Bizschools/23 inches/LK1st/mark2nd

By DANIEL TAUB

Staff Reporter

When Business Week's biennial ranking of the nation's top 25 business schools hit the newsstands, USC's Marshall School of Business celebrated its 25th place ranking with wine and hors d'oeuvres at a reception for faculty, staff and students.

"We definitely popped some champagne corks," said Randolph Westerfield, the Marshall School's dean.

Across town, at the Anderson School at UCLA, no such party was held, even though the school ranked No. 12 the highest ranking for a Southern California B-school. There, Interim Dean John Mamer simply sent out an e-mail informing students and professors of the rankings.

What accounts for the different reactions? The Anderson School, which has consistently ranked in the top 25 on the magazine's list over the past decade, made no headway over last year's No. 12 position.

The Marshall School, by contrast, has never before appeared on the list.

"We think it's a validation of the improvement we see in all the various aspects of our business programs at USC," Westerfield said. "We're an ambitious school, and we see this as a stepping stone to even greater levels of success."

The two reactions illustrate the mixed feelings engendered by the rankings of Business Week, U.S. News & World Report and other publications. While schools want to appear on the lists knowing how closely they are followed by prospective students and corporate recruiters alike they seek to avoid placing too much importance on them. After all, an individual school may rank high on one year's list, but then drop down or even completely off the next time.

Even USC's debut on the Business Week list was not all positive: As ranked by recruiters, USC MBAs were given a D in their abilities as analysts, a C as team players and a C in their global view the lowest grades in those categories. UCLA received Bs in all three categories.

"My reaction was that we need to improve the corporate recruiting perception of the quality of the product," Westerfield said. "And we've got nowhere to go but up."

Like the business schools themselves, corporate recruiters pay close attention to B-school rankings not just the list published every two years by Business Week, but also those compiled by U.S. News and various other publications, such as Fortune magazine's recent list of the best U.S. MBA programs for Asians.

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