Business school, ethics and social responsibility

minimal-desktop-wallpaper-be-goodI want to attend a business school that prioritizes ethics and social responsibility. I knew this was true even before I decided to apply to bschool, really, but now that I’m in the thick of the process, its importance is only increasing. As I start thinking about the possibility of working with large sums of money and pondering marketing segmentation and managerial decision making, the social implications just keep screaming out at me. I want to know that the school I attend and the institution/entity/student body I associate myself with is one of integrity. I  want it to be a given that we’re not functioning in a vacuum and that the decisions we make for our own lives and careers have an affect on the rest of the world, and we need to take responsibility. And I don’t want this just for my education and my future career–I also want to know that whatever school I end up contributing to and supporting is ultimately doing good work and producing grads with nuanced understanding of social issues as it pertains to business. This is probably a crazy high hope, but I have it anyway.

One of the questions I asked at every school’s info session I attended was, “Is some kind of business ethics course mandatory for all students?” Some of the schools I’m applying to said “Yes” to this question, and those that said no sank a bit in my personal ranking list.

Of the schools I’m applying to, the following require all students to complete a business ethics/social responsibility course:

  • Stanford GSB: Ethics in Management (there’s also this)
  • Berkeley Haas: Ethics and Responsibility in Business
  • Yale SOM: It seems like every course at Yale includes the discussion of ethics and social responsibility due to its integrated curriculum. The fact that their website dares to ask, “As a business leader, how should you address severe societal inequities?” is more than enough for me.

These schools do not include an ethics course in their core curriculum, but do offer ethics courses as electives:

  • Northwestern Kellogg: Ethics and Executive Leadership
  • UCLA Anderson: Leadership and Ethics
  • Cornell Johnson: A Leadership & Ethics breadth concentration. The link on their website to their course descriptions is broken, but I hope I can safely assume that a Leadership & Ethics concentration involves the completion of at least one course in ethics.

Not too much:

  • USC Marshall: They do have 2-3 classes that mention ethics in the course description, but that was just a single component of a general management/leadership course. I’m only counting courses that are fully devoted to discussing ethics and their relevance to business here.

The overall breakdown isn’t too surprising just from the schools’ reputations. It’s also not too surprising that Stanford, Berkeley and Yale are currently at the top of my wish list.

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How am I a weird bschool applicant? Let me count the ways…

500px-Numbers.svg 1. My nonprofit professional background.

After I graduated from college, I only wanted to do nonprofit work, and that’s all I have been done so far. I hear that there is growing interest from folks in the nonprofit sector to get MBAs, but it’s still nowhere near common. And on top of that, my nonprofit experience is not in education. It seems like the majority of MBA candidates who are from the NP sector are in education…either in administration or people who want to start their own charter schools (or something like that). I didn’t even know that whole phenomenon existed until I went to a Forte Forum and saw that Teach for America was one of its main sponsors. I was pretty confused by that, to be honest. But by now I’ve heard everything about how running a charter school is like running a business, which is interesting, but not what I am looking for.

2. My career goals.

I’m really afraid of coming off like some kind of PETA-ish militant or a softie “omggggg that puppy is sooooo cuuuuuuuuuute,” but I am so not. I eat meat! I’m brains over heart! I’m really pragmatic! I just really think we need to treat animals with decency and not be jerks about it.

3. I am old.

Not that old, but definitely old when compared with the average ages/years of work experience of most bschool student bodies. I never think about this (who’s old??? not ME!), but now that I’m filling out apps and calculating the number of months/years of work experience I’ll have by fall 2014, the numbers looks staggering. I’ll have 96 months of work experience by then. Ninety-six. Yale’s latest class profile has an average of 68 months of experience. Stanford’s average years of work experience for their 2014 class is 4.2. I’m going to have eight. I’ll be 31 years old when most everyone around me will be 27. In my mind, this is all not a big deal since I don’t think my age should be counted against me. And four years ago, I was not ready for business school, so it’s not even like I have something to regret. But I guess all that really matters is what the schools think, and they seem to not like older people.

4. I lean creative and have little to no quantitative work on my applications.

I actually *do* have a lot of quant experience–I lived and breathed math and science from ages 0-18, but the second I got to college and was free of those shackles I dove straight into creative work. I’ve published poetry and have done a lot of visual art. But I also can’t escape my super practical and numbers-focused childhood. Even when I’m writing a poem, I have this nagging question in the back of my head: “What is the purpose of this?? How does this help anyone??” I’m no free spirit.

5. I don’t want money. 

OK–I’m not being literal here. Of course I both want and need money. But wanting  money is definitely NOT one of the reasons why I’m applying for bschool. What I do want, though, is more power. (And although money = power for some people, it doesn’t for me.) I want the power to do the following things:

  • Come up with BIG IDEAS that WILL BE IMPLEMENTED. That kind of reminds me of a recent Dilbert comic strip. I swear I won’t be that bad, though. I actually enjoy implementing a project just as much as coming up with the vision beforehand. I just want the power to make things actually happen. 
  • Be able to provide opportunities to other people. I really like mentoring. The thing is…I barely have anything to offer right now. I rarely hire people. I barely manage one other person as it is. I ‘m basically at the bottom of the ladder, and that doesn’t really lend itself to being able to give chances to other people.
  • I want to work for a well known brand/organization with a wide audience so I can really, truly make a worldwide impact.

I’m sure there are lots more ways that I’m weird than these five reasons, and I’m not saying they are detriments to my applications. Well, of course, I personally don’t believe they are detriments at all…but I guess that’s up to the admissions committees.

Rounds, rounds, rounds

merry-go-round

round ‘n round we go

My initial plan was to submit all seven of my applications during Round 1. But my best laid plans were thwarted by Cornell. Then they were thwarted again by USC. But I’m still doing round 1 for the other five, even though my schedule was crazy tight for Round 1 deadlines (I just took the GMAT for the first and only time less than two months ago!). My reasons are as follows:

First, and most important of all, I wanted to get this whole thing OVER WITH. I knew if I drew out the application process a couple months longer I’d just agonize over small details and drive myself crazy. Plus, I’d probably just sit around on my ass for the first few weeks and not really work on my apps until there wasn’t much time left anyway.

Secondly, the appeal of possibly knowing where my life was heading by the end of the calendar year was too much to resist. I want to know where I’ll be in 2014 NOW.

And then there’s the whole your-chances-are-better-in-the-first-round thing. Even though some of my schools explicitly say that there is no difference in competition between Rounds 1 and 2, I still don’t quite believe them. And, for me, this is a no-brainer. If you know your chances are better now, just do it now!! Yeah, there’s that whole “submit your application when its strongest” thing, but I don’t think another two months will make that much of a difference for me.

So I charted out my deadlines on a spreadsheet a few weeks ago and realized–with horror–that Cornell has an insanely early deposit deadline for Round 1 decisions. They give you literally less than one month to decide whether to commit your MBA future to them or not. And that Round 1 deposit deadline is earlier than some other schools’ Round 1 decision release dates. So if I did Round 1 at Cornell and if I got admitted, I’d have to pony up a $1,500 deposit fee to save my space while I waited for Berkeley and UCLA to release their decisions. And while I’d probably pick Cornell over UCLA at this current moment (and I might totally change my mind later), I don’t want to be in that kind of sticky situation. So Cornell got pushed to Round 2.

Then USC raised its ugly head (No no, your head isn’t ugly, USC. Your head is really pretty! Can I be admitted now?). It’s probably my fault, though. When I was creating my spreadsheet in mid-August, USC hadn’t updated its deadlines for the 2013-14 application cycle yet. Its website still had 2012-2013 deadlines on it. I figured that the dates would probably be the same this year, and typed down what the deadline was for round 1 in 2012: November 1. I happened to check in on the site again just a few days ago and saw that Round 1 does not end on November 1st this year, but October 15 instead. A two-week difference isn’t that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, but it does make a huge difference in my insanely tight schedule. Northwestern and Berkeley both have October 16 deadlines, and I couldn’t fathom the idea of squeezing in another entire application at the same time. I also saw that USC’s website now says the second round is when “Priority consideration for merit-based scholarships [is] given to both international and domestic students with completed applications“, so I’m probably better off anyway.

So here are my deadlines, in all their glory:

  • Yale, round 1: Was due on Sept 25. I submitted everything already except for those damned video interview questions, which I will do this weekend and write about later.
  • Stanford, round 1: Due Oct 2. Their website explicitly says applying in round 1 is advantageous. I’ll be submitting this app this weekend, also.
  • Berkeley, round 1: Oct 16
  • Northwestern, round 1: Oct 16
  • UCLA Anderson, round 1: Oct 22
  • Cornell, round 2: December 4
  • USC, round 2: January 10, 2014

Which MBA Programs I’m applying to and why

Here’s my list:

  • Stanford
  • Yale
  • Berkeley
  • Cornell
  • Northwestern
  • UCLA
  • USC
Beautiful Ithaca, NY

Beautiful Ithaca, NY

Yup. Seven schools. Seven. A ton, right? It just goes to show exactly how unsure I am of what schools will admit me. There’s lots of reasons not to admit me. And lots of reasons TO admit me. I just have no idea who will think what of me, because I am a big weirdo…at least when it comes to bschool applicants.

I currently live in SoCal, so deciding to apply to UCLA and USC were no-brainers and a matter of practicality. The other schools I narrowed down to for location and financial reasons…or a combination of both. In some of these locations, I have potential access to housing from family that would save me a ton of money. And I do not want to live in a big city for business school. I know that’s totally illogical and I should be wanting to live in a big city for career opportunities and recruitment fairs and whatnot. But I am just over living in big cities for now (and paying the tons of money on rent and food and everything else that comes along with it). I know these schools are not in the boonies or anything (well, maybe Cornell), but I just did not want to be in NYC, Boston or Philadelphia. After those considerations, I moved on to evaluating the actual programs.

Stanford, Yale, Berkeley and Northwestern all stuck out to me for their well-known nonprofit programs. And, for one reason or another, I have positive associations with all of them from looking into schools for undergrad or taking extra classes/doing summer programs there in the past. Does that have anything to do with the quality of their MBA programs? Probably not much. I just like the schools overall and could picture myself on their campuses.

After talking with alumni, I especially liked how Berkeley and Yale both seemed to pride themselves on admitting nontraditional applicants. A Berkeley alum even told me that the MBAs there tend to be more “granola.” Now, I am quite sure these people are nowhere near hippies, but the mere fact that they are happy to share that fact means something.

And that brings me to Cornell. I first started thinking about applying there because I’ve always heard so much about how Ithaca is so beautiful. And I am nature-starved right now (in case you couldn’t tell), so that sounded really, really appealing. I didn’t know much about their programs until I spoke to a rep at a recent Forte Forum. The rep was from Cornell’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion. I know that schools like to make a big fuss over how diverse they are, but I actually believed Cornell after hearing the rep speak about it. I’m no minority (Well, in the business school sense. Except that I’m a woman, I guess. I can’t believe I have to say that), but I really appreciate the efforts of that office. And even though I don’t have the impression that Cornell has a full and robust nonprofit program, I really liked how the rep went about explaining options to me. Other school reps I’ve spoken with are just clearly uninterested in my nonprofit background and make minimal effort to show how their school can accommodate my interests (I’m looking at you, UCLA), so that’s how Cornell won me over.

Overall, a very scientific process, as you can see! A lot of it was gut instinct, past experiences and what I happen to feel like doing at this point in my life. Stanford, Yale and Berkeley are at the top of my “wish list,” but, honestly, I think I can get what I need out of any of the schools I’m applying to, so here’s hoping to at least one “You’re in!”.