Saturday, April 25, 2009

Academics @ Chicago Booth

Well - I finally managed to come up with the second edition of @ Chicago Booth. In this post, I wanted to talk about my academic experience @ Chicago Booth. I am half way through my last quarter, so i guess I'm more than 90% (yeah, that's how we roll) qualified to comment about my experience here so far. Really, it only takes a year to figure out this stuff.

Let me start with the bottom line. When people say that Chicago Booth is known for its academic rigor, well, people are NOT lying. I have friends who go to most of the top schools, and all of us get killed with the amount of course work we have. The difference - what other schools achieve with at least 5 courses per semester, Chicago achieves with a maximum of four courses per quarter. The Quarter system changes the dynamics completely. It is intense, quick and extremely productive. I have definitely learned a LOT over the last two years inside the classroom. In this aspect - I have been thoroughly impressed with the school and I'd rate it 4.5 on 5. I don't want to give a perfect 5 because there are minor issues that i wanna touch upon later in this post.

So why is the academic aspect of Chicago Booth so powerful?

Professors - To put it succinctly, they run the show. The school gives them a free hand (with limited instructions around "important" issues like grading) and the professors do a fairly good job of honoring that responsibility. Forget the Nobel prize professors! You'd hardly take any of their courses because they mostly teach advanced concepts and they're ridiculously hard! There are many many other professors, at the cutting edge of research, frequently quoted by most leading journals, respected the world around - who take the most extreme pleasure in imparting all that knowledge into our heads. Just being in a class is oftentimes a great experience.

Material - The extensive research that happens in Chicago is very much obvious in the classrooms. The Chicago approach to teach through empirical evidence and the heavy influence of the Chicago school of economics (both of which i strongly subscribe to) adds a unique flavor to business education inside the classrooms. For someone like me, that is a very very enjoyable prospect! Apart from that, just like all top schools - professors do get creative and add a lot of multimedia and external sources to add their own touch to the classes. Fun Fun!!!

Flexibility - Do you feel like sleeping longer in the morning? Try the evening class for a week! Do you just want to audit a class? Oh mostly welcome! You don't have the prereqs but you think you qualify to take a class? Just talk to the prof! You don't want ANY other accounting class after Acct.101? Sure you can do it. Welcome to the land of "Do what you wanna do". It is a power; It is a responsibility; everyone figures it out; everyone uses it very well. It works out beautifully for everyone, and mostly people feel like they learn more of what they want to learn in school.

Classmates - I know this is cliched; but they definitely do deserve a mention. I have certainly learnt a lot from my classmates, and the knowledge they have brought to the classroom. And I'm pretty sure this is true across all schools.

So the reason for chopping off 0.5 pt from the score above?

Scheduling - Most of the professors teach a maximum of 3 to 5 sections per year. Especially the top ones. Even though the schedule is laid out before the year starts and everyone is given time to prepare their best schedules, with conflicting classes, prerequisites, bid-point matters and preferential issues I feel like students loose some of these classes or the situation forces them to make compromises. Not ideal.

Quality - Very rarely, students end up with professors who are clearly not impressive. In all such situations, the professor under question is a new one the school is trying out and hence the school doesn't have info. Many of these professors improve in the subsequent years following feedback from classes, internal training and by learning from their experienced peers; but the earlier classes of these professors do tend to suck and I don't know how to incubate these new professors in a better way and save these guinea pig batches! I've been a part of a couple such classes!

Overall - I am thoroughly happy with the academic experience. There are few minor sore points; but in the larger scheme of things they are not that big! At the core aspects of an academic institution, Chicago performs very very strongly!

I am not sure if this post added anything new considering there is SO much info available about schools already. All I'm hoping that this post validates, from a first person perspective, most of the things you've already known about the academic experience @ Chicago Booth.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

BoB nomination again!

A special shoutout to the BoB team for shortlisting me one more time this year. I've been honored with the BoB award two years in a row, and I'm extremely thrilled to be nominated again. I am not very sure about making it to the final list, I have been extremely irregular and blogged very little these days - thanks to a business school that keeps us busy till the very end (and our end is not too far). Also, there is a lot of very active and very good bloggers in that list with me. But i'm happy to even make it to this list.

I have a promise to fulfil - the @Booth series of posts. I'm gonna make that happen in the next few weeks for sure! I dunno how, but i realize I just have to find time. I also have a lot of things to write about - like my amazing Spring Break trip to Africa with a bunch of Boothies. Hopefully I'll find more time to share that experience with you!

Hope everything is fine with everyone, and all of you are living a happy life in your respective quarter of the tiny little world. Hope to speak more to you all in the days to come...