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What are the best ways to communicate analytic findings? What were the challenges and successes with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine and treatments? How is Chicago Booth adapting to the changing nature of MBA programs?

These were just a few of the many questions that were answered at Management Conference 2021. More than 1,600 alumni, students, faculty, and members of the business community attended this year’s conference.

Here are a few takeaways from the event’s breakout sessions.

The Future of Cryptocurrency Is Volatile

In the keynote conversation, Cliff Asness, MBA ’91, PhD ’94, David Booth, ’71, and Eugene F. Fama, MBA ’64, PhD ’64, discussed asset prices and markets, the asset management business, and their experiences starting and building an organization. One topic that sparked a debate was cryptocurrency and Bitcoin.

“It shouldn’t exist,” said Fama, the Robert R. McCormick Distinguished Service Professor of Finance. “Monetary theory told us something won’t survive as a medium of exchange if its real value is too volatile. If it’s not a medium of exchange, where does the demand for it come from?”

Watch the keynote conversation »

Big Data Can Improve the Health-Care System

“Every interaction that a patient has with the health-care system is recorded digitally,” said Dan Adelman, professor of operations management, naming data collected from claims and finances, to diagnosis and treatment outcomes, to quality ratings. He said this data can be used for operational improvements like reducing wait times, assessing the value of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, and generally becoming more proactive in order to keep more people out of the hospital.

“It’s a very exciting world of opportunity here,” he said.

Watch the Big Data in the Classroom session »

“Monetary theory told us something won’t survive as a medium of exchange if its real value is too volatile. If it’s not a medium of exchange, where does the demand for it come from?”

— Professor Eugene Fama, MBA ’64, PhD ’64

Media Laws May Have Impacted Brexit

During a panel discussion on covering economic issues during various political environments, Chris Giles, economic editor for the Financial Times, said that media practices in Great Britain may have swayed public opinion in voting for Brexit, although many economists were against leaving.

“In the newspaper media, which is hyper-partisan in the UK, the majority of newspapers were highly on the leave side,” Giles said. “Our broadcast media, which has to follow impartiality rules in the UK, had a different problem, which was that they felt they had to give both sides absolutely equal airplay and equal time on the economic debate. And so, the small number of economists who supported leave on economic grounds realized this, and would have exactly the same amount of air time as the very large number of economists who thought it wasn’t a great idea.”

Giles argued that showing equal air time gave the public the impression that there was a balanced view among experts.

Watch Covering Economic Issues When Experts Are Not Trusted »

How to Avoid Another Pandemic: Invest in Manufacturing

We can all agree that in order to avoid another pandemic, proactivity is important. Robert Nelsen, ’87, managing director and cofounder of ARCH Venture Partners, said one of the key places to invest in advance of future problems is manufacturing, due to the role it will play in miniaturizing, systemizing, and digitizing medical technologies.

“We haven’t invested in manufacturing proactively much at all in this space,” Nelsen said. Leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, “the only people that actually invested in manufacturing were vaccine makers.”

Watch The COVID-19 Vaccine session »

Faculty COVID Research Examined Government Assistance and Unemployment

The COVID-19 pandemic was unique in many ways, partially because of the types of workers that lost their jobs—primarily consumer-facing, lower-income workers. In his research, Pascal Noel, Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Finance, found that even though low-income workers had the largest labor income losses, they actually had the fastest spending recovery and increase in their savings, due to both large stimulus checks and the expansion of unemployment insurance.

“The government response was very aggressive and it was able to cushion many households so that their financial impact was much less than it might otherwise have been,” he said. “The government actually was able to do that in a way that didn’t have very negative impacts on the economy.”

Watch Chicago Booth Faculty Research: Lessons from the Pandemic »

“We send more people to tech than to banking now because the students coming here are able to learn about big data so they can get the sales and ops jobs; they can get product management roles relatively easily.

— Dean Madhav Rajan

Booth Is Adapting Curriculum to Meet Today’s Students’ Needs

People aren’t getting their MBAs for the same reasons they used to. Ann McGill, MBA ’85, PhD ’86, Sears Roebuck Professor of General Management, Marketing, and Behavioral Science, said students are coming in with experience in “bread and butter” topics like marketing and economics from their undergraduate courses and their work experience. Today, they look to their MBA program to build “soft skills” and get formal training in leadership. Madhav Rajan, Dean and George Pratt Shultz Professor of Accounting, explained how Booth’s broad curriculum allows students to study any topic they’d like more experience in.

“They come in knowing the basics much more than students used to, but we’re able to offer them things at the cutting edge,” said Dean Rajan. “We send more people to tech than to banking now because the students coming here are able to learn about big data so they can get the sales and ops jobs; they can get product management roles relatively easily. Fifteen years ago, nobody would have known what a product manager was in a tech company, but we send a significant number of people to that.”

Watch The Future of the MBA »

The Pandemic Helped Young Adults View Themselves as Part of Something Bigger Than Themselves

When it comes to groups who like to break rules, college students are near the top of the list. But at Vassar College, president Elizabeth Bradley, ’86, made the campus a “mini New Zealand” where students had to stay on campus during quarantine. She said students embraced understanding they had to compromise their own desire to get off campus to party.

“Witnessing this from an older adult level, I thought it was fascinating because it’s a part of education that often we miss—that empathic and sort of mature sense that one is part of something bigger than themselves.”

Watch Perspectives on COVID-19 »


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