Our dean recently wrote about the good and the bad of ranking business schools. It got me thinking. We don’t really pay much attention to rankings around here. Ask and you’d be hard pressed to find an MBA student that could tell you where we stand on the U.S. News & World Report’s list of ”Best Business Schools.” (For the record, we were ranked 50 among public business schools and 91 out of 441 programs.) Maybe it’s an Oregon thing, but rankings don’t really matter to us. Why? Because you can’t quantify the unique attributes that make our program special. Ranking business schools is a bit like ranking bands. Is there really any objective way to compare the Rolling Stones with Radiohead? How about Outkast and Arcade Fire? Sure you could come up with a bunch of “objective” metrics based on album sales, radio play, and touring revenue, but would that make one band better than another?
The Oregon MBA is designed to instill a broad set of business skills through its core curriculum while providing experiential learning and networking opportunities through its centers of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Sustainable Business, Finance & Securities Analysis and Sports Business. Each center offers students unique opportunities and access to an extensive professional network. Every year, students venture to Seattle, San Francisco, New York and China to meet with industry leaders. We start businesses, win business plan competitions, and consult for leading companies in the Pacific Northwest. How do you quantify and rank these kind of experiences? You can’t.
Students come here for a variety of reason, some of us want to change our career trajectory while others want to gain additional skills to advance in their respective fields. Whatever the reason, when it’s all said and done, we all want to land a fulfilling and rewarding job. Like all investors, we expect a return on our investment. On that note, you would think that there would be some buzz among MBA students for being a Top 10 MBA for Financial Value, meaning that our salaries upon graduation are high relative to the student debt we incur. Well, there wasn’t.
Sure, it’s nice to know that our program is a good value. What business minded student wouldn’t appreciate that? However, as we are students of business, we can also tell you that a cost advantage doesn’t necessarily equate to a competitive advantage (You the man, Michael Porter!). Sustainable competitive advantage arises from a firm’s ability to differentiate its offerings relative to its competitors. Of course, comparing an MBA program to a business is not entirely accurate or fair. But neither is ranking a program based on starting salary and student debt, ie. cost advantage. It’s a convenient metric, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. It doesn’t account for differentiation. And we are definitely different! Out program combines experiential learning opportunities with a network that connects us to startups, sports properties, nonprofits, sustainable businesses, consulting firms, and Fortune 500 companies. It’s a testament to what the Oregon MBA is all about. It’s also very difficult to quantify. How do you rank the value of an MBA program that helps you land your dream job?
Rankings aren’t entirely useless, but they aren’t entirely accurate either. We don’t pay much attention to rankings around here because they don’t capture the things that really matter to us. The experiences, camaraderie, network, and professional opportunities that our program offers simply can’t be measured and ranked.
Tashi Dondup, MBA ’12
Innovation & Entrepreneurship