Babson’s MBA program may not be rubbing shoulders with Harvard/Stanford/Wharton in the general rankings. But it is very much at the top when it comes to specialised rankings (Top honours for Entrepreneurship). Strange, naa? Ever wondered why or how that can happen? Naveen Venkataraman logically, scientifically and statistically unravels the mystery.
1. Why is Babson ranked low on Businessweek rankings?
The BW MBA ranking 2010 indicates that Babson students gave faculty (across streams) an A in teaching quality. For perspective, of the top tier schools in this ranking (30 in total), 12 received Bs and Cs from their students, including 7 of the Top 10 MBA programs. This indicates that it is not the teaching quality or resources alone that dictate the ranking for a school and certainly a lack of quality is not the reason for Babson’s ranking.
In contrast to the above, Babson received a C in two areas: recruiter assessment of a candidate’s analytical skills and MBA career services.
There are some key reasons for this, in my opinion. The Babson MBA is a one of the smallest programs in the US with an annual graduation number of roughly around 150 – 165 candidates (including One Year MBA). It is also not selective to the extent of top 10 schools and average GMAT scores are almost 80-100 points below top schools. Key reasons (from my personal experience at Babson) are that students are more street-smart as compared to book-smart and largely come from business family or self-owned business backgrounds where business skills are emphasized more than academic skills.
Both these factors (size of program and type of student) contribute to companies in traditional MBA recruitment areas not making a large effort to recruit at Babson or to recruit in large numbers. A graduate is given help through career services (which is being actively ramped up as we speak), but is largely dependent on the (comparatively small) Babson network and a smaller pool of companies to land a position in the industry. Given Babson has one of the largest international classrooms in the US (41% international in the Class of 2012), and given the well-documented challenges for US work visas, a majority of international students (who choose to go into the industry) have struggled with placements due to this aspect as well.
2. Why Babson is #1 in entrepreneurship?
In my discussion with students around campus, the following key reasons emerged as contributing factors to the entrepreneurial culture at Babson.
* Background of students that Babson MBA attracts
A majority of incoming MBA students come from family or self-owned business backgrounds from various countries. I don’t have hard numbers on the overall class, but in my experience (I’m an Indian), from 9 Indian students in my two year MBA class, 6 have family or self-run business backgrounds. The numbers are similar or trending upwards if you consider second year students and one year MBA students.
I also have entrepreneurs from New Zealand, Chile, Mexico and the US amongst other countries represented in my class. This demographic, combined with the business focused strong undergrad program creates an environment where small business thought is fostered actively.
While major schools teach entrepreneurship as a concentration or a stream, Babson imbibes entrepreneurship into every aspect of the program. The first year of the MBA is divided into four Modules: Creative Management in Dynamic Organizations, Assessing Business Opportunities, Designing and Managing the Delivery System and Managing Business in a Changing Global Environment. Each of these modules conditions you to creatively identify opportunities in an entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial manner and develop those ideas using well-defined frameworks.
Classes are taught using business cases that give you broad insights into the practices of small businesses and the second year electives (including Marketing for Entrepreneurs, Managing Growing Businesses, M&A for Entrepreneurs) offer an in depth view into small business issues and the viewpoint of small business owners. This goes beyond the current level of entrepreneurial teaching at peer schools, as things stand.
* Environment at school
– School facilitated
The Arthur M. Blank center is the nerve center for entrepreneurship at Babson. It has recently setup the Babson Venture Accelerator Program that places new business ideas into different levels (depending on the maturity of idea and execution plans) and provides facilities including office space and mentoring. Different programs including Rocket Pitch competitions, Summer Venture Program, partnerships with Angel and Venture circles and limited funding also add to the facilities offered to kick start your business while in school.
– Student driven
As I mentioned, the peer group (grads and undergrads) comprises a high percentage of current or future entrepreneurs. You are constantly exchanging and collaborating over business ideas. Often, there is a direct collaboration between the Grad school and Undergrad engineering program at the independent Olin Engineering school to develop prototypes and products.
I hope this answers the question sufficiently. I will be happy to connect with anyone who has any queries. I’d again like to stress that rankings are a single data point and one needs to really understand the ethos of a school to understand what it stands for.
This article originally featured on Quora. We’ve adapted it for this blog.