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Rigor Vs. Relevance


Q: How do you address the tensions between training managers for tomorrow’s problems versus educating them for future decades?

A: Equipping students with an analytical framework means they know how to approach unfamiliar problems. They may not know the immediate answer, but they absolutely know the necessary questions to ask, tools to use and issues to evaluate in order to find a solution.

Providing students with a rigorous grounding is a good first step. Training them to approach problems the way that these disciplines teach is a bigger step. Having students work on interdisciplinary projects trains them to think across silos, which is an important way to use current knowledge to grapple with new, unknown problems. The Tepper curriculum aligns with an intellectual infrastructure that introduces rigor in the first year and relevance in the second. The order is as important as the elements themselves. While this model has not changed since it was invented here by Nobel Prize laureate Herb Simon, among others, we constantly update the methods by which we deliver its results.

Our promise to Tepper students is as simple as it is profound: you will receive an unparalleled experience that leverages the culture, size and academic focus of the business school in order to provide the necessary learning, tools and exposure for the type of success in business that presents greater opportunities for leadership roles. Tepper students have the fundamental skills necessary for making a contribution in business, and, as a result, are assured of being able to contribute quickly in environments that are multi-cultural, complicated and interdisciplinary/multi-functional.

Q: Many top MBA programs say they are transforming students into leaders. But this begs the question of whether leaders are born or can be taught. What’s the Tepper School’s approach to leadership training?

A: It is a misleading for MBA programs to dangle the promise of senior executive positions in front of students simply as a result of some soft courses in people-management. The hard truth is that performance is what ultimately leads to the opportunity to advance, and that is the beginning of how graduates are exposed to leadership situations. While the soft skills are relevant to students’ abilities to create productive relationships in order to motivate people, the reality is that to get an organization to follow your vision, people must collectively trust in your ability to perform. This is the core of the leadership skills.

Programs that emphasize leadership instead of, or even above, learning do a disservice to students. The skills of becoming a leader are developed over time and often in a way more tailored to the culture of the organizations in which students are employed. We are focused upon positioning students for success within situations that are linked to leadership opportunities. This strategy inherently provides more career options due to the transferability of skills. Likewise, this approach also helps to make graduates more insightful leaders by virtue of their understanding of a broader context to problem solving.

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