To the MBA Classes of 2011 and 2012:
It is hard to believe that a year has passed since I was given this wonderful gift of being the dean of Harvard Business School. Yet the calendar provides the proof. I would venture to guess that many of you feel the same way; when you fill the days with as many activities as we do here it can feel as though the day is over before it began. So it is important to carve out a moment to take stock.
For me the past year has brought too many highlights to list in this space. Suffice to say that over the last 9 months I have discovered facets of Harvard Business School that I never knew existed. And I have seen, first hand, the respect and high expectations that people around the world have for our School – expectations of the role that we can play in addressing some of society’s most challenging problems.
Perhaps the most surprising facet of HBS that I discovered this year was the richness, breadth, and depth of all of your lives. I’m not certain I would have experienced it as profoundly had my family and I not decided to take up residence on campus. Our goal was to immerse ourselves in the community, and I can say wholeheartedly I am so glad we did.
Living among you has allowed us to participate in the life of the School outside of the classroom. It has given me insight into your lives well beyond what I can find on a classcard. Talking with you (especially during those early morning breakfasts in Kresge), watching you perform everything from opera to ballet, and partaking of the thoroughly impressive conferences and symposia that you organize has shown me how bright, diverse, and talented you are; your journeys here have been remarkable, and your aspirations are even more so. I truly hope that each of you has taken the time to discover each other in this way. Go deeper than the classcard allows and find the person beneath the profile.
I’ve also been impressed with how you’ve challenged us to improve. Throughout the year I’ve asked you what it is you would change about your experience at HBS. I heard from students who wanted more academic engagement with faculty and each other, more time for reflection, and more intellectual intensity. In a year when we announced significant changes to our curriculum, you stepped forward to offer your support and ideas for how we can succeed. It is evident to me that our School can only improve if we have your candor and your creativity. Thank you for giving us both.
Although the year may feel like a blur to you, I’m certain there are moments that stand out. Take heart from my conversations with alumni, who, when I ask what they most remember, respond without hesitation and in vivid detail – seeing the flags of their sectionmates’ countries represented in the classroom, the support they received in a time of need, the sense of being able to hold one’s own in a challenging discussion. The range of their memories reveals that the transformational aspects of HBS don’t lie in any one place or any single experience. The same will be true for you. What is most important is that you take the time to take stock. I know I will.