MBA Program of the Year: Michigan Ross Full-Time MBA

The Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

When Elizabeth McLaughlin graduated from the University of Michigan in 2015, she clearly remembers the bittersweet moment she left campus for the start of her professional career. “I remember thinking these four years were the best of my life and now they’re gone,” she says.

A graduate in communications, McLaughlin has been very successful. She joined the ABC News Washington, DC office as a production assistant and quickly reached the age of 24 to cover Pentagon military and national security issues for TV shows, radio stations. and digital network platforms. It was a favorite job that took her to 18 countries on four continents with senior government officials from defense and state departments.

When she found herself more interested in the topics she was covering rather than the reports, McLaughlin decided that an MBA would be the perfect vehicle for her to make a career transition. With some uncertainty, she returned to Ann Arbor to graduate from the Ross School of Business.


“When I came back I was unsure because I had been here before and didn’t think I could recreate the feeling I had as an undergraduate student,” she says. “But the same magic that I felt for four years has happened again. There is just an intangible magic about this place. People care so much that it makes me emotional.

What McLaughlin, who will graduate next year, encounters has less to do with magic and much more to do with a continually innovative MBA program that places experiential learning at the heart of experience and experience. students at the center of the experience. From the required action learning project that breaks the academic calendar for seven consecutive weeks and the seven student-managed investment funds to a host of other projects and homework, Ross demonstrates his belief that students learn best by the practice.

Elizabeth McLaughlin to graduate Ross School of Business in 2022

One of the biggest surprises for the 30-year-old former journalist is that she could help run one of seven student-run investment funds. “I wouldn’t have guessed that I would be running one of our student venture capital funds,” she says. “I felt it was a world that would have been impenetrable for a journalist. But I made it a goal of my second year here and I’m co-managing director. I don’t think I will immediately go into venture capital, but it has been a unique learning experience.


However, what sets the school’s MBA program apart is its ever-changing nature. Time and time again, Ross continues to roll out one innovation after another. Just over a month ago, professors and MBA students launched the Michigan Climate Venture, a one-of-a-kind multidisciplinary program at the intersection of climate technology and venture capital. It includes a new student-led investment fund that will distribute cash to start-ups in environmental solutions and sustainability. A month earlier, Michigan Ross unveiled a new Business + Tech initiative to prepare students for careers at the intersection of business and technology. Over the summer, Ross launched a Healthcare Accelerator to provide student teams with seed funding and mentorship for student entrepreneurs in the healthcare industry. The school also rolled out a new Founders program at its + Impact studio, hosting half a dozen student-run businesses.

The pace of new programs and initiatives is breathtaking. “We’re built on innovation,” says Brad Killaly, associate dean of MBA programs. “We listen to our students and we listen to our alumni. Innovation and creativity are celebrated. We have a culture of rolling up our sleeves and trying and doing. It comes from faculty, students and alumni, and staff. The boldest thing we have done is our ability to invest in our program, in our community and in our extracurricular activities to educate and inspire students. It is our unwavering commitment and our success in innovating new courses that equip our students with the latest skills.

For his leadership in the field of experiential learning and for the endless initiatives that keep the MBA always up to date and up to date, Poets and Quants names Ross’s MBA the program of the year for 2021. For a program that ranks 13th among the best in the country by Poets and Quants, Ross’s innovative spirit puts his MBA experience well above his weight class. This is the first time that we have honored a program without a permanent dean. Associate Dean and longtime faculty member Francine Lafontaine temporarily succeeded outgoing Dean Scott DeRue earlier this year as the university seeks a permanent successor.


Ross is the fifth school to receive this annual honor. Last year, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business was given the green light for its highly innovative online MBA program. A year earlier, the University of Washington Olin School of Business was honored for its bold and radical overhaul of the school’s full-time MBA experience. Simon Business School at the University of Rochester won the honor of achieving the STEM designation for its entire MBA program, the first to accomplish such a feat (see MBA Program of the Year: New STEM Game de Rochester). Simon’s example has been followed by a multitude of other schools, including Carnegie Mellon and UC-Berkeley Haas. The Johnson School at Cornell University won our first MBA Program of the Year award for its Cornell Tech MBA in New York (see Program of the Year: Cornell Tech MBA).

What do these different MBA options share? In a way, each reflects a reinvention of the conventional MBA degree. After all, aside from the location or culture of a business school, an MBA degree is almost a trivialized academic experience. What everyone learns in a world-class MBA program is pretty much the same. You take a basic business basics program, then choose from a menu of elective courses that take you deep into your chosen field.

But like our other laureates, Ross has always been at the forefront in adding all kinds of differentiating experiences within his MBA offering to keep it contemporary and current. No less important to constant updates is the ever-changing nature of its legendary action-learning projects. The missions entrusted to student teams by companies and associations reflect the most urgent and pressing challenges of today.


While many schools have only recently incorporated the required consultancy engagements with businesses and nonprofits, Ross is now celebrating the 30th anniversary of his learning-by-doing experience, MAPs (Action Projects multidisciplinary). “It’s at the heart of our defining characteristic,” adds Killaly. “This is who we are. I know other schools have tried to focus on action-based learning, but we are the pioneers and innovators.

Last year, Ross’s MBA students participated in 68 MAP projects around the world with over 100 potential sponsors. More than 35 faculty members have directly advised student teams, as well as a host of researchers and librarians who have helped these teams obtain hard-to-find data for their projects. The school has six full-time staff dedicated to learning by doing.

Because approximately 95% of the school’s MBA students are career-changing people, the projects also help facilitate career transitions. Students are asked to rank the projects they find most interesting, and a high percentage is awarded to projects that make their top five. Often, MAP assignments are pathways to transitions. They lead to summer internships and then to full-time job offers in exactly the field they are targeting.

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