuelson, executive director of the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program, in a 2011 article titled "The Business of Education."

Manuel (Manny) González, chief executive officer of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA), agrees that the change in attitude is noticeable in Hispanic MBA applicants.

"I spoke with 80 Fortune 500 companies last year, and we talked about this," he said. "We see some new behavior in that a different generation is coming into the workplace with a different set of values. They are very interested in social issues and giving back to the community."

González says the trend started years ago, even before the economic collapse. During his travels, he often talked with Hispanics who wanted to go to business school but also wanted to integrate social issues into their careers.

"They are looking for balance in their lives," he said. "They want to be able to spend time with their family and in the community. They are not single-minded."

This year's Beyond Pinstripes survey is especially timely given the prominence of the Occupy Wall Street Movement in which protesters rallied against the high unemployment, economic inequality, greed, and corruption that have made headlines during the Great Recession. The demonstrators laid much of the blame on the leaders of the financial sector, many of whom were trained at the nation's top graduate schools of business. No matter how one felt about the protests, the message resonated with many Americans who believe that today's business leaders, especially investment bankers, have betrayed societal interests.

Several critics, including Samuelson, would like to see business education that "works for the planet." Helping MBA candidates pick a business school that reflects this point of view is instrumental in bringing about change.

"Business education is a major enterprise; it is setting the tone in boardrooms and executive suites across the planet," she said. "We need to spotlight the best thinking and teaching about the complex realities and multiple objectives of business. And we need to help students vote with their feet - to enlist them in creating demand for the kind of coursework that engages business in the most critical issues of our day."

Others from within MBA programs also believe it is time for a change. Rakesh Khurana, a professor of leadership development at Harvard, has written and spoken about the need to create career paths for those who want to use their MBA credential as a way to improve society. His book, From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: the Societal Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession, describes how business schools, originally established to teach individuals to use their knowledge to advance societal interests, have evolved into a market model in which managers are trained to increase profits and serve shareholders. …

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