4th Edition – 3/31/2014

Thoughts on the 1st Quarter Workload, ‘Turbo Sections,’ & Online Courses



Senior Associate Dean Andrew Ainslie

The Exchange asked me to offer up a few thoughts on a few issues facing us. I want to start by stating that this is my personal opinion. We are governed as a complex mix of a democracy, meritocracy and occasional autocracy, so no one person ever gets to decide how our curriculum works. So, that said, here are my current thoughts on a few issues that The Exchange threw my way:

Thoughts about the First Quarter Workload 

OK, what’s the problem that we face? Quarter-based schools have a huge impediment right out the gate– we have 10 weeks to get our students prepared for internships, where semester schools have 15. So there is a tendency to cram a lot into those weeks. Let’s look at what we have: three fundamental classes which are widely viewed as prerequisites for classes like operations, marketing and finance: economics, statistics and accounting. Many would also agree that accounting is directly useful for many interviews. Next, people either need finance or a case based class. We found a solution that no other top 20 school has been able to pull off (ignoring Chicago… more on that later), by letting people choose either marketing or finance in their first quarter, thereby saving one class. But when we redid the curriculum a few years ago, there was also a strong feeling among interviewers, faculty, students and recent alumni that we needed to find a way to get two more things in there – an introduction to the career process and a communications class.

The results in our first year doing this were dramatic. We jumped 20% in students placed at graduation. So any time we consider moving stuff out, we do it with great trepidation, as we would hate to backslide on that statistic.

Where might we find some wiggle room? The potential places, as I see it, are: 1) To shift some material to before the beginning of the quarter one way or another, or 2) to move the half of the communications class into the second quarter. I have been meeting with faculty, students and the administration to find ways to do this. It’s not obvious, but if we could get clever with hybrid technology, or find away to get key communications skills out really early in the second quarter or get people to skill up more, that would be great. It’s one of my biggest priorities right now, and I urge all of you to send me an email, stop me in the corridor or set up a meeting with me if you have ideas on how we can pull this off. I am in agreement with those of you who feel that this needs to change. We just need to find a way to do it without compromising students’ ability to fi nd the best possible internships.

Thoughts about Advanced and Intermediate Core Classes 

You all know the issue – it’s your first accounting class, and you’re just trying to work out what the hell a double entry system is and why anyone would do something so weird when the person next to you puts up her hand and asks some convoluted question about working capital… and you don’t even know what working capital is. In stats, you’re just working out what a standard deviation is when the engineer next to you wants to know why we lose a degree of freedom when computing it…. Huh? Statistical slavery? What are they rabbiting on about freedom for? How can you get an A when everyone seems to have taken the damn class before?

This is a problem that dogs all of us in top MBA programs. The good news is the impact over the whole MBA is pretty small. We did huge numbers of regressions of all sorts of things against all sorts of others and it turns out that no particular background makes you more ableto get a higher overall GPA. There is a slight uptick for econ and business majors but it’s smaller than you’d think. Of course, you’re going to get a bump in your econ class if you’re an econ undergrad… but good luck beating out the business undergrad in Organizational Behavior or Marketing. I also personally do wish that more people would take waivers, and one of the things thatI am looking at is ways to offer tools to help people waive out. Something like a refresher class in statistics for someone who’s done stats, so they can take a waiver and get out of the class. By the way, this would be one way to relieve some of the pressure in the first quarter that I discussed in the previous issue! But it’s hard for us to force anyone to waive and a few people will intentionally NOT waive so they can get the easy A. I really don’t know how to organize this.

So… onto the idea of “turbo” sections. The first problem is it’s a logistical nightmare. How do I schedule one person with strong stats and econ backgrounds, another with strong econ and marketing, another with strong marketing and Organizational Behavior into some complex mix of turbo and ordinary classes? How do I even tell? Is an A at school 1 the same as an A at school 2? How do I compare them? And what do I say to the person who gets a B- after I forced them into the turbo class, who says that they really should have been in the normal class and now may have missed out on their dream job because their GPA was too low? It’s an incredibly tough issue in terms of equity, perverse incentives (for people to fake out that they’re dumber than they are to get the easy A), and logistics.

No school seems to have cracked this… other than possibly Chicago. And for some reason, no one has really emulated the Chicago model. There, students do not have a structured core the way other schools do. Every time we talk about revamping the curriculum, we talk about Chicago, and perhaps one day we’ll bite the bullet and do it. It has its own downsides – designing your own curriculum and bidding for classes before you even arrive at a school has to be terrifying – but it’s definitely an option. Once more, if anyone has thoughts, let me know!

Thoughts about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS)

OK, plenty of people disagree with me on this one… but I personally think MOOCS are a total waste of time. People talk about them, but all the numbers show that very few people ever complete them. Which begs the question, why? My starting point is to observe that MOOCS are not really all that diff erent from a textbook, and indeed usually require a textbook as a backup resource. It’s incredibly hard to sit down in a room on your own and learn stuff , no matter how it’s presented. And there has to be a strong incentive.

Photo 2We offer a really strong one here at Anderson – finish your degree, get a GPA over 3.0, and you join a club where magically, on average, your salary almost doubles immediately,and you get a payback on your investment within 5 or so years… not to mention often finding a far more satisfying career than whatever you were doing before. And your fellow students offer you a combination of two seemingly contradictory ways to help you get there – they motivate you to work harder (because you’re ambitious and cannot bear the thought of not being as good as them), and they give you help in study groups. This combination of exclusive club, motivation through peer pressure and exposure to wonderfully bright classmates who can help you learn faster will always make in-class MBA’s the very best way to learn. Or put differently, I have a low opinion of MOOCS and always will.

So, does online learning have a place anywhere? Most definitely! – first, for people whose only other option is to NOT get an MBA. They’re perfect candidates for our online MBA. Second, for preskilling classes. We’re beginning to roll out increasing numbers of these types of resources. And third, to assist with the in-class experience. This is something that I personally think we need to do more of. But all of these are back-ups, not the whole enchilada. We are definitely increasing the footprint of online resources in our curriculum, but at the end of the day, we want this to be quality material designed to help you do better in a conventional MBA, not as a replacement to what you are learning with us.


Anderson Alum Offers Advice to Students Pursuing Tech Opportunities


Jeff Rosenthal

Jeff Rosenthal

The Exchange sat down with Jeff Rosenthal, a San- Francisco based expert on leadership in technology companies. We asked Rosenthal to provide perspective for Anderson students pursuing opportunities in the tech sector. Rosenthal, a Senior Partner in Korn Ferry’s Leadership & Talent Consulting Business, has published extensively on leadership effectiveness and talent management. Twenty-five years ago, while an Anderson student, Rosenthal wrote for The Exchange.

 The Exchange: What advice do you have for Anderson students recruiting for tech internships and full-time jobs? 

Jeff Rosenthal: I would say I think there’s huge opportunity in tech but maybe for reasons that are less obvious. Of course it’s a growing industry. There are startups. There are big companies getting bigger. There’s always a need for good people.

But as far as Anderson MBAs, I think there are two places where there’s a particular need [and] where these companies are having trouble finding people from other places.

One would be having good leadership skills. We know from a lot of work we are doing there’s a real shortage of leaders who are able to do the “people stuff” well, [who] have high emotional intelligence, who know how to set direction, inspire people.

There’s a shortage of skill for that in general in tech and it’s also not something that until now has been all that rewarded. But now, I think we have enough companies in tech that are saying, “Oh, we really need this and we’re in short supply.” They are quickly realizing that these skills are key to fueling their growth. We recently wrote a white paper about this called ‘The Human Bottleneck in Tech’ – which is exactly what we’re witnessing. Related to that is what a lot of our clients are calling ‘general manager talent.’ [What] they really mean by that is people who have breadth in their abilities as opposed to depth. So the ability to learn things quickly, to have a broad grasp on many aspects of the business. For example, having enough facility in marketing, sales, engineering, human resources, strategy. There are few leaders in tech companies that have that kind of breadth…

The Exchange: To Anderson MBA’s, do you recommend working for a large company with an established vrand (i.e. Amazon, Google, etc.)or a startup in getting into the tech industry? 

Jeff Rosenthal: There are huge differences between startups, mid-sized companies, and big companies. What does that really look like day to day? What do you like to do? So, to me, [it’s not a question of] “Where’s the opportunity?” but more of “What’s a fit for me?” Because opportunity is everywhere. Starting a company in your living room on a card table is a very different kind of job than working as a first time manager for Amazon.com. What I hope people would do is say, “Okay, I’ve got a lot of options, what do I really want?” I mean, “Am I attracted towards the startup mode or something in its early stage?” or “Am I attracted more towards a big company? Where do my skills match up?”

The Exchange: What do you remember of The Exchange from your time at Anderson? 

Jeff Rosenthal: I wrote for it. [People] read it and really valued it. I was in a student leadership role so I feel like The Exchange was a really important vehicle to get people excited about stuff beyond just putting a flyer on the wall… I’m glad to know that it’s back.


Julia Stewart, CEO of Dine Equity, and Dean Judy Olian, pictured here at the Women in Business Leadership Conference on Feb. 22. The conference, “Defining Success in a Dynamic World,” was hosted by the Women’s Business Connection. The event featured workshops on topics including emotional intelligence, leadership presence, stress management and technology trends. It was attended by more than 150 Anderson students, prospective students, and alumni.


Did First Quarter Have To Be This Way?


By now, we’ve all heard that being in business school is like “drinking from a fire hose.” Sure, business school is a busy place. Even five minutes of spare time is hard to come by, and I’m guilty of making excuses for not calling my friends or family. But I’m not sure it has to be this way.

Many of us made the expensive decision to come to Anderson to hit the reset button on our careers, retool ourselves with valuable skills, and build friendships and networks along the way. There’s no doubt that a lot is riding on our decision to be here. Small wonder, then, that we spend much of our first and second quarters running around like headless chickens, attending company presentations, mock interviews, dinner events and so on.

But for a school that prides itself on “thinking in the next,” I believe we’re suffering from recruiting myopia (to borrow a phrase from marketing class). In order to help us ace the internship interview process, the school force-feeds us overwhelming amounts of information early in the year.

At best, we gain a lot of superficial knowledge about topics that might not even be relevant to our future jobs. At worst, we become a population of stressed-out students who end up cramming before final exams because we haven’t properly learned or understood the course material. In focusing so heavily on our professional aspirations, we’re neglecting to build the real skills and core competencies that we’ll need to succeed in our careers.

I’ll confess that during the past few months, I’ve found myself prioritizing interviews and company meetings over schoolwork. As a result, I end up writing mediocre presentations the night before they’re due on topics drawn out of thin air. I’m not benefiting from the class at all.

There’s no easy way for business schools to help students juggle academics and recruiting. But in talking with some of my friends at other schools, I’ve gleaned a few ideas that would make life easier. For example, how about scheduling midterm breaks expressly for recruiting activities? One business school I know has a 10-day break for those recruiting in the banking sector.

Or how about shifting some of the class load away from the first two quarters? I know different industries work on different recruiting schedules, but Anderson might consider at least lightening the academic load until later in the year, when the majority of students have secured internship offers. This way, when students do attend classes, they’ll be giving their full attention.

Most of us came to business school with the intention of learning. Let’s rethink how we can modify the system so that we’re always striving for success, not settling for mediocrity.



Fall Quarter: A Rite of Passage


Question posed by The Exchange: The fall quarter is grueling, and students have debated whether the structure needs to change. Does the current format and level of difficulty need modifying and, if so, how?

Kishner’s Answer: I believe fall quarter is a rite of passage. We should embrace it as a challenge that teaches us about our passions and ourselves.While none of us probably wants to relive those 10 weeks, I bet we’re all proud to say we survived. That said, Dean Andrew Ainslie recently held a focus group to solicit student feedback on potential changes to the fall quarter. Some ideasiIncluded creating more online tutorials to foster additional in-class discussion, moving Communications class to winter quarter, and providing more resources to waive courses.
However, I’m personally leery about simply shifting work from one quarter to the next, as many students are still heavily recruiting during the winter quarter. As for moving content from the classroom to the internet, I worry that some teaching value could be lost.


The Core Curriculum and Valuable Diversity


Mark Philibosian


Question from The Exchange: Anderson’s core curriculum is mandated for all students, although they arrive with varying levels of familiarity with these subjects. The curve favors those who have prior professional or academic exposure to topics like economics, statistics, and accounting. Do you think Anderson should split core classes into “advanced” and “intermediate” sections based on prior experience?

Philibosian’s Answer: Prior to attending Anderson, I worked in finance and earned a CFA. Some of my classmates are CPAs or have backgrounds in marketing. I believe this kind of diversity promotes the interchange of ideas and mutual learning. Segmenting students into different levels of core courses would erode this valuable diversity, creating a further divide among students and undermining the opportunity for some to master essential skills. Plus, Anderson already has “advanced” and “intermediate” classes to some extent: They are called electives. The split would be most detrimental to the “intermediate” section and make career-switching even more difficult. Most of us came to Anderson to maximize strengths, eliminate weakness and expose ourselves to new challenges. I strongly believe that splitting our core classes would dilute the quality of our education. Some might call the core curve unfair, but we ultimately benefit from it – and so does Mark Philibosian the Anderson brand.


Mixed Feelings Toward MOOCs


Shashwat Mishra


Question from The Exchange: Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are becoming evermore popular among business schools. Should Anderson integrate these courses into its business model? Why?

Mishra’s Answer: I have mixed feelings toward MOOCs. While online courses are a good idea for some basic topics, we should be careful about how they affect the overall quality of learning.

For one, MOOCs take a onesize-fits-all approach and ignore that students may have different ways of understanding and processing information. At business schools in particular, many courses are case-based; learning is accomplished by discussing real-life scenarios. MOOCs do not provide an ideal platform for this kind of engaged learning.

Moreover, as students progress past the core curriculum and into more specific subject matter, they rely on having interaction with professors to develop a deeper understanding of topics. MOOCs would make it difficult to have this kind of interaction.


Reflections on a Year as ASA VP of Ethics and Professionalism


Michael Benedosso


Question from The Exchange: Over the last year, you’ve been VP of Ethics and Professionalism for ASA. What are you most pleased with having accomplished?

Benedosso: I’ve done a lot in my life that I’m proud of including single-handedly getting the American bald eagle off the endangered list. But perhaps what brings me the most joy was serving as the ASA VP of Ethics & Professionalism. Such a title seems so unrealistic for me. It was only three short years ago that I was chased out of Jacksonville, FL for inciting a witch-hunt, and only two years ago that I was named the worst thing to happen to the state of Colorado since the Great Fire of 1880. The country of Sao Tome has yet to repeal their declaration of war on me. Yet despite all of this, you have accepted me with open arms. Most of my job isn’t pretty, since I mostly deal with violations. But I am proud of contributing to the school’s overall well-being and progress while being part of a great ASA cabinet that was determined to help Anderson, its students, and its community. I’m also proud of being the first man to receive an Emmy nomination for “Best Supporting Actress in a Day Time TV Drama.”

Question from The Exchange: Where do you see the most frequent ethical lapses being made at Anderson? How do you think we can improve as a community?

Benedosso: There are two reasons for the violations I saw this year: misunderstanding of the rules and lack of realization that all actions reflect the brand of Anderson. If students erred on the side of caution when not knowing the rules and realized that everything they did reflects Anderson’s brand (and ranking), most violations would not occur. When in doubt, please remember the one rule I use for ensur ing ethical and professionaL discipline: “Do unto others what you would want done unto you, especially if it results in you getting money.” This is the only empirical truth in the world…that and John Stamos should be everybody’s hero.


Jacqueline Sutro 


Jacqueline Sutro


As most of us know by now, first-year classes can be rigorous. But behind the scenes, a lot of work goes into striking just the right balance between theory and practice so that students can maximize their learning experience, says Jacqueline Sutro, ASA academic vice president.

“Anderson is very much quantitatively focused – more so than other schools,” says Sutro, whose role involves liaising with students and faculty to optimize the classroom experience. In particular, Anderson has tried to keep its core classes broadly applicable, she adds.

Sutro has also spent her term pushing for more transparency to grading practices. As Anderson doesn’t exercise grade non-disclosure, it’s crucial for students to understand how they can improve their academic performance. As such, professors have voted and agreed to providing more interim feedback and additional information to allow students to assess their performance throughout the class.


Brady Clegg


Brady Clegg


Brady Clegg (MBA ’14) likes to joke that his secret weapon to maintaining work-life balance at business school is that he’s married. “Sundays I can be working, not recovering,” he says, contrasting his typical weekend to that of his peers. Clegg says he found a way to balance involvement on campus with academic success by approaching school “like a job,” which enabled him to focus and prioritize his tasks. The first quarter is essentially a “crash course,” he admits, but students can succeed by budgeting their time wisely. “There’s no magic formula,” he says. “I just made sure that I allocated enough to do well.” Overall, Clegg says he enjoyed the core classes because they provided a framework to help solve a broad range of problems, but he’s also excited by Anderson’s increased emphasis on bringing in real life practitioners who enrich the curriculum by speaking about their experiences.