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$1 Billion Goal Met, HBS Sets Its Sights on Another $300 Million

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Harvard Business School (HBS) set a monumentally ambitious $1 billion fundraising goal when it launched its Harvard Business School Campaign in April 2014. The hope was to raise the funds over the next five years, part of an overall Harvard University $6.5 billion campaign. In fairness, HBS did share that it had already raised $600 million toward the goal in the campaign’s “quiet phase,” which kicked off in 2012. Given this head start—and the dedication and commitment of the school’s 80,000+ alumni across more than 160 countries—it may not come as a complete surprise to learn that the billion-dollar mark was reached during 2016.

What’s a school to do when it reaches its initial goal with time still on the clock? Set a new one, of course. And indeed, HBS has now announced that it is seeking to raise an additional $300 million before the official campaign ends in 2018.

What in the world is HBS going to do with all of that money? The initial $1 billion was raised to support priorities such as expanded student financial aid, faculty research, globalization, curricular innovation and enhancements to the school’s residential campus. The additional $300 million goal the school has identified reflects “the importance of sustaining the initiatives we have launched, providing future flexibility, and strengthening the core,” wrote HBS Dean Nitin Nohria in a January annual report to alumni recently shared by the school with Clear Admit.

In the 16-page report to alumni, Nohria explained that an unusual overlap of three different school governance groups on campus last April to review the school’s educational programs prompted HBS to undertake its own comprehensive self-examination and assessment. It held internal gatherings on campus with students, faculty, alumni and staff and incorporated the insights of the outside governance groups—the Visiting Committee, the Board of Dean’s Advisors and a reaccreditation team from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Factoring all of this in, the school took a critical look at the progress it has made on its “5i” priorities—innovation, intellectual ambition, internationalization, inclusion and integration—which Nohria helped set after assuming his role in July 2010.

As part of this undertaking, Nohria wrote, they set out to answer the following questions:

  • “Where do we feel confident we are on the right path?”
  • “What efforts are having less than their intended impact?”
  • “What trends are we seeing in business, and are we responding appropriately to them?”
  • “What should we be doing less, or more, of?”
  • “Are there important activities we have neglected or new initiatives we must consider?”
  • “What is distinctive about HBS, and how do we preserve it?”

While the process helped reveal that progress has indeed been made on each of the 5i priorities, it also highlighted areas where more needs to be done. Specifically, HBS concluded it must make sure that what it teaches continues to be relevant and rigorous, understand the impact of a student body that has grown more economically diverse thanks to increased financial aid and revitalize its faculty—including teaching its newer members how to write case studies—so that the school’s distinctive methods and mission can endure. “Taken together, the feedback suggested that we must strengthen what is at our core—our curriculum, our student culture, and our faculty’s distinctiveness—even as we sustain our focus on innovation,” Nohria wrote.

Highlighting some of the gains, Nohria noted the successful ways in which the school in recent years complemented its signature case method curriculum with essential experiential learning through its Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development (FIELD). The comprehensive review did lead to some shifts in FIELD for this academic year, including extending the first FIELD Foundations module over the full fall term to let students develop core leadership skills and moving the second module, now called FIELD Global Immersion (FGI), to the spring semester to culminate in an in-country global immersion for all students in May. “This new timing enables students to leverage the skills and concepts of the entire INNOVATION first year curriculum, including courses such as Strategy and Business, Government, and the International Economy that are taught in the second term,” Nohria wrote. The FIELD3 module—in which students launch a micro-business—has been moved to the second year and made an elective given the fact that some students found it “deeply important” while others were “largely disengaged.”

HBS 2017 Alumni Report
Dean Nohria engaged in conversation on HBS campus

Nohria also shared with alumni the launch this year of an elective January Wintersession. The inaugural offering was a short, intensive start-up boot camp for entrepreneurs, and future year sessions could feature topics such as coding and financial analysis. “We hope this opportunity to explore new domains and build useful skills will both help students who come to HBS looking to change their career trajectory and add some variety to the otherwise lock-step nature of the first-year curriculum,” he wrote.

He also noted that first-year students will return from their FGI trips in the second semester to take their exams and complete a short capstone course. This addition was driven by insight from neuroscience that suggests that individuals are most likely to retain ideas in long-term memory if asked to remember them just as they risk forgetting them. In this way, the capstone course is intended to help them integrate and retain their learning from the first year.

“With FIELD continuing to evolve in the required curriculum, and with immersive and extended field courses now representing more than 20 percent of the 80+ courses in the elective curriculum, we have made significant progress in redefining how we advance the knowing, doing and being of educating leaders in the MBA Program,” Nohria wrote.

In addition to highlighting advances in the MBA program, Nohria also cited milestones in the school’s doctoral and executive education programs, as well as its online learning program, HBX. Hitting 10,000 learners this past summer, HBX has grown into a successful startup since its launch three years ago. HBS is now looking for ways to use its HBX classroom with a range of audiences, including alumni and MBA students. “Our ultimate vision is to begin to integrate these pedagogical strands—case, field, and digital methods of learning—into even more transformational educational experiences across all our programs,” he wrote. CORe—HBX’s credential program on the fundamentals of business—has proven to be a great aid to incoming MBA students without a background in business or economics. “This year, more than half of all entering MBA students (including many who weren’t required to do so) completed all or some portion of the program,” Nohria wrote.