Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Spring 2003Kellogg School of Management
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How the best gets better
The Kellogg School fine-tunes its curriculum

By Matt Golosinski

If student satisfaction and perennial top rankings in business school surveys count for anything, there’s little in the Kellogg School curriculum that needs changing.

Even so, when the Kellogg Curriculum Assessment Task Force reported details of its nine-month study, the committee’s 11 members recommended a few key adjustments. The changes include shifting the sequence of the full-time Kellogg curriculum by moving the Management and Organizations (MORS) core class into a 10-day pre-term format that occurs immediately after the school’s CIM Week. The CIM Week orientation introduces new students to Kellogg and its culture. This move will permit students to take either the core finance or marketing course earlier in their MBA studies, strengthening their academic portfolio and their performance in summer internships. Kellogg believes the internship is increasingly becoming a key recruiting vehicle.

Nothing in the existing core presented serious concerns or demanded radical changes, said David Besanko, associate dean of academic affairs (curriculum and technology), who chaired the task force.

“It was very important that we not mess up a core structure that has worked well for us for a long time,” stated Besanko. “That said, we had to walk a fine balance between doing no more than was necessary, but also understanding that this review provided a unique opportunity to engage the core curriculum and think about ways we could improve it.”

The task force consisted of Dean Besanko; Management and Strategy Professor Scott Schaefer; Accounting Professor Ronald Dye; Marketing Professor Alice Tybout; Edmund Wilson, former associate dean for student affairs and current ambassador-at-large for Kellogg; Assistant Dean and Director of Student Academic Affairs Michele Rogers; Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences Professor Peter Klibanoff; Director of The Managers’ Program Vennie Lyons ’72; Finance Professor Robert Korajczyk; and Management and Organizations Professor Victoria Medvec. Not pictured is student representative James Lutz ’02.

To arrive at its conclusions, this team solicited input from many sources, including a study benchmarking core curricula at peer business schools, a survey of 2002 Kellogg MBA students from both the full-time and part-time programs, and detailed interviews with 15 members of the full-time program’s graduating class.

In addition, the team integrated insights from Kellogg School Dean Dipak C. Jain’s meetings with more than 125 corporate recruiters during the past year.

The findings of the task force indicate that the Kellogg core is both rigorous and relevant, matching up well against peers and offering ample opportunities for students to master such skills as teamwork within the unique Kellogg environment.

In fact, Kellogg has been so influential in this area that most other schools have since adopted the innovation. Today, Kellogg once again differentiates itself by leading the way, building upon its existing strengths and culture.

“We now have created the concept of ‘team leadership’ because we believe our students will best excel if they can work well together in teams,” said Dean Jain. “But we are also insisting that students develop outstanding leadership skills while working in these groups. In this way, they develop the necessary portfolio of abilities to enable them to reach the most senior leadership ranks.”

The last time Kellogg initiated a major curriculum review was in the early 1970s, said Besanko, although he noted that Kellogg has embraced a strategy of continuous innovation with regard to individual courses and their content, updating classes to meet student and market demands.

“The content and delivery of the core curriculum changed a lot over time. What has not changed, until now, is the structure of it — which courses go before which other courses,” Besanko said.

Additional changes that Kellogg is making include redesigning the school’s pass/no pass option and making it available to both full- and part-time students; and changing the full-time class schedule from 100 minutes to 90 minutes to allow students more time to schedule such things as lunch meetings with recruiters or study group meetings with their peers.

Kellogg is also studying how to create an experience for second-year students that parallels CIM Week enjoyed by first-year students.

“The task force is still in business and has now turned its attention to the second year of the curriculum,” said Besanko. “We are considering the possibility of a course or experience that would bring all the class sections back together in the second year.”

Student response to the changes has been “very favorable,” said Mark Moore ’03, vice president of the Kellogg Graduate Management Association. Moore noted that the new curriculum will roll out later this year when the fall quarter begins. He is especially pleased with how the changes affect CIM Week and believes that moving the MORS course, “Leadership in Organizations,” into CIM makes excellent sense.

“CIM Week is one of our greatest traditions,” said Moore. “With the addition of the MORS course, Kellogg is really jump starting the school year with an emphasis on academics, while maintaining all the CIM traditions that people have come to expect and enjoy.”

Moore also noted that the MORS material involves leadership and working together — “both of which are perfect for the CIM dynamic.”

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University