January 26, 2023

Are MBA Programs Adapting to America’s Culture Wars?

Worth Media offers an interesting take on the important roles MBA programs can play in adapting to America’s ongoing culture wars.   The battles between Florida governor Ron DeSantis and The Walt Disney Company over the state’s “Don’t Say Gay Law” and between Adidas and Kanye West over antisemitic comments are just two examples of how these wars affect business.  In Adidas’ case, the decision to break with the artist is estimated to cost the company about $2 billion in revenue per year.


Given this context, Worth Media asked if the top MBA programs are helping to equip future business leaders to navigate the challenging intersection of business and politics.  Worth found that few top MBA programs have electives on politics, media, and public relations.  Though a few students earn dual master’s, pairing their MBAs with degrees in public policy, urban planning, or related social science, most newly minted MBAs graduate with little appreciation for how government policy impacts the economic or political domains.


Former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, now a communications consultant for Fortune 500 CEOs, told Worth, “business schools aren’t teaching the next generation of leaders about the real-life push and pull of operating in an increasingly politicized and polarized operating environment.”  Leila Aridi Afas, Toyota’s director of Global Public Policy, agreed: “new MBAs must understand world history, geography, and policy-making.”


According to Worth, Harvard Business School lacks any required MBA courses to prepare future corporate leaders for a politically-fraught business environment, though a few dual-degree students study public policy and government via the Harvard Kennedy School.  Even the top MBA program in Washington DC, Georgetown University’s McDonough School, has no courses that address navigating political issues or corporate stewardship, Worth claims.


In contrast, Stanford’s MBA program allows students to engage in political courses outside the core curriculum, and Columbia Business School has gone a step further by introducing courses over the past decade on the politics of business.  Whereas Columbia’s Corporate Strategy curriculum used to be very much finance-focused, it has added non-quantifiable issues to the mix.  Similarly, MBA and EMBA courses such as “Business in Society” and “Executive Ethics” directly address the intersection of business and politics.


For Worth’s article, click here. If you need help on R3 applications, R2 interviews, or you’re planning to apply for 2024, contact us!