Yash Gupta, who joined the USC Marshall School of Business as dean in July, took the post just as the program appeared to stumble. Three months into his tenure, U.S. News & World Report dropped Marshall 10 places in its 2004 list of top U.S. business schools. (The most recent Business Week rankings place USC 27th, down from 17th in 2002.) Gupta, lured from the University of Washington Business School after a 19-month search, plans to refine the curriculum and bolster relationships with alumni to boost fundraising and mentoring, using local employers to aid the school's placement rate.
Question: The Marshall School fell in one recent set of ratings, in large part because students felt unsatisfied with their job prospects. What can you do to address that?
Answer: Improved curriculum has to affect the perception of employers. The world is changing dramatically and if employers don't perceive that we are changing ahead of it, they are going to think we didn't teach (the students) that much. I instituted a curriculum review to find out what competitive advantage we have and how we can better start defining it. We need to identify who our employers are, what they want and what skills can we provide them so that focus groups can be started.
Q: What do you do with that information?
A: There are 1,300 business schools in the country, so the competitiveness becomes very important. We have just instituted a committee that will come back with a new curriculum in the next few months, which we will implement in the fall of '05 on a trial basis. What we asked them to do is take a blank piece of paper, and don't just assume what we have and patch it.
Q: How do you approach a business education in the wake of one corporate scandal after another?
A: The business school education is changing dramatically. Part of it is what has happened in the business environment in the last five years. The Enrons, WorldComs, the corporate malfeasance that's one part of the equation. In business schools globalization is important, corporate malfeasance is important. What has happened in the sense of ethics has become very important; the leadership has become very important.
Q: What do you say to those who argue that the value of the MBA has become inflated and that its relevance has declined?
A: Competition in the global arena will be based on human capital, and organizations that have the ability to develop and deploy superior human capital will obviously succeed. These organizations will need leaders who can promote innovation, and teamwork. MBAs have significant preparation in analytical and problem-solving skills. They will have developed global understanding, communication and networking skills and will have honed those leadership abilities that foster empathy, motivation and ethical behavior.
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