Reshaping Business Education at HBS

Professor Youngme Moon
Professor Youngme Moon

We are thrilled to publish a discussion we had with Dean Nitin Nohria and Professor Youngme Moon regarding upcoming changes in the HBS MBA curriculum.

The Highlights

On Wednesday, January 19th the HBS faculty voted on replica watches uk, and passed with enthusiasm, two motions that will affect the MBA curriculum beginning next Fall.

1.       A new RC course called FIELD (Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development).  FIELD will include three modules: the first will center on leadership, the second on globalization (including a required global immersion experience during the RC J-term), and the final will integrate learning across the first year.

2.       The EC curriculum will be redesigned in a modular format, allowing faculty and students greater flexibility and creativity in molding their courses and building their schedules, respectively.

Telescopic View: From 30,000 Feet

FIELD will allow students a unique opportunity for experiential, immersive, team-based learning. The course will have three areas of focus.  First, it aims to offer RCs the chance to self-discover the “deeper leadership purpose that animates them to obtain a business school education.”  It will lay the foundation for everything they do at the school and for a lifetime of leadership after they graduate.

Second, FIELD will address the need to develop HBS students’ global intelligence, specifically a better understanding of which practices, strategies, and behaviors are universal and which are contingent. This will be executed by increasing global business education through both new course materials and requiring a global immersion experience of all students over the J-Term.

Finally, the new FIELD course enhances the school’s commitment to developing leaders by providing a structured, hands-on experience – replica breitling in other words, to expand from “knowing” to also include “doing.” This focal point is an activity that will integrate all parts of the current RC coursework.

A 10-person faculty team will mold and shape the FIELD course, with extensive input from students, faculty, and alumni, among others.

The changes in the EC curriculum are meant to encourage structural agility. The faculty agreed that in order to present more opportunities to ECs, the current restriction of 20-30 class sessions in 80-minute time slots was prohibiting innovation. Thus, the new EC schedule will be presented in a modular format, with the existing two terms being split into four half-terms of 14 sessions each and some class slots extending to 120 minutes. This means that although an EC student can take the traditional class schedule, there will also be ample opportunity for a 14-session case-based course followed by a 14-session field-based course, for example, or a class that lasts two hours. Not only does this open up creativity for professors, but it also gives students more control over the amount of time and effort they want to expend on certain topics.

Microscopic Understanding: From 300 Feet

After hearing of this step-change in the curriculum, like you, we had many detailed questions:

What was the impetus for this change?

Dean Nohria: “As a school, we’ve been talking about ways to enhance the curriculum to reflect an increasingly complex world for many years.  To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Harvard Business School in 2008, for example, Professors David Garvin and Srikant Datar, under the leadership of Dean Jay Light, conducted research on the state of business education, specifically, the state of the MBA. That generated a number of discussions within the community, and led to a handful of faculty working groups.  There also has been significant faculty and student input over the past few years.  We think now is the right time to act, and to take the HBS MBA to the next level.” To read more about the MBA Innovation beginnings, please view What is the Future of MBA Education?

With these curriculum changes, is HBS creating something new or replicating the efforts of other top MBA programs?

Dean Nohria: “HBS has always been a pioneer in the field of management education.  As you think about the history of the school, the case method was a unique and powerful proxy for being in the world. We wanted to simulate being in the world because at that time, you couldn’t actually be in the world and in the classroom simultaneously, as technology enables you to do today.  Our commitment to that is in no way changed. The case method will always be central to what we do, but we’re now at a point in history when we can do some really interesting things in the field. Both methodologies – case and field – are absolute complements.”

Youngme Moon: “The underlying commitment to the case method is that we wanted students to have an experience in which they were engaging in real world problems. What we will create with FIELD is as distinctive as we do with the case method.”

How do you add a new course to an RC schedule which already has students feeling stretched to capacity? Are any of the current courses going to be removed from the curriculum?

Youngme Moon: “One of the things we’re trying to get better at, overall, is integrating the many facets of a student’s life here. We recognize that academics, recruiting, and extracurricular activities have been in silos for too long. We’re going to try to have a much better awareness of what is going on in students’ lives, and we will find times and spaces for FIELD that will be sensitive to the changing rhythms of students’ workloads.  We also believe that all of the current courses in the RC are absolutely critical, so no course will be removed from the curriculum.”

Dean Nohria: “We believe that FIELD will encourage engagement and foster intimacy between small groups of students within each section. When people are engaged and simultaneously creating lifelong friendships, they don’t feel overloaded.”

How will FIELD be structured within each RC Section?

Dean Nohria: “Teamwork will be at the center of the FIELD experience.  Students will be organized into teams of various sizes (within their section) working together on the leadership development and international projects.  Students will have the opportunity to work with several different teams, depending on the particular exercise. Teamwork offers students learning opportunities in coaching, giving feedback, and building consensus. These are skills that are vital to leaders.”
How will you measure the success of this program?

Dean Nohria: “Student and faculty feedback is the most immediate metric, but the long-term metric is the leaders we graduate.  Additionally, we will be assessing our effectiveness in lots of ways over the next three to five years, which is the allotted experimentation period. That said, we will try to the best of our ability to get it right first time around and we will not fail because we didn’t give it 100%.”

Youngme Moon: “We would like to get a first round of input immediately from students. That’s the beginning of the dialogue.  Frances Frei and I will go to each of the RC sections during their first week back to school to hear reactions and feedback to the new curriculum. We are being aggressive about student feedback as our design team will be designing around what students, as well as other constituents, tell us.“

How will this affect the current J-Term opportunities students are given?

Youngme Moon: “We want to be explicit and transparent. We are reinstating the ‘required’ portion of the J-Term for RCs as this will be the time when the required global experience takes place. For those students who come from abroad, or for individuals who worked extensively in a specific region of the world, they will still have the same requirement; however, they will focus on a geography with which they are unfamiliar.”

Dean Nohria: “Part of making this facet of the curriculum required also means ensuring that there are financial resources available.  The school has always been committed to providing aid to make the MBA experience accessible to all.  Our commitment will extend to those who need it for this global immersion component.”

How will this affect the Classes of 2011, 2012, and 2013?

Youngme Moon: “Tactically, the students in the Class of 2011 will not be affected; however, we still encourage their feedback. The Class of 2012 will be able to experience the structural agility the EC curriculum will offer next year and the Class of 2013 will be the first class to experience the FIELD course.”


The SA was grateful for the opportunity to announce this news to students.  It is clear to us that the administration and faculty have worked tirelessly and closely together with students and alumni to create bold, new ideas to increase the value of our MBA education.  The Dean and his team have built consensus among faculty and staff and are enthusiastic about involving students in the experimentation phase over the coming months and years.

If you have any questions, comments or feedback, please feel free to email Barbara Siegfriedt at