MBAs Aren't Always Business as Usual

Many schools now prioritize preparing students for social stewardship

Though many students pursue post-graduate education with hopes of getting a high-paying job or to bolster their résumé during a recession, a lot of them have a greater good in mind. With suffering economies around the world, an increasing emphasis on social justice and a growing knowledge of environmental needs, many students are demanding degrees that allow them to confront these issues—and schools are rising to meet that demand.

For starters, an MBA isn’t just an excuse to put on a suit and tie for class presentations. Beyond Grey Pinstripes, a survey conducted by the Aspen Institute Center for Business Education ranks MBA programs by their social and environmental impact. It looks at the availability of courses that contain social, environmental and ethical content, how often the student is exposed to such content, and how many courses specifically deal with the intersection of social issues in for-profit business. Since 2009, the Aspen Institute has seen a 38 percent increase in how many required courses of finance departments pertain to social, ethical or environmental content.

“The financial crisis caused schools to be more introspective about what they are teaching,” says Judy Samuelson, Aspen’s director of business and society. “They were criticized for being part of the problem, and not part of the solution. And that has created an environment where faculty can innovate and make change.”

About a quarter of graduate degrees are business-related, with another 20 percent of undergraduate degrees falling into this field.
“The reason we are seeing change is that the millennials are demanding it,” Samuelson says. “[They] want business to be seen in the context of the big issues of our day.”

The Top 10 MBA Programs with Social and Environmental Emphasis
  1. Stanford Graduate School of Business
  2. Univ. of Notre Dame
  3. Yale School of Management
  4. Northwestern University
  5. Univ. of Michigan
  6. Cornell University
  7. Univ. of North Carolina
  8. UC Berkeley
  9. GWU School of Business
  10. Columbia Business School

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