Columbia Prof: Economic Crisis Will Create New Opportunities

Last Updated Feb 17, 2010 8:42 PM EST

In the ongoing effort to better prepare future business leaders, many b-schools are experimenting with a more interdisciplinary approach, trying to ensure that their MBAs have a solid grasp on the many dimensions of business. A new course offered at Columbia Business School this semester, The Future of Financial Services, is an example of one such class.

The course is especially notable in its approach to teaching. The professors, which include a team of Dean Glenn Hubbard and Senior Vice Dean Chris Mayer, attend and participate in each lecture, teaching students about the synergies between various disciplines and how each can rebuild the economy. I recently spoke with Professor Paul Glasserman about how the class is going so far.

BNET: Can you explain the role the economic crisis played in the creation of this course?
Glasserman: The course is all about the financial crisis, but we decided that rather than just making the course about looking back, we wanted to focus on what new opportunities are coming out of the crisis. It's really trying to use the experience of the financial crisis to think about what the future of finance is going to look like and what new opportunities it's going to create.
The students in the course have to do a project where they think up an opportunity coming out of the crisis. For example, what opportunities are there for new entrance into the credit ratings business? The whole industry will change given the criticism that's been leveled at the ratings agencies. In a completely different direction, there are going to be changes in the derivatives securities market. There's a lot of new regulation working its way through Congress, and that's going to create winners and losers.

BNET: The course takes an interdisciplinary approach; in your opinion, is it crucial for future business leaders to have working knowledge of all aspects of business, from finance to management to behavioral economics and so on?

Glasserman: Absolutely. The crisis has reinforced that point. The crisis really is a confluence of many different factors. It's really hard to point to any one thing that by itself explains the crisis, so the purpose of the course is to bring together the different perspectives you just mentioned to make a holistic picture of what happened.

I also think that a lot of people found themselves all of the sudden out of work, and the experience reinforced the importance of a broad-base business education and having the flexibility to adapt your career to the changing circumstances.

BNET: Instead of guest lecturing, you and your fellow professors are attending and participating in each lecture. What have you learned so far?

Glasserman: It's been very educational for all of us. I've learned a lot from my colleagues on the behavioral side and the perspective they bring to understanding the role of psychology in the marketplace. I'm learning more details about the real estate market and information about understanding when it's in a bubble and when high prices are justified.

BNET: In your opinion, can b-schools play a significant role in avoiding future economic crises of similar severity? How?

Glasserman: Certainly having a better educated business population is always helpful in every aspect of the business world. I think that's a very important challenge for business schools to step up to: not just training students in the technical skills, but also giving them a solid foundation in principles of corporate governance, compensations and important managerial areas that need to be combined with theory.

  • Stacy Blackman

    Stacy Sukov Blackman is president of Stacy Blackman Consulting, where she consults on MBA admissions. She earned her MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and her Bachelor of Science from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Stacy serves on the Board of Directors of AIGAC, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, and has published a guide to MBA Admissions, The MBA Application Roadmap.