Financial Crisis Creates Fresh Case Studies for MBAs

Last Updated Oct 22, 2008 11:08 AM EDT

harvard.JPGThe upheaval on Wall Street is sending people back to B-school in droves, but according to Benjamin Pimentel's recent piece in MarketWatch, professors see a silver lining to this financial crisis: MBA case studies are already underway on the collapse of major financial firms.

Carl Kester, deputy dean for academic affairs at Harvard Business School, says "I would say somewhere between half a dozen and a dozen case studies are beginning to take shape as we speak. This is the kind of event that really attracts scholars. This event is going to be the lode star for faculty research for a number of years."

At the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the crisis reignited finance professor Darrell Duffie's interest in Freddie Mac, the mortgage company bought out by the federal government in September. Four years ago, Duffie published a case study speculating about such a bailout which, back then, seemed like an unthinkable scenario.

"One silver lining of this crisis is that we have an excellent set of experiences from which to learn, that it is no longer abstract," he says. "I used to teach the importance of asking hard questions as a risk manager and there weren't too many cases in the past. There weren't too many examples of large financial institutions doing such wrong-headed things-- Now, we have so many good examples to point to."

Frank Lichtenberg of Columbia Business School sounded a note of caution, saying that business schools should not be swept up by the headlines to the point of ignoring established ways of teaching management. "But it's also important to take the long view. There is a body of knowledge that's systematic that we're trying to convey to students. It would not be doing them a service to put all of that on hold."

For now, students can draw lessons from this crisis both inside and outside the classroom-- and make sure that going forward, they have a plan A, plan B and plan C.

(Harvard Business School image by EandJsFilmCrew via Flickr, CC 2.0)

  • 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.