Talking "Beyond Grey Pinstripes" with Judy Samuelson

Today the Institute launched its biennial ranking of MBA programs, Beyond Grey Pinstripes. We spoke with Judy Samuelson, executive director of our Business and Society Program who puts out the rankings through their Center for Business Education. You can learn more about the rankings at www.beyondgreypinstripes.org.


Judy Samuelson

1) The latest edition of Beyond Grey Pinstripes came out today. Congrats on what is many months of hard work! Tell us, for those who don’t know, what exactly is Beyond Grey Pinstripes?

Beyond Grey Pinstripes is an independent ranking of business schools and extensive database—hosted by Aspen—that highlights whether, and how, leading MBA programs prepare students to balance business success with social and environmental stewardship. “Pinstripes” is unique—it celebrates innovative courses, research and activities that prepare MBAs for the business challenges of tomorrow.

2) How does the Beyond Grey Pinstripes ranking compare with other rankings?

While other rankings focus on salaries, tuition, and the impressions of recruiters, Aspen’s evaluation focuses on what is actually taught—the intellectual framework and what skills and knowledge students can expect to take away.  

3) What is the goal of Beyond Grey Pinstripes? Why create this unique ranking in the first place?

Business schools exist in a competitive environment; the goal is to drive competition among MBA programs in pursuit of high quality business decisions that stand the test of time—that align business with the long term health of society. We invite schools to submit what is being taught in MBA classrooms and what topics MBA faculty research. The hope is that by broadcasting the results, and making the information widely accessible on the web, that students will vote with their feet—and stimulate demand for content about environmental sustainability, ethical decision-making, and social impact management. Pinstripes puts the spotlight on the best examples, and drives change through greater awareness of what is happening across the spectrum of business education.   

4) This must take quite a bit of data to put together. Could you describe the process of gathering and analyzing all of the information for the Beyond Grey Pinstripes ranking?

For the 2011-2012 Beyond Grey Pinstripes rankings, 149 schools from 22 countries submitted data through our online survey. These data include 12,000 course descriptions and faculty research abstracts. In addition, schools offer descriptions of extracurricular activities, institutes and centers, joint degrees and specializations – all now available on our website. To arrive at this year’s ranking, the project team, including 14 PhD students and our own team at Aspen, spent seven months analyzing the courses and faculty research and culling the best content. It’s a lot of work—we are confident it pays off. Students have come to rely on the data in school selection, and the course descriptions and syllabi are seen by hundreds of thousands of visitors to the website.

5) Analyzing all of that data sounds like a tall order. What have been the most rewarding aspects of conducting Beyond Grey Pinstripes and what have you learned?

It’s great when we hear back from students about the value of Pinstripes; it helps them see what is possible and drives a conversation that is critical to bringing about change. It’s terrific to see MBA programs that step up to the plate; that challenge their faculty to consider financial, social and environmental stewardship. This year, across all scoring categories, we found that business schools have raised the bar. That’s very good news – especially in the wake of a severe global recession.  

6) What are your hopes for the future of Beyond Grey Pinstripes?

We have come along way on new content. The next step is to expose a critical fault line that impedes progress. In too many schools, the students study ethics on one day, and then practice decision models designed to externalize costs and push the values and ethical considerations to one side. If we can encourage discussion of business purpose in the finance classrooms, as well as the ethics classrooms, we will make real progress.