CEO STORIES: John Byrne, Poets&Quants

John Byrne
Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of C-Change Media Inc., Former BusinessWeek Executive Editor

Through his website Poets&Quants, John Byrne is probably the leading authority on B schools. He shared his thoughts on some of the not-surprising downsides but also the surprising upsides of B-school education in the time of COVID, what may change permanently regarding MBA programs, and how students can maximize the experience.



REVERSING THE TREND
Applications to full-time MBA programs have been on the decline for the last few years, but it looks like the uncertainty caused by COVID is causing people to seek refuge in B schools – especially the most prestigious ones. Early indications are that this year could be one of the most competitive for applications, for the class that will enter in 2021. Traditionally, online MBA programs were more attractive to part-time students, but now, full-time and part-time students both are experiencing much of their education online/remotely.

MAKING THE BEST OF IT
While full-time MBA students aren’t necessarily happy about losing the in-person, highly social aspects that are traditionally part of such a program, the challenges raised gives them a chance to play an active role in discovering and designing alternatives. This agility will likely be looked upon as a plus down the road by prospective employers, who themselves are grappling with the changes wrought by the pandemic.

HERE TO STAY?
Even when the threat of COVID is behind us, the MBA world will likely never be what it was before, predicts Byrne. And that’s not a bad thing. Schools will have learned what parts of a class or program can be taught more efficiently online or remotely; there will be less emphasis on in-person school visits, which will be advantageous especially for foreign students, and more people will embrace and appreciate an online education.

This is Capitalism: CEO STORIES: John Byrne, Poets&Quants

POC: This is Patricia O’Connell with CEO Stories for This Is Capitalism. We’re talking today with John Byrne, who is the CEO and Founder of Poets&Quants, which is the leading website and source of information for all things B schools. John, welcome.
JB: A pleasure to be here.

POC: And John, I should really say, JB: welcome back because I know you’ve been on this podcast before, and I should also remind people that you and I go back a long way.
JB: A very long way.

POC: A very long way. And a lot of fun, a lot of fun we had. So, I hope we will have some fun today too as you tell us what’s going on in B schools. So, the first thing, John, is, what is the market like for B schools now? What are applications doing?
JB: So, for the past four to five years, we’ve seen a significant decline in applications to full-time MBA programs. But recessions bring an odd effect to applications to graduate school. During most recessions, there is a boom in applications and the early indications are that that’s exactly what is happening, particularly at the better schools.

Because of the pandemic, many schools extended the deadline for admission in this fall. And those extensions resulted in some very significant increases in application volume. And early indications are, through basically testing data and people hiring admission consultants – because they actually do that to get into a great school – that this coming year could be the one of the most competitive ever. People suddenly find themselves unemployed or they find their opportunities in front of them diminished, so they go to grad school.

POC: So, are we talking then we’ll probably see the big uptick in the class that starts next year, in the fall of ’21, or already now?
JB: Really, the big uptick would be for people who matriculate next fall in 2021. So, the admissions season actually in a little more than two weeks. the first big deadline is a Round 1 deadline for Harvard Business School in the first week of September. And all indications are this is going to be a very heavy application season.

POC: So, what about the online and distance learning effect though. How is that affecting people’s interest in B schools? How is it affecting people’s perception of the quality of the education they’re going to get?
JB: Yes, good question. Online MBA programs have really proliferated and there’s been tremendous growth in them. And they’re for people who really would have otherwise gone to a part-time evening MBA program, or people who would have gone to an executive MBA program. Because you can still maintain your job and get your MBA.

POC: If you have one – if you have a job.
JB: Indeed. And if you don’t have a job, you might be better off going to a full-time program, I will add, because you will have the opportunity of taking advantage of a parade of employers who come to campus, do info sessions and interviews, do a summer internship, which is essentially a tryout for many jobs. And you might be in a better position to take advantage of a degree that way.

I often see online MBA programs as better suited for people who want to accelerate their existing careers, where they are, or at least in the industry that they’re currently in, as opposed to people who want to do a complete career transition and change their industry, their discipline, their geography or all three at the same time.

But, you know, an online MBA is a great option for a lot of people because you can continue to work if you have your job, meaning you still have your income. Meanwhile you’re earning this credential that is valuable and you’re learning some valuable skills. And what you sacrifice from in-person learning and the networking may not be as great as a lot of people think. I mean, the surveys show that they’re pretty happy people who go to online MBA programs.

POC: What do you think about this year though because there are a lot of people who expected to have an in-classroom experience that aren’t going to have that? How are the schools handling that?
JB: They are disappointed, they are even angry and they are frustrated. But it is what it is, to use that phrase. [Laughter.] Now most business school are trying to go hybrid with a combination of in-person classes and online. And a few schools have already had to cut back on that. Wharton abandoned those plans and is fully online in the first semester. Stanford just decided in the past week to start their program at least pretty much fully online. Georgetown is online. Michigan State’s online in their MBA program.

A whole host of schools are going that way because basically, the virus isn’t allowing them an alternative. So, to assure the safety and health of students, faculty and staff, they’re just going fully online. And that’s a huge dent, a huge diminishment of the full MBA experience, which is a very social experience.

POC: Well, also, that’s a different kind of online MBA than what you were talking about earlier, which was the one that was really designed for flexibility.
JB: Yes.

POC: How are these online, full-time MBA programs going to be now?
JB: It’s still largely going to be what I would call remote instruction and not an online class. As you just pointed out, an online class is one that had been designed from the ground up with an instructional designer where learning is chunked up and interrupted with different things that engage people, whether they’re simple polls or they’re break-out groups of small discussions and assignments, to keep people attentive and engaged. They videotape protagonists for case studies and put them on. So, a really well-designed online course would require a professor to spend well over 100, sometimes 250-300 hours, redesigning the course and starting from the learning objectives of the course.

Surprise, surprise, a traditional class run by a professor was never really designed with the learning objectives upfront. Instead, it was designed by a professor who said, “Okay, I think this what should be in the class.” A lot of it is extraneous, a lot of it is off point, but it is what it is as well. But a really well-designed online course is nothing like the remote instruction most MBA students would get now.

POC: Do you think it would be fair to say that because a lot of these schools have been sort of forced at the last minute to go to this new model, that people might be better off with an online course that was designed that way from the beginning?
JB: Well I still think the pandemic is a temporary phenomenon. So, let’s say you enter a two-year MBA program, I’m very hopeful that while your first year may largely be online, your second year won’t and that will matter a lot.

So, you know, look, an online program probably is going to be better in teaching you the basics and keeping you engaged right now than the remote instruction that we’re largely going to see. But it will be better than it was in the spring when people were immediately forced online and had to do this with faculty who don’t even know how to use Zoom or a computer and there were a lot of technical hiccups in the spring. Now we’ve had an entire summer to prepare for this. So, I think that remote instruction should have evolved to be a bit better even if it’s far from equal to an online course.

POC: I’m going to play devil’s advocate here for a minute. So, you have people at top business schools who are supposedly helping to teach people strategy and helping to instill in them how to be agile and all these qualities that they would bring into the workplace and into leadership, and into leadership positions. How is it possible that all these really smart people who are teaching the next generation of business leaders can’t figure out how to do the kind of pivoting they would expect people to do in businesses?
JB: (Laughter.) Great question. And it’s true. There are some people who get it, meaning faculty, and some people who don’t get it. Now during the summer what’s happened is these schools have been able to train everybody and get them up to speed. And there’s been a lot of practicing, there’s been a lot of guinea pig students who volunteered to be engaged in the practice session of this summer with the faculty. I think that will make a difference.

But you’re right, it was such an abrupt change in the spring, many people were totally unprepared for, and mainly faculty who just had no clue. So ultimately it comes down to human nature. There are people who are adaptable and easy to change and go with the flow and then there are people who are basically stuck in the mud. And there are a lot of people who are stuck in the mud. And they’ve had to get up to speed. Now, we’ll see how they do. Business schools are kind of in between responsive businesses and bureaucratic academic institutions.

POC: I’m going to guess that they probably have the worst of both.
JB: Yes, generally, they do. They’re highly political organizations. They do tend to be very bureaucratic. And in this case, managing through this crisis, is made more difficult because there are state regulations, there are local regulations, there are university-imposed regulations on the business schools and there are the CDC guidelines. And so, all of these external factors are also coming to play in how you reimagine a traditional business education during a pandemic.

POC: But these are the same challenges a business faces though, right? State regulations, local regulations, CDC guidelines, sentiment?
JB: Yes, totally. Yes.

POC: You can tell I’m giving the B-school community kind of a hard time here, John.
JB: And the B school community deserves a hard time. There are some that are doing it really well and some that are doing it very poorly. I’ll give you a good example.

So, Wharton planned its return in the fall without consulting the students. There were no students on any committees. And what Wharton announced was announced without any preparation, any outreach to the students. The students were totally outraged. And this is even before Wharton decided to go fully online. There was a poll of the second-year MBA students at Wharton done by the students, and it showed really a shocking attitude about how few were excited about the return to school, how they felt disenfranchised.

In the meantime, there were other schools like Stanford, good example, where the majority of people on some of the advisory panels planning the return in the fall were actually students, not faculty or staff. And the students were actively engaged in how the school would return, what kind of interventions could occur if in fact classes were all on line. And they basically engaged the students in a way to make them not angry, not frustrated, disappointed, yes, but at least they felt involved, at least they felt they had impact. And the school made many changes that would otherwise not have been done because of their involvement.

POC: Interesting because you’re thinking, or I’m thinking about it from a perspective of stakeholder involvement.
JB: Yes, totally.

POC: Stakeholder engagement. And of course, that’s been a big thing in the business world, you know, that people have been talking about, especially in the last year – let’s have business work on behalf of all stakeholders. And that’s been a big lesson that business has been trying to learn and put into its practices. Yet again, some of the schools have not been doing that.

But there is a lot of talk that companies will keep remote working or keep it beyond the time that it’s necessary from a public health perspective, that they’re saying that productivity doesn’t suffer, in some cases it’s better, they are recognizing that there are cost savings in all that.

And I for one can’t imagine that we will ever have workplaces that are completely remote or 100 percent remote because I do think that there’s a certain level of creativity and excitement and things that happen when people are in the same room, or engaged with each other face to face, literally, you know without a screen and bandwidth between them. But I think we will see work changing going forward.

Do you think that the B schools will go back to traditional teaching as soon as they can? Or do you think that they will see a shift, a sea change, if you will? John, I should have pointed out actually that you are CEO of C-Change Media.
JB: Yes.

POC: So that that “sea change” was just for you there. Do you think that there’s a possibility that we will see this change because people will go, “You know, there are things we can do now that we weren’t able to do before” for efficiency?
JB: I don’t think that anything will go back to the way it was. The technology has evolved, it’s become easier to use, it’s become much more effective in ways that there are things you can do virtually that frankly are better and more accessible to greater numbers of people than you could do in person. So, there are different aspects of the MBA experience that I think will stay virtual.

One good example is, you know, there used to be all these applicant fairs all over the world, in every country imaginable. And the schools would send representatives all over the world to meet with candidates. Well, that can much more easily be done virtually from your office without all the expense of travel to places like Cambodia and Nigeria, I mean every far-flung corner of the world they would go. That’s much better to be done virtually. And in small groups you can still have a fairly intimate conversation with people where you can engage them in a way that they can ask whatever questions they want, and you can actually create a relationship with some of them.

Another function would be “admit weekends,” when you admit students. And what you want to do is you want to close the deal on them so you invite them to campus for a weekend. And frankly, there are a lot of students who can’t take advantage of that because they live internationally and it costs a lot of money to come, and maybe they’ve been accepted to three or four schools and so they might choose to go to one or they may chose not to go to any. And they miss out on the touch and the feel and the hearing of the experience, those senses that can help you make a decision.

Well, I think in the future, schools will have these sessions and they’ll be virtual but they’ll also be in person. But the virtual sessions will be for people who can’t get to campus.

Guest speakers, you know, to get a guest speaker in a class requires a lot of logistical support and help. And the person has to essentially has to devote a fair amount of time to come and speak to a class. Virtual sessions make it so much easier to be done from the office. So, if you are a protagonist in a case study, it would be so much easier for you to simply put on your computer and attend the class by Zoom. So, you could have more guest speakers than you ever could have imagined before.

A lot of the learning, despite all of the conversation about so-called flip classrooms, frankly, there are very few of them. I think we’re going to see…

POC: Flip classrooms, I’m not familiar with that.
JB: Oh, okay. A flip classroom is where you basically take the foundational learning in a subject and put it online and reserve the course for the more dynamic discussions. So, you’re not boring your students with the basics, you get the basics online and then you come to class and it’s much more of a rigorous discussion or debate about a case, about a subject. And while there’s been a lot of talk about flip classrooms, there haven’t been a lot of them. I think we’re going to see a lot more of that.

So, if you’re taking an accounting course, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get all the basics in accounting online and then when you go to class, you can talk about the implementation of those concepts in a real-world environment. And you can talk about the pros and cons and the impact on people and reserve the class sessions so that they will be livelier, more memorable, more thoughtful, reserving the lectures and the basic stuff online. I think we’re going to see a lot more of that.

POC: Is the pandemic going to change what is taught?
JB: I think it’s going to inform what’s been taught because we are living through a remarkable case study in crisis management. And all the implications of that: how do you keep a workforce motivated when they’re working from home, how much in touch should you be with them? I think there are a whole host of issues that are occurring with both the recession, the health impact, the stress on families and people that companies and organizations are going to have to deal with. And so, I think it will inform the way we think about managing people, the way we think about managing an organization through a crisis.

And I think there are long-term impacts that you were suggesting earlier about remote work. I would not want to be an investor in commercial real estate right now, let me put it that way. I think we will go back to the office but we won’t go back in the way that we went back before. I think you’re going to see far more employees who will be working three-day weeks in the office and two days from home. We’ll have much more staggered type of schedules with more work from home.

And I think the impact on that will be significant both on urban centers where, you know, in our lifetime, we’ve seen urban centers decay and diminish. Then we’ve seen them come back alive and become incredible places where people socialize, where all young people want to be. I think we’re going to see again the reverse where people are going to be moving away from the cities that have become too congested, too expensive, and too problematic to live in now. And we’re going to see more people spread out because technology is going to allow them to do that, and their organizations are going to be more amenable to having them work remotely.

POC: I’ve spoken to some people who work in Silicon Valley and I’ve asked that question: you know, with all the technology that we have and that’s available and the technology that comes out of Silicon Valley, literally comes out of there, why is it still such a nexus, why is it still important to physically be there?

And they still say that there’s something about that sense of community, that sense of being a part of a specific ecosystem. And I wonder if you’ll see that with B schools or if that will change.

You were talking about in some cases, cities are less attractive than they used to be for a variety of reasons. And that may be a temporary thing but you certainly, at least right now with the health crisis, congestion and density are two of the things that people talk about a lot. Do you think that’s going to impact the popularity of certain B schools? I mean when you think about where the top B schools are, most of them are in cities.
JB: Yes.

I don’t know if it will because in a way, I will just say this: many business schools are kind of like bubbles. People live in a bubble there. The community is extremely important because you have two years and you’re trying to create connections with people that you will be in contact with for the rest of your life.

And those connections are based in real friendship but they’re also based in support and encouragement that’s basically going to help your career. The people you’re meeting with may be your future employers, may give you a leg up on a job in an organization, may be a supplier, may be a customer, may even be an investor to a startup you might want to do. So that community is essential to the value proposition of what an MBA is, particularly at a really good school. I don’t see that disappearing at all.

So, the schools that are in Boston, the schools that are in New York, LA….

POC: Chicago.
JB: Really good examples because you have two great schools and you have several schools as well that are very, very good. I don’t think that’s going to affect the business school community in that way. I think those will still be very desirable to go there.

POC: When you talk about the desirable schools, the top-tier schools, do you think that businesses, when they’re hiring, are going to look at people coming out of the graduating classes that have been affected by the pandemic, and think that their education was diminished in any way?
JB: No. You know, the dirty little secret, to be totally honest…

POC: Oh well, we love dirty little secrets, John, tell us.
JB: Yes. Is that we are all risk-averse. So, the universities are risk averse, so that’s why, to get into a good school, you typically have had to have gone to a good undergraduate institution that was highly selective. Then you have to be hired by a company that has a highly selective employment policy.

And what you’re doing in each of these cases is you’re going through a fine filter where the organization filters out people that they presume, for whatever reason, to be not as good as the people that they’re bringing in, whether it’s an undergraduate institution or whether it’s an employer.

And the same is true then with the employers. They’re looking at graduate school as a third filter, and those filters basically minimize the risk of bad hires. And so, while of course, an MBA education does give you all the fundamentals and also sands down the raw edges in personalities and makes you a…

POC: I think I should make the point here John, that neither you nor I ever went and got an MBA so we did not get those raw edges sanded down, either of us.
JB: No. No one ever sanded down my raw edges, let me tell you. But the personal development that goes on to allow you to present in a persuasive fashion, to allow you to be an effective team member in a collaborative project, to take away whatever introversion you have, to make you an active participant in the group, to give you self-confidence, not cockiness, to be successful, all that happens in a business school education, all that is important.

But that filter is really important for an employer. Because if an employer like Google or McKinsey or J.P. Morgan or Goldman Sachs or Apple or Proctor & Gamble knows that you graduated from a world-class business school, they know how hard it was to get in. I mean, very few people get in.

POC: So, they’re not going to look at the people who had online education or a hybrid learning experience at their top tier B school as having been at lesser or less qualified or less desirable than somebody who graduated three years earlier?
JB: No. No, definitely not. In fact, I would say, that because more and more work is virtual, like generally you’re working with global teams and you’re working on the Internet with them, I would say they would actually think they could be better prepared than they would have had before.

POC: What do you think is going to be the biggest takeaway for B school students from this time, the ones who are going into school this year and next year?
JB: A lot of the high-value stuff occurs outside of the classroom. And much of that is student- centered, meaning it’s actually organized, run and led by students. So what students are going to have to do is reimagine all the extracurricular activity that goes on: their leadership of clubs, organizations, their sponsorship of conferences or organization of conferences.

And if they reimagine it in a way that the virtual models of what happened on campus can be almost as good or maybe even better than what happened traditionally, that’s going to be a great takeaway for the students. And it’s going to be a creative takeaway too because here you have to really use your creative muscles to reinvent the MBA experience or at least a very big part of it.

POC: Maybe I have to backtrack a little bit because I was saying I was being a little hard on the B-school community for maybe not being as agile, being able to pivot as quickly as we’ve seen massive corporations do. But you make a really good point that there’s also a certain level of responsibility on the students to do that. So, I’m going to ask you, what is the level of responsibility on businesses as they’re recruiting? How do they need to change? How do they need to rethink?
JB: Yeah and that is another whole element to the pandemic because all recruiting will now be virtual. And you know, some companies were moving this way. Like Amazon had a virtual component before they would actually see you in person. Goldman Sachs has done this as well, before. But now, every company is going to be doing info sessions in recruiting online.

So, they’re changing the way they look at, they examine, they assess, and they ultimately hire for internships and full-time job opportunities. So, they too have to go through this exercise of figuring out how do you best duplicate what we’ve lost and do it in a virtual environment and still make it as effective as it was in terms of what the result is. So that’s a fairly significant challenge for all the companies as well.

POC: Well, I think you made a really good point that this is sort of a case study in real time that everyone’s going through—that the students who will have gone through this will be bringing a really strong and different skill set into the workplace.
JB: True. And you’ll have stories to tell. And you know, a lot of getting a job is about story telling. And just at what we’re seeing now in applicants are people relaying stories of what it was like to be at a company during the pandemic and to manage through it, to manage costs more effectively, to still serve customers, to be a viable organization, to work remotely and still feel connected and engaged. Those stories are being told right now to admission officers at business schools.

Similarly, the next round of potential employees at the companies that are coming out of MBA programs are going to be telling the stories of what it was like to study through a pandemic and how they triumphed over it by reimagining what could be done. And if they have a success story to tell, that’s going to be a very powerful and compelling reason to employ them.

POC: It just occurred to me that B-schools –I’m not terribly familiar with the B-school application process – but B schools could really get a twofer here in asking as part of a student’s application, “How would you solve this part of the crisis?”
JB: Yes. “Or, what did you do during this unprecedented time to make a difference?” I mean, that’s a great question. Because it directly relates to your individual action, how proactive you were at this time in a deep recession with a health crisis, and let’s layer on top two other crises that we’re dealing with, racial injustice and inequality and the difficulty of being in a highly polarized political society. In a way, we have the confluence of four major challenges that we’re all dealing with, which make it a really hard time to live through.

POC: Well, I think it will be interesting to see if the B schools respond in terms of looking for that from students.
JB: They will.

POC: And I would imagine that they could actually learn some things.
JB: Totally. And I also think that even the current essay questions, which may not directly reflect on the pandemic, are usually open enough to allow an applicant to go there. And that’s where a lot of applicants are already going and I think the admission officials will be very open to hearing these stories.

So, you manage a small team in a company, suddenly you can’t meet anymore. Now you can only meet online. Suddenly your employer tells you have to fire two or three of your teammates. You have to go through that. Suddenly your revenue is cut in half, how do you deal with all that? That has the potential for being a remarkably compelling experience to relay to an admission official, if you’ve done a good job. If you’ve done a lousy job, you shouldn’t mention it. [Laughter.]

POC: And maybe it’s going to allow people to show different sides of themselves or shine a light on their skill sets in a different way than they would have been able to before.

John, any last thought on either what’s happening with the future of these B schools, the direction that education is going in or what businesses and students in B schools ought to be thinking about?
JB: Look, I think that despite the challenges that we all face, this is also a time of great opportunity. The truth is that the most opportunity arise during times of adversity when there is new thinking, when the thinking may come out of even desperation.

I’ve always said that most entrepreneurship is forced. It’s people who became unemployed who had to stand on their own two feet and make things happen. And they were able to make wonderful, incredible, magical things happen in their life that benefited a lot of people and generated meaningful employment for others.

So, I think that it is an exciting time, even if it’s a challenging time. And I think education, which you know, I am a complete, total believer in, I’m a first-generation college grad, and I really believe that it’s essential to social mobility in our country. It’s also essential beyond your ability to get a better job or make more money, it’s essential to live a more fulfilled and productive life. To be curious about the world and the people in it and how things work, and how things don’t work is a really important part of living a full life. And you get that through higher education.

And a graduate degree is a whole other level of that. And it’s clear to me that you know, a degree in business, whether it be a Master’s Degree in Supply Chain Logistics, a Master’s Degree in Business Analytics, an MBA, shows a couple of things about you as a person. It shows that you’re not satisfied with the way things are, that you want to reach beyond your current level. It shows me an ambition that I hope exists beyond yourself. And it shows me a desire to learn and be curious about the world in a way that I will immediately assume you are a more interesting person to be with. And that to me is the true value of higher education.

So, whether you want to go into business or not, whether you want to do something else with your life, I think pursuing graduate education is an important part of your personal development today.  And you know, earlier generations it used to be you go to college and you’re great. Now, I think, there’s a demand for even more education and you should go to grad school.

And yes, the costs are scary and one of the reasons why business is so popular is because the cost can be justified, there is a return on investment there that there might not be in a graduate degree in philosophy or geography or political science or English. Even though, you know, we are poets, I’m a political science and English undergrad.

POC: I would not have been a quant myself, John.
JB: Right, and there’s no way I’m going to be a quant even though I am nerdish about numbers because I love to play with them. But I think more people should avail themselves of higher education for the reasons I said. And I think it can be truly transformational to a life.

POC: Well, I thought of something when you were saying that entrepreneurship is often born of desperation: If necessity is the mother of invention, John, I think desperation is the mother of innovation.
JB: True. I totally agree with that.

POC: And I know you and you’re going to steal that now.
JB: [Laughter.] It’s why immigration in this country is so important, incidentally. Despite the political rhetoric that is anti-immigrant, you know, our country is not only based on immigrants, and that’s obvious, but I will go so far as to say, America has no special thing about it other than the fact that we have been able to attract, even steal, the world’s best and brightest, decade after decade. They’ve come here, they’ve created businesses, they’ve sought higher education to make themselves live a better life than they otherwise would have. They’re aspiring people, who know that their work in their lifetime is paving the way for their families to live a better life.

And without immigration in this country, we become another Britain. We become another France. Nothing wrong with that, I’m just telling you, there’s only one reason why we’ve been so successful, only one reason, and it’s because we’ve given immigrants the opportunity to thrive and succeed without many of the institutional barriers that exist in other countries. And that has made the difference. That is what has made America great. Shut that off, close the faucet of immigration and we will become like every other industrial country in Europe.

POC: So how has the immigration issue played out with B schools?
JB: International students are way down. Many of them feel rightly or wrongly that they would be unwelcome here. It’s been more difficult to even get a student visa to come. And obviously gaining employment after your graduation has become more difficult as well. That’s why many schools have these so-called STEM designation programs where they qualify either a full MBA or a track in an MBA program as STEM, which is science, technology, engineering and math which allows you to get two additional years of work after you graduate in the United States. So, you get three full years and three full cracks at an H1B visa.

But still the rhetoric of anti-immigration makes people worry. They feel like they won’t even be safe in this country anymore. And so that’s had a very bad impact on international applications, international enrollments, and you know, we’re still seeing that. And I don’t think that’s going to change until we have a change in administration and a change in attitude about immigration and its importance in our society.

POC: John, thank you very much for taking the time to share with us your insights about higher education, MBA’s, and the impact that the pandemic is going to have on B schools going forward. It sounds like it’s going to be significant but also, a real, as you say, opportunity for creativity to emerge and for people to really put forth new contributions
JB: Absolutely. Patricia. It’s been a pleasure to be here and to see you. People don’t know we’re recording this on Zoom. You’ll only hear the audio. But I can see the very friendly face in a familiar New York City apartment.

POC: Well, I see a face that I know well and it’s good to see again. Zoom is better than the phone but in-person is even better than Zoom. So, until in-person, John, Zoom was a good proxy.
JB: Indeed. Visit Poets&Quants.com!

POC: Shame on me, John. John, where can we find all the great content that you have created, curated on Poets&Quants?
JB: We actually have five websites but the main one for MBA’s is Poets&Quants.com. And you’ll see all of our coverage there. Even if you’re not interested in an MBA, it might be fun for you to look at because you’ll find out everything from how much MBA’s earn to where they work, to what it takes to get in, to the scandals in the business school community, which we love to cover. We love to be provocative.

We write a lot of creative, entertaining stories above and beyond trying to inform the audience. We have a site for undergraduates who want to pursue a business education called Poets&Quants for undergrads. We have a site for law school called Tipping the Scales. We have a site for executive MBA’s and executive education called Poets&Quants for Execs. So, check us out.

POC: When are we going to have Poets&Quants for Kids?
JB: You know, that’s a great idea. I like that. I might steal that, Patricia.

POC: Consider it a gift, John. But no, one of the premises behind This Is Capitalism is really to help educate younger people about our financial system, our economic system. Kids is the obvious next place to go.
JB: It is. You know, on some level our undergraduate site has a role in educating high school students about opportunities in business because, you know, the typical high school student knows nothing about business except what their parents may have done. And obviously, high school kids are not very interested in their parents.

POC: Right. And especially now, kids are spending way too much time with their parents, and parents are spending way too much time with their kids. And so….
JB: And driving each other nuts. [laughs]

POC: Yes. Well, I’m excited to see the next website that you have.
JB: We want to do Computer Science and Engineering and Med School.

POC: Okay, we’ll want to talk to you about those when those get going.
JB: Sounds good, Patricia.


About the Series: Featured stories from the intersection of the free market and entrepreneurial success. Here we speak with leading CEOs, academics, philanthropists and up and comers on their contributions and perspectives on the American economy.

About Patricia O’Connell: Patricia O’Connell is one of the original contributors to “This Is Capitalism”, a content site sponsored by Stephens Inc. and is host of the site’s podcast, CEO Stories. Patricia, a former editor at BusinessWeek and a best-selling author, blends her experience as a journalist with her passion for storytelling to her role as editor of “This Is Capitalism”.