For Andy Boynton, becoming dean of the Carroll school at Boston College was a homecoming. He studied there as an undergraduate before starting on the path that led him into a career as a business school professor.

Walking round the campus, in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, it is easy to see why the college can attract its own back.

A Jesuit university in name and outlook, the collegiate feel on the campus is palpable. And it has permeated the curriculum on the MBA programme. The Carroll school believes it is the first, if not the only one, to require students to complete 20 hours of community service. This is not about getting a job, it is about the holistic experience, says Warren Zola, assistant dean for graduate programmes.

Established in the 1930s, the Carroll school has a solid reputation as an undergraduate and graduate business school. When Prof Boynton was appointed dean two years ago, he says his job was to “energise the place. When I came in, I felt people were complacent. Good is the enemy of great.”

The college had built its reputation from that of a local Boston institution to a university with a national profile, drawing students from across the US, says Prof Boynton, and that is where the business school is positioned. Prof Boynton sees his role as building on those strengths, rather than moving into new areas.

Even though Prof Boynton came back to Boston College after 11 years at IMD in Switzerland, he says he has no plans to introduce executive short courses. “It’s not our strength. Strategy is about choice. You can’t do everything. Peter Lorange [IMD president] taught me that. If you’re not going to do it well, don’t do it.” The school’s portfolio today includes an undergraduate management degree – two years in the university, two years at Carroll – from which nearly 50 per cent of the students study overseas for part of the programme.

There is a full-time and a part-time MBA programme – between 400 and 500 students are on the part-time programme – and masters of science degrees in finance and accounting. The school also has a raft of joint degree programmes, combining the MBA with medicine, social work, finance, higher education and even a master of pastoral ministry.

On the MBA front, applications have increased sharply this year, says Shelley Conley, director of graduate enrolment. The US domestic market is picking up. That said, in the entering class of 2006, 37 per cent of the 90 students were from outside the US.

The average GMAT score for those on the MBA programme is 645, says Ms Conley. On graduation, 30 per cent go into finance, with a large proportion going for consulting, marketing, general management and information technology.

All full-time MBA students have to complete a specialisation in one of 10 areas, from corporate finance to marketing informatics. “Not many schools can do the general management MBA; Harvard can,” says Prof Boynton.

As well as sharpening the programmes, Prof Boynton has been building up research and knowledge generation. The school has eight research centres, of which the two most prominent are the Winston Center for Leadership & Ethics and the Center for Asset Management.

The school has a lot of local competition, from Boston University, Babson and Bentley College, not to mention the big guns of Harvard and MIT. This does not perturb Prof Boynton. “University is like a game of golf. You focus on your own game. If BU or Boston do a great job, more power to them. If these schools are doing a great job, they will push us to do a better job.”

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