Our Mission is to Educate Leaders
An interview with Kim B. Clark
Dean, Harvard Business School
About Harvard Business School
Founded in 1908, Harvard Business School was initially conceived as a “delicate experiment” in the then-new field of professional management education. Although it initially used the facilities of Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, it officially dedicated its own campus in Boston in 1927. Throughout the School's history, its faculty has done pioneering research in numerous areas of study that affect the way business is practiced around the world. Its MBA program has an enrollment of 1,800 graduate students. In addition, the School offers a variety of doctoral and executive education programs.
How does Harvard Business School stand out amongst the world's top?
Harvard Business School literally invented the MBA degree in 1908, and it has been at the forefront of management education ever since. Our 1,800 students come to our 35-acre campus in Boston from some 70 countries, and thanks to the case method, they are involved every day in an interactive learning process that confronts them with a wide range of real business problems and asks them what they would do. As a result, they develop to a very high degree their ability to analyze a situation, explain their opinion, and defend their ideas against alternative views posed by others an experience that parallels what they will find in the positions they take when they graduate. Our faculty members are extraordinarily committed both to their teaching and their research. In addition to producing hundreds of new cases each year, they are also writing numerous articles, books, and other materials that keep them on the leading edge in their fields and that have a powerful impact on practice throughout the world. This process is facilitated by research centers and offices around the globe currently in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, and Paris, as well as Northern California. But beyond all this, Harvard Business School is very much a community where students develop lifelong bonds with their professors and with one another both inside and outside the classroom. In all we do here, my colleagues and I are dedicated to one mission to educate leaders who make a difference in the world, be they in new ventures or well-established corporations, in the for-profit sector or social enterprises.
Could you describe your MBA program?
In keeping with our mission, our focus is on general management. Students at Harvard Business School want to lead an organization some day, and so they want not just accounting, marketing, and other functional skills, but a broad strategic overview. Our MBA program is a rigorous two-year, full-time course of study that aims to be a transformational experience. The case-based learning model and our curriculum — a combination of required courses in the first year and electives in the second are at the heart of that process, to be sure, but so are things like study groups, club activities, athletics, and community outreach efforts. They are all vital parts of the HBS education.
Is there a specific profile to be accepted to your MBA program?
Since Harvard Business School is a graduate school, the vast majority of our students have earned at least one university degree before they enter, but beyond that, there really is no specific profile. Our admissions officers are looking for people from a wide variety of backgrounds who have academic ability, leadership experience, and outstanding personal qualities and characteristics. But there is absolutely no standardized metric such as a minimum grade point average or minimum GMAT score or minimum number of years of work experience. Each candidate is considered as a unique individual, and all factors in the application process essays, recommendations, etc. — are taken into account to give a sense of the whole person and his or her potential for success in a demanding general management program like this. There is a common factor of ability and energy in our students, a desire to accomplish something. At the same time, I am always impressed by the diversity of their backgrounds an MBA candidate who is a physician, for instance, or a former professional athlete or military officer or the founder of a nonprofit organization or technology firm. That's one of the reasons why students learn so much from each other while they're here.
How are Harvard Business School graduates faring in the current recruitment market?
The soft economy has made the job search more difficult this year than in the past, and everyone in the community is trying to identify new ways to help. Students are broadening their targets rather than looking for a very specific, narrowly focused job in particular city. Our Career Services Office is adding personnel and developing innovative new programs, many of our faculty members are providing us with contact information and referrals, and we are calling upon the resources of our global alumni network. Finally, I am devoting a considerable amount of time to all this as well, meeting regularly with administrators and students to make sure we are doing all we can to alleviate anxieties and pursue as many leads as possible.
About Kim B. Clark
Dean Clark, an expert in technology, product development, and operations strategy, has been Dean of the Harvard Business School since 1995. His current research examines modularity in design and the integration of technology and competition in industry evolution, with a particular focus on the computer industry. His most recent book is Design Rules: The Power of Modularity (MIT Press, 2000). A member of the Harvard faculty since 1978, he received A. B. (1974), M. A. (1977), and Ph.D. (1978) degrees in economics from Harvard University.
What advice do you have for our readers who are thinking about applying to Harvard Business School?
I urge them to learn as much as they can about the School. Read the catalogue. Spend time on our Web site (http://www.hbs.edu), and review the on-line application form. Talk to graduates. And if at all possible, visit the campus, meet some students, and sit in on a class. This is a very important decision. Many schools offer the MBA degree, but they differ in such dimensions as methods of teaching, class size, depth and breadth of faculty expertise, and location. Ultimately, it's about finding the right fit.