HBS Revitalizes Curriculum

The faculty of the Harvard Business School has unanimously voted to significantly modify their decades-old curriculum, as a result partly of studies conducted by Professors Srikant M. Datar and David A. Garvin ’74 to examine the effectiveness of current business education practices.

The first-year “required curriculum” program, which includes courses in finance and management, will be augmented in fall 2011 with a new program entitled Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development (FIELD).

The new program’s goal is to provide students with the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in class to working with businesses and industries abroad, according to Business School spokesperson Brian C. Kenny.

As part of the revised curriculum, students will work in small groups to build leadership and communication skills. Subsequently, they will be randomly assigned to a country not of their origin where they will work at a local company. Students will also apply what they have learned in a project on campus.

The new curriculum was motivated by a desire “to respond to the need for leaders in a more complex world,” Kenny said.

“The program is meant to complement class-based case methods, allowing students an opportunity to put all of that learning to work,” he said.

In addition to the FIELD program, the school’s second-year “elective curriculum” calendar will be “modularized” by splitting semesters into quarters to allow students to take a broader array of courses.

“The purpose of the calendar changes is to give faculty members more latitude to innovate in their classes,” Kenny said. “The reason we decided to do that is because we’ve heard from faculty that they are eager to do things that are more experiential.”

But he added that the details of the program are not yet set in stone.

“We’re really looking at FIELD as a platform to create future innovations from,” Kenny said. “We hope to create leaders who have both confidence and character and will make a positive impact on the world.”

According to Business School Student Association Co-Presidents Brett C. Gibson and Justine K. Lelchuk, the changes to the curriculum have been met with positive reactions from across the student body.

“Students on the whole have responded very positively to the new programs,” Gibson said. “In fact, some students who are here say they wish they could start over again to take advantage of the changes.”

Professors and other faculty members have made it their top priority in recent months to attain feedback from students who might have had questions about the policy changes, according to Gibson and Lelchuk.

“They’ve been consistently seeking feedback from students and have asked the Student Association to gain perspective on students’ opinions of the changes,” Lelchuk said. “Faculty chairs are holding sections for each of the first-year classes to gain feedback. They want it to be a highly integrative process.”

Lelchuk added that even though she and her fellow second-years won’t be able to take part in the newly created programs, they’re grateful for the opportunity to play such an integral role in their development.

“We’re really excited and thrilled to have been a part of the innovation period,” Lelchuk said. “We’re definitely looking forward to see what becomes of the new curriculum in the coming years.”

—Staff writer Matthew M. Beck can be reached at mbeck@college.harvard.edu.

This article has been modified to reflect the following correction.

CORRECTION: JAN. 26, 2011

An earlier version of the Jan. 26 article "HBS Revitalizes Curriculum" incorrectly stated that the most recent round of curriculum reforms would “drastically modify” and supplant the current first-year MBA curriculum. In fact, the reforms, according to HBS officials, come as a complement to and enhancement of the current curriculum. Additionally, the story incorrectly stated that the FIELD curriculum would divide the first year into thirds when, in fact, the first-year curriculum will still be divided into two terms, with three new pilot programs spread throughout the year.

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