Leadership Qualities are Mastered through Experience

Interview whith Robert J. Swieringa

An interview with Robert J. Swieringa

Dean, the Johnson School, Cornell University

About Cornell

Founded in 1946, the Johnson School is Cornell''s graduate school of management. One of the U. S.''s top business schools, it offers diverse opportunities for experiential learning, such as immersion curricula and student-run venture capital and investment funds. The Johnson School is located at the center of Cornell University which is the largest Ivy League university and one of the world''s foremost research institutions.

Could you describe your MBA program?

We offer a two-year, full-time residential MBA program that is characterized by high engagement. The Johnson School''s curriculum is founded on two principles: a strong and demanding analytical foundation in key functional areas, and unusual academic flexibility to construct a program tailored to individual goals and interests. We bring top candidates, students combining the best leadership qualities, academic achievement and relevant work experience into a diverse, collaborative community where they can interact extensively with their peers as well as with our world-class faculty. Our students experience a course of education that combines academic rigor with real-world relevance. Core and elective courses, student clubs, and other programs initiatives add up to a comprehensive and intense experience that makes our graduates ready to contribute from Day One.

Do you also offer a 12-month MBA program?

Yes. The minimum qualification to be considered for the 12-month program is a Master''s degree or higher in the physical or natural sciences, or in engineering. People who do very well in this program typically aren''t making a dramatic career change, but want to move onto the business side of the business they are already in for instance, someone who is working at a biotech company as a scientist and wants to return to biotech on the business side. Students in this program must have the same qualities as those in the full-time program. The students transition into the full-time MBA program in the fall, after they complete their core courses in the spring (the same ones that students in the full-time program take, but in a shorter period of time).

What are the characteristics you are looking for in applicants?

We look for leaders, candidates who won''t merely succeed in our program academically, but will lead. There''s a distinct leadership quality we look for: being able to assess a situation and seize opportunities or create new ones that have positive results for an organization. This requires independent thinking and collaboration. Both qualities are valued at the Johnson School. There are many people who can reach a goal, but we look for that extra something - the ability to make a difference.

It's also important for people to know themselves extremely well, to know about the school, and how it will help them achieve their goals.
Candidates'' academic records (grades, courses, institution, course loads, and trends) give us some useful background information. We also want to see what candidates did outside of school, since sometimes this affects their grades. The interview and the essays also tell our admissions officers important information. We ask for specific examples of what applicants have done.

What sets your MBA program apart from other MBA programs?

At the Johnson School, we bring together focused, ambitious people in an environment that fosters cooperation and healthy competition. We believe that leadership qualities cannot be simply taught; they are mastered through experience. At the Johnson School, the process is distinguished by three characteristics, or pillars, that support all our programs:
- We focus on reality-based education, creatively integrating leading-edge research and practice to provide hands-on experience. Our unique model immersion learning provides theoretical background through real-time, experiential learning.
- By choice, we are one of the smallest of the top business schools. Our personal scale gives students the opportunity to know their classmates and the faculty and develop lasting relationships.
- We extend our scope by leveraging the vast resources of Cornell. We are surrounded by Cornell'' s rich tradition of research and exploration in all fields from biotechnology to international affairs.

Could you tell us more about your school''s job placement?

To better ready our graduates for the increasingly competitive job market, we have undertaken an intensive transformation of our career services function. Our aim: preparing our students to actively manage their own careers in any job market. In one year, under the interim management of our associate dean for Corporate Relations, we have completely reengineered our Career Services Office. This effort included creating over two dozen programs and events to enhance student''s career capabilities. To signal the office''s new, more-comprehensive function, we have renamed it the Career Management Center (CMC). We are also pleased to announce that we have hired a new director for the CMC, a career-services veteran with extensive experience in other units at Cornell and other universities.

What is your school doing to remain at the forefront of business and management thinking?

Briefly, we remind our students that they are engaged and empowered as partners. Our students have helped design and implement dramatic changes in our curriculum, technology base, and overall learning environment. In another word: customized. We provide unusual academic flexibility to enable students to tailor their MBA program to individual career goals and interests. And finally, we encourage students to take advantage of the rich offerings of a world-class research university with outstanding graduate and professional programs, many of which are in areas of emerging importance to business.

About Robert J. Swieringa

Dean Swieringa became the ninth dean of the Johnson School in 1997 and is also a professor of accounting. He served as a member of the Financial Accounting Standards Board from 1986 to 1996. Dean Swieringa also has held faculty positions at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and at the Yale School of Management. An outstanding teacher and lecturer, he won the Justice Foundation Award for Outstanding Teaching at the Johnson School, and has received numerous awards and honors for his scholarly and professional work. His current research interests are in behavioral accounting and corporate financial reporting. Dean Swieringa is Vice-Chair and Chair-Elect of the Graduate Management Admission Council that provides the GMAT, the most widely used assessment test in graduate business studies. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of General Electric.



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