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Reinventing the M.B.A.

B-schools are overhauling curriculum to turn out more innovative, socially responsible leaders.

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A challenge for M.B.A. programs today is that many of the industries in which their grads will be leaders don't yet exist. "Today they work in hedge funds and biotechnology," says Wharton Dean Thomas Robertson. "None of that existed 20 years ago." Wharton has appointed a vice dean to focus specifically on ensuring that innovation is everywhere in the new curriculum, which was approved last December. One new course content area, for example, is Management of Operations, Innovation, Information, and Decisions under Uncertainty.

The recent financial upheaval has also led M.B.A. programs to focus more on social responsibility. Business schools have been blamed for fostering the culture of greed—or at least short-sightedness—that led to the crisis. As a result, says AACSB's Fernandes, schools are exploring how to change their curricula to produce responsible leaders who don't focus solely "on profit maximization."

Stanford, for one, has introduced an ethics class with guest lectures by industry veterans. Students are presented with real-life issues such as "spinning," a controversial practice in which investment banks offer stock options to executives with whom they do business in advance of an initial public offering. "I do believe that business schools have an obligation to society to be a force for good," says Wharton's Robertson.

Perhaps no curriculum change has been more widely embraced by educators than the global component. Stanford now requires students to do an internship, a service-learning project, or a study trip in a country where they haven't lived or worked before the start of their second year. At the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, students spend the last seven weeks of their first year immersed in small-group field projects at real companies. One team is traveling to South Africa to help an alternative energy company develop a leasing model for a fuel cell power plant.

[Learn more about M.B.A. programs going global.]

Three years ago, Emory University's Goizueta Business School introduced a 10-day break during spring semester so students could earn credit by traveling abroad with a faculty member to explore a topic relevant to the host country in association with local and multinational firms. Students visit Costa Rica, for example, to help develop the local coffee farm industry.

"It's one thing to teach the political economy of China and India," says Harvard's Garvin. "It's another thing to get on the ground in field projects in those countries and actually try and get something done.

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