The UVaToday News Blog posted an interesting link on its blog to an article titled, Is It Time to Retrain Business Schools? I suppose in this environment, this is a fair question. The article points out that a number of graduate students are required to take "professional" exams before joining the workforce (lawyers, doctors & accountants). However, an MBA program does not require a test before you enter the working world. The article also questions if programs are too analytically focused and don't give students enough practical application to push businesses forward instead of simply increasing shareholder returns. All valid thoughts, but I must disagree.
For me, I have only attended one business school and thus, can only speak to the actions of Darden. Darden's goal is to develop leaders in the world of practical affairs. If you notice, it does NOT say managers. Darden is encompassed in the greater UVa community where ethics and the honor code hold each us as individuals to the highest of standards. Though, my first true ethics course is not until Thursday, I have not once heard a professor say that the only goal of a business is to make money, especially at the expense of its stakeholders. Further, we learn that stakeholders do NOT equal shareholders. Stakeholders are more, and in a simplistic view, include customers, employees, the community, and suppliers. Of course, it is possible that these lessons are that of the case method.
Though I understand the finger pointing as those with MBAs are held to a higher standard, people must remember that at the core of each of us is our own personal values. We may sculpt those values in business school, but I don't believe we initially learn them there. I recognize that these MBA carrying professionals were submerged in this financial mess. That said, there are likely a number of other people, from those who purchased homes that could not afford them, to mortgage officers who approved loans consumers couldn't afford, to banks who extended the loans and so on, who do not carry MBAs. The entire system collapsed in a way that people did not expect and part of it was no one thought about risk. People wanted increased returns, so they received increased returns, though there was no acknowledgment of the increased risk that comes with those returns. (Yes, I am simplifying the crisis)
As for Darden's response to the financial happenings, we've analyzed the crisis real time. From the outset, Darden setup two or three impromptu speaker series with experts in the field to further our understanding. During Q2, two classes were inserted into the Global Economics and Markets course. The first, to allow students to understand on the surface the chain of events leading to the crisis. The second, to deepen understanding of what policy responses and how the crisis may play out. Moreover in Q3 GEM, another financial crisis case was written a week before we studied it. If that's not real-time, I'm not sure what is. There has been talk in other classes as well. Additionally, many of us are feeling the effects in our own job and internship searches. I know more about the intricacies now than I ever would have without business school. I also feel I have more knowledge and that this investment is a good one.