Opinion

Mixed Feelings Toward MOOCs

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Shashwat Mishra

INTERVIEW WITH SHASHWAT MISHRA (MBA ’15)

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.

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Reflections on a Year as ASA VP of Ethics and Professionalism

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Michael Benedosso

INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL BENEDOSSO (MBA ’14)

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.

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How to Ace a Phone Interview

BY ADRIANA DELOR (mba ’15)

Should you treat a phone interview any differently than an in-person interview?

Job candidates should be vigilant when it comes to conveying the right tone over the phone, according to a workshop the Women’s Business Connection recently hosted on “How to Ace Phone Interviews,” led by 2013 graduate Satiya Witzer. Confidence can easily come off as arrogance, while timidness might signal a lack of leadership potential, Witzer cautions.

The best approach, she says, is to be self-aware. Take note of the areas in which you excel during mock interviews with your peers. Likewise, observe and learn from the areas your peers have mastered. Record yourself practicing and play it back.

Perhaps most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help or request an extra practice session. Phone interviews may seem daunting – but with some practice, you’ll be able to convey the right kind of tone and message.

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Soda Wars

BY ROMAIN WACZIARG – ULCLA ANDERSON PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS

Romain Wacziarg

Romain Wacziarg

A battle is brewing over one of my favorite staples: soft drinks.
In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently tried to ban restaurants from selling large-sized sodas, citing the public health risk of the sugary drinks. Meanwhile, the Mexican government is considering a tax on soft drinks to discourage their consumption.
As the prevalence of obesity rises in many countries, public policy is intervening to stem the tide. But should we be regulating the consumption of soft drinks? If an individual wants to risk obesity and diabetes by drinking massive amounts of soda, why should policymakers govern that personal choice?
Too often, we as a society seek to intervene against a behavior we dislike – but in doing so, we may run roughshod over individual rights. A free and informed person presumably weighs the personal costs and benefits when deciding to gulp down a gallon of Coca-Cola. So, perhaps we should end the argument here and let folks like me enjoy our soda in peace.
But it’s not that simple. In principle, public-policy intervention can be justified if leaving the free market to its own devices leads to broad social harm: a negative externality. Perhaps soda drinkers do not make well-informed decisions because they aren’t aware of the obesity costs that occur later in life, and consumers may discount the future too aggressively. Parents. Suppose that parents who consume lots of soda influence their kids to do the same, and that these beverages are addictive.
What social consequences could then result from allowing people to freely choose their level of soda consumption? An obvious one is public-health externality. To the extent that people do not bear the cost of their health expenditures, because they rely on private or public insurance, their private actions affect the premiums that the rest of us pay to insurers and the taxes we pay into public-health schemes. In recent decades, health costs like these have comprised a rising share of total health expenditures. The bottom line is that you and I are footing the bill for the health care costs being incurred by the obese. Soda drinkers are essentially free-riding on insurance pools and taxpayers.
On the other hand, obesity can also bring certain economic benefits. As unpleasant as it may sound, obesity can cause premature death – from diabetes, heart disease or other ailments– which can result in savings for publicly-funded retirement programs like Social Security. We must carefully weigh the health costs of obesity against the savings that an early death affords to retirement programs.
Let’s assume we determine that health costs still win out and we decide to regulate soda consumption. What is the best way to go about doing this?
Economists offer a clear answer here: A tax is much better than a ban. A ban is too heavy-handed and discourages consumption from people who receive a net benefit from drinking soda. Moreover, bans can be rife with loopholes, rendering them ineffective. Soda-drinkers in New York, for example, can easily circumvent the new ban by crossing the Hudson River to get their soda fix in New Jersey.
Instead, a tax should be levied at a level that discourages consumption among people who only receive a small net benefit from drinking soda – a benefit smaller than the social harm they cause. Consumers who really enjoy large sodas, and are willing to pay a high price for it, are free to keep enjoying it. A tax is less intrusive in this manner, and offers the advantage of producing revenue that can be spent on socially beneficial endeavors.
Following this rationale, I give Mexico an “A” and New York an “F” for their efforts. But I doubt Mayor Bloomberg truly believed his initiative was an effective public-policy measure anyway. Rather, he saw an opportunity to raise awareness about an important health issue and to encourage people to make better choices for themselves.
And from that standpoint, the soda ban was wildly successful. After all, you and I are still talking about it, and the next time I feel tempted to buy a Coke at Northern Lights, I may just reach for an Odwalla instead.

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Entrepreneurship and the MBA

BY SOM DEB - STAFF WRITER

Everywhere I turn these days, it seems, I encounter the word “entrepreneurship.”
It isn’t hard to see why. We live in a highly digital era, and the rise of celebrity entrepreneurs such as Tesla’s Elon Musk, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey have inspired a whole new generation to chase The Next Big Thing. Some primary schools are even introducing coding classes to give students a head start at a young age.
But can entrepreneurship really be taught? Sadly, business schools have faced skepticism from some critics who say the M.B.A. degree just doesn’t amount to much in this area.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, “A Smart Investor would Skip the M.B.A.,” author Dale Stephens argues that the money spent on a business degree would be better spent on specialized training, relocation expenses and networking. Employers would rather hire individuals who have actually tried to build a business, he contends, rather than simply studying how to build one.
Perhaps entrepreneurship cannot be taught, but Mr. Stephens misses the point. True, many of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs – like Virgin’s Richard Branson, Facebook’s Zuckerberg and Michael Dell – never even graduated from college. Still, there is something to be said about providing business-school students with a risk-free environment in which they can pursue opportunities, learn from others and cultivate an entrepreneurial way of thinking.
After all, entrepreneurship isn’t about building the next Facebook. It is about having the freedom to implement change. Living in the U.K., I often felt that failure was discouraged. In the U.S., however, I’ve been impressed by the more positive associations with risk-taking; it is clear that occasional failure is regarded as a valuable learning opportunity.
At Anderson, I see entrepreneurial spirit everywhere I look. In just the past few weeks, for example, my classmates have launched new ventures such as the Anderscotch Club and this very publication –evidence of what a business school can offer to those who have an entrepreneurial bent.
Most of us will never start our own businesses. But in the leadership roles we do take on, we will have the ability to enact change – whether it is modifying a system or pushing a new way of thinking – and that, I would like to tell Mr. Stephens, is why a smart investor should not skip the M.B.A.

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