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By his own admission, Yash Gupta is like “a kid in a candy shop”. His candy is the intellectual property residing in the different schools of Maryland-based Johns Hopkins University – intellectual property that he intends to bring to bear on the university’s newly-created Carey Business School, of which he is the dean.
With the university’s strengths in medicine, public health, arts and sciences, and international studies, Prof Gupta wants to create a programme that offers an interdisciplinary approach to business education.
The Indian-born, British-educated dean – who was previously dean of the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California – has grand ambitions for the school, aiming to turn it rapidly into one of the world’s top-ranking institutions.
Business education is nothing new at Johns Hopkins. Business and engineering courses were first introduced in 1916 and a graduate-level business degree that was launched in 1961 evolved into a master of administrative science programme highly focused on management and economics.
This was followed by master of science programmes in disciplines such as real estate, organisational development and human resources, IT and telecoms systems and, in the late 1990s, a master of business administration degree and masters programmes in medical services management, biotechnology, nursing and public health.
However, a donation of $50m in 2006 from William Polk Carey, founder of a large US real estate company and a Hopkins trustee, paved the way for the opening of the new school.
Part of the motivation for establishing the business school was a recognition of the importance of management studies to education institutions. “It’s increasingly becoming apparent that a business school is important to create a full complement of programmes for the university to offer,” says Prof Gupta.
The school will make full use of staff from the medical and nursing schools as well as faculty who teach public health and engineering. At the same time, Carey will be hiring faculty from outside the university, focusing on individuals with backgrounds in science and technology who also have an understanding of scholarship and business.
“That doesn’t mean we won’t have strength in finance, marketing and accounting,” says Prof Gupta. “Because whatever kind of organisations you have, you need control systems, and you need to know who your customers are and how to manufacture.”
However, he stresses that the school’s mission is going to be “phenomenally different” from that of other schools. “What’s the point in copying a model from somebody else?” he asks. “You can’t be number one by following number one – and if our objective is to become the premier business school we need to redefine business education.”
To do this, as well as full-time MBAs and executive programmes, the school is offering cross-disciplinary programmes in combination with other Johns Hopkins schools.
A focus on hands-on learning means students will be placed in the working world through one-off projects, internships or collaborations with industry. At the same time, large-scale simulations will expose students to events, such as a pharmaceuticals industry crisis.
Most radical is the structuring of the programme around themes rather than disciplines. This means faculty teach in teams. “Organisations of the future are going to be highly integrated, and highly flat – and what is lacking in business schools is integration,” he says. “So we will deliver that education in the form of themes rather than courses.”
Teaching themes such as “how to find a customer” means that, rather than having three faculty members from a single discipline, the school will use a mixture of academics from areas ranging from finance and marketing to behavioural studies, engineering and even anthropology. “It’s not teaching in a sequential manner but in a parallel fashion,” says Prof Gupta.
Moreover, the student teams will also be horizontally integrated, with first and second year students working together. This delivery method and course and team structuring reflects the dean’s view of the way the world of global commerce is evolving, with the emergence of companies that are horizontal and not vertically integrated. “This is responding to a new business landscape,” he says. “And that’s the fun part.”