Do Business Schools Still Attract the Best and Brightest?
Bob Bruner is the eighth dean of the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia. He teaches and conducts research in finance and management. Before his appointment as dean in August 2005, Bruner served as the founding executive director of Darden's Batten Institute, which focuses on entrepreneurship and innovation. There, he expanded Darden's Business Incubator.
As a financial economist, Bruner is best known for his research on mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance and financial panics. His books include "Deals from Hell," "Applied Mergers and Acquisitions" and "The Panic of 1907: Lessons Learned from the Market's Perfect Storm," with Sean D. Carr, which attracted wide attention for its discussion of the underpinnings of financial crises.
Question: Do business schools still attract the best and the brightest?
Bob Bruner: I think business serves a wonderful social purpose. Obviously, a business career is a wonderful gateway into a better life and in making a better life for yourself is a wonderful dream and I think it’s a very human impulse—a better life than your parents and our grandparents had. But truly business has an immense social impact that’s good in and of itself for indeed, it’s the businesses, predominantly the small businesses, that pay the most taxes, employ the most people, create the most new jobs, create new products and new services, better housing, warmer clothing, better medicine, faster communication, you name it. All of these have enormous social benefits and I would add that in developing economies, such as India and China, we’ve documented how millions of families have been lifted up out of poverty because of the growth of private sector. That is social action that is extraordinarily difficult for the public sector to achieve.
As for the allocation among sub-sectors within business, it’s been very hard to say; finance versus healthcare versus energy or others, we might like... we might wish we could be czars or czarinas and direct the MBAs into one field or another, but truly talent finds its own level. And it’s not clear to me that the graduates that do go into banking or hedge funds stay there indefinitely, and indeed many of them turn outward to run companies, to start up companies, to buy them and rejuvenate them. That, I think, it’s ultimately a good thing wherever they head.
A business career is a wonderful gateway to a better life. But business also has an immense social impact.
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