Responding to the Crisis

Dean Ted Snyder

Image by Matthew Gilson

“So, Ted, tell me …”

When I first started as dean in 2001, I encountered several questions with great frequency: How was I going to position the school? What would we do to raise the profile of our faculty, whose excellent work did not seem to get the recognition it deserved in some circles? How would we highlight the accomplishments of our alumni around the globe? And what would we do to increase our endowment? I think we’ve done a great job of answering these questions with superior performance, and so the questioning became more diverse. But with the so-called Great Recession that began in the fall of 2008, there is a single dominant question: “How is Booth responding to the crisis?”

Members of our community want to know what we are doing to support our students and alumni. The answer is positive. I don’t know of any other global business school community that has responded better, with systematic outreach and additional resources. It seems that a Chicago Approach to professional development is now emerging—rigorous, disciplined, and far-sighted. While other schools rely on long-standing relationships and a sense of “being in the club,” our community is identifying and strengthening relationships in all sectors and all regions.

Another compelling motive for asking how Chicago Booth is responding is to find out whether we believe our programs need to be fixed and, if so, the nature of the remedy. No doubt the severity of the economic downturn, the threat to the financial system, and concerns about high-end compensation laid the groundwork for calls to change the fundamentals of management education. Last year was difficult on many fronts, and, for many reasons, reflection about the right course for business schools, organizations, and individuals alike is useful. But I must report honestly. Chicago Booth is not responding to the economic downturn with major revisions to what or how we teach.

Our “non-response” reflects positive judgments that we have the right approach for management education for the long haul. More than ever, enterprises need business leaders who are never satisfied with their current state of knowledge, who believe in the power of ideas leveraged throughout the organization, and who pay keen attention to facts. The world needs more Chicago MBAs—to counter group think, to jar complacency, and to improve business performance.

I also believe in sticking with our long-articulated strategy of, well, sticking to our values as one of two components in making Chicago the best business school in the world. A hugely discounted factor in strategy is persistence in execution, and especially given that our business is developing human capital and knowledge, our strategy should be far-sighted and not reactive. In sum, we will persist and do so with a good balance of confidence and humility.

In the balance of this issue, you will get to know several individuals among the ranks of our alumni who have been honored as Distinguished Alumni Award winners. By embodying excellence and exhibiting a passion for lifelong development, they are archetypes of achievement. You will also be able to look back at our 57th annual Management Conference in Chicago. With moderator Ray Suarez of PBS’s The NewsHour, faculty members Gary Becker, Marianne Bertrand, Steve Kaplan, Anil Kashyap, Kevin Murphy, and Raghuram Rajan debated “The Future of Markets” before a sellout crowd and thousands of web simulcast audience members. It was a dialogue of the first order, discussing the U.S. educational system, the implications of executive pay, global credit markets, incentives, and much more.

The conversation about the role business schools must play in the future will continue to be debated in the media and between friends and colleagues. I hope that you will engage in this discussion, reminding others of the transformative nature of your Chicago education and its on-going influence on your endeavors.

And I know that the next time my elbow is grabbed, along with the “So, Ted…,” I will respond, “Yes, we are focusing even more intensely, understanding that the best answer is always provisional.”

Edward A. Snyder
Dean and George Pratt Shultz Professor of Economics