From Marxism to Marketing

First Hungarian Student to Study At Business School

Katalin Karossy, a Hungarian citizen fresh from Karl Marx University, this year arrived at an emblem of American capitalism, Harvard Business School, looking for an MBA.

Karossy, the first Hungarian allowed to study in the United States, is currently enrolled in the usual 12 first-year classes at the B-School, and takes ballet and jazz dance classes in her spare time.

She hails from Miskolc, the second-largest city in Hungary. For the past eight years she lived in Budapest, where she worked for a bank. After completing her master's degree in economics, Karossy decided she wanted to study abroad.

She thought of the United States after meeting compatriot Zsuzsanna Ranki, who studied at a Viennese university. According to Karossy, Ranki and she are Hungary's first international scholars.

Setting this precedent eventually required two months and reams of correspondence with fifteen American universities, Citicorp bank, and five separate ministries of the Hungarian government. Karossy began by sending letters to admissions officers of the various universities, without notifying the Hungarian authorities.


Laura G. Fisher of Business School Admissions said the B-School accepted Karossy as "part of a long tradition at HBS." According to Fisher, 16 percent of B-School students are foreign, and Karossy is one of two students from the Eastern Bloc.

When Harvard Business School accepted her in April or May, it agreed to pay for 50 percent of the $60,000 cost for two years' tuition. Karossy still needed to arrange for theremaining $30,000.

Karossy contacted Citicorp, which has a branchin Budapest, and asked for financial support. Sheeventually signed a contract agreeing to workthree years for the bank after getting her MBA, inreturn for the necessary half of her tuition.

As for governmental permission, Karossy saidthe novelty of her idea evidently caught thebureaucracy unprepared, as there was no regulationthat answered her question. "Nobody saidno--everbody was pointing at another ministry,"said Karossy.

Karossy called Citibank for help. The Americanbankers used their contacts with high-levelHungarian officials to plead her case, and allfive necessary ministries quickly gave theirconsent.

According to Chris J. Hackett, a first-yearB-School student and friend, Karossy shows thesame resourcefulness in class that shedemonstrated in getting to America.

He said one day she answered a professor'shypothetical question differently from the rest ofthe class.

"She had the strength to go against 90 otherpeople. That illustrates her `grace underpressure' attitude," Hackett said.

Karossy said she likes the competition in theB-School. "Competition in Hungary is evensomething negative. You have to behave in acertain way. Here in America the edge is if you'redifferent, if you're unique," she said.

Hungary has moved toward capitalismincreasingly in the last 20 years, said thestudent. "It's already fairly liberal, bothpolitically and economically. It's justinefficient," she added