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Faculty Perspective – Elizabeth Riley

Elizabeth Riley is in her first year as a Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School. She taught Entrepreneurial Finance in the fall and is teaching The Entrepreneurial Manager (TEM) in the RC this semester. Prior to HBS, she spent ten years teaching and developing entrepreneurship courses in the undergraduate and MBA programs at Babson College. She has also advised student teams in the joint incubator program of Babson and Olin College of Engineering.

Before teaching, Elizabeth was President and Co-Founder of Mazza and Riley, Inc., an internationally recognized executive search firm focused on recruiting general partners for venture capital www.replicabestsale.co.uk, PE, and buyout funds, as well as senior management for emerging growth companies in datacom, telecom, computer software, hardware and media. The company was sold to Korn/Ferry International, the largest executive search firm in the world, in late 1996. Prior to this, Elizabeth started another firm that was merged into Spencer Stuart. She also worked in Product Management at General Foods for several years and at Johnson and Johnson, where she was licensed by Atomic Energy Canada Ltd. to run a nuclear reactor.

In addition to her MBA, Elizabeth received her A.B. in Chinese Language, History and Philosophy from Barnard College, Columbia University. She has also taught entrepreneurship in Xian, Shanghai and Beijing for the US Department of Commerce and also for HBS in the Participant Centered Learning Program at Fudan University in Shanghai. She invests in early stage companies, VC firms, hedge funds and PE partnerships and is an advisor to several startups.

Why did you decide to come back to HBS to teach?
I came here to teach because Bill Sahlman asked me tag heuer replica for sale . I remained involved with the school since being a student here in the very turbulent mid 70’s. In recent years, I was on the Dean’s Advisory Committee and judged the business plan competition as well.

What has changed about HBS since the time you were a student here?
The school has changed dramatically and reflects many of the trends in the world. The workload was considerably heavier back in the day. We had three cases a day five days a week and papers on some weekends. We still participated in outside activities like sports and clubs, but slept very little. If you look at pictures of our class, we look pretty ragged.

There is more teamwork now and people are much more collaborative. My section was competitive in a less than positive way to the extent that speaking in class was a risk and a lot of those negative aspects are no longer as evident – a great improvement. In fact, the Dean came and spoke with us and told us to be nicer to each other.

The school was somewhat autocratic when I was here and that reflected the era. The class debates were similar, but students now have a higher expectation of access to professors. Student-professor relationships were much more formal than today. Access is a good thing and the relationships with students and getting to know them are some of the best parts of being here. The facilities are immensely better now thanks to the generosity of some alums. Spangler in particular is a great gift to all students and staff.

There weren’t many other women at HBS when you were here either breitling superocean replica.

There were few. In my section there were two women who started on the first day, did two cases and didn’t come back after lunch. There was just one ladies’ room in Aldrich, so we all knew each other and still keep in touch since the friendships were very strong.

Do you look back fondly at any particular professors or courses?
Absolutely! I would point to Earl Sasser, Steve Wheelwright, Ray Goldberg and John Kotter as just a few of my great professors who still teach at HBS. Fundamentally, the strength of the educational experience was the case method – it works. It gives reference points that are incredibly valuable and useful many years out of school. I even remember a few cases that might sound familiar like Butler Lumber. And I think you could mention that “cranberries bounce when they’re ripe” to many HBS alumni and they would know what you’re talking about.

How has your section evolved over the years? Do you still keep in touch?
My section had lots of stars, the most famous of whom is probably Scott Cook, the founder of Intuit, and a really nice guy with incredible bandwidth. I can count 17 deals that have been made among members of my section. We still have great section parties. At our last reunion, 50% of the section showed up. Many of these people have given back to the school in terms of time and money. And in the interest of disclosure, I did marry the very smart guy who sat behind me although we did not date much while here.

Why do you think alumni should give money to the school when there are so many other worthy organizations that aren’t as well endowed as HBS?
Simple: because the school needs money for fellowships and financial aid. There should never be a student who decides against coming to HBS because of the cost. Alumni play a critical role in enabling the school to provide fellowships to attract the very best students regardless of their means.

April 7, 2008

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