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USC's B-School Closes In on UCLA's in Rankings

October 12, 2002|DON LEE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Richard Rodner, associate dean of the UCLA Anderson School, sat down at his desk early Friday morning, it was hard not to cringe at the report before him. It was BusinessWeek magazine's new rankings of America's business schools, and UCLA--for many years in or very close to the top 10--had fallen to a lowly No. 16.

"We're frankly stunned," Rodner would say later in the day.

Across town, Randolph Westerfield, dean of rival USC's Marshall School of Business, was all smiles. During lunch, people were patting him on the back. At his office, dozens of congratulatory e-mails were pouring in from alumni and trustees, who only a few years ago were ruing that their school didn't even make BusinessWeek's top 30. But now, USC stood at UCLA's heels--at No. 17.

"I'm feeling pretty good," Westerfield said, in obvious understatement.

For deans at business schools around the country, this week has been as tense as finals week is for students, as they awaited the release of BusinessWeek's biennial B-school rankings. Other publications, including the Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and most recently the Economist, also put out rankings of MBA programs.

But many in academia and business say none carries as much weight as BusinessWeek's, which has been in existence since 1988.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday October 15, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 7 inches; 285 words Type of Material: Correction
UCLA official -- A Business section story Saturday about business school rankings misidentified the UCLA Anderson School official reacting to BusinessWeek's rankings. It was Bill Broesamle, senior associate dean at the Anderson School.

Coming in at No. 1 was Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, with cross-town rival the University of Chicago, right behind it. Rounding out the top five were Harvard, Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

The rankings do matter--in recruiting students and to employers--and are taken seriously, as the folks at UCLA will attest. Anderson's dean, Bruce Willison, was unavailable Friday because he was traveling in the Midwest to meet with corporate recruiters--something that Rodner says they will have to do more of in the wake of BusinessWeek's report.

Anderson's fall, from No. 12 two years ago, came because it got low marks from recruiters. Rodner took comfort in the fact that Anderson scored high on the two other categories that make up the overall rankings: a survey from graduates and the so-called intellectual capital of the school.

And don't forget the Economist's MBA rankings, Rodner added. In that poll, released Friday, UCLA came in at No. 7.

Even so, murmurings from Anderson alums could be heard from as far away as New York. Tom Williams, who got his degree in 1995 and works for investment banking firm Bear Stearns Cos., remembers distinctly that Anderson ranked No. 9 when he was at the Westwood campus.

"I'm a little suspect of why we could be slipping," he said, asking like the finance major that he was, "Have they changed the input variables as to what they're grading?" (BusinessWeek said its criteria are the same.)

Williams would not even talk about USC's Marshall School, which for decades was seen as not being in the same league. In fact, Marshall first made the cut in BusinessWeek's list in 1998, at No. 25. But mirroring the much-improved reputation and caliber of the university's overall program in recent years, the Marshall School vaulted seven notches on the list this year.

One big reason: high marks from people such as Ray Orquiola, recruiting manager for corporate banking at Wells Fargo & Co., who says Marshall provides great service to employers.

"They provide us with the right campus intelligence on students. They'll tell us the latest rage, who the best students are and how to get connected to them," he said. "When we do campus interviews, it's completely seamless. They even give us free lunch."

Bob Rollo, Marshall class of 1970 and a trustee of the school, could not help but take pleasure at USC's ascent and UCLA's drop.

"I'm incredibly proud of what our school has done," he said, adding with a laugh, "I would feel better if they were No. 17 and we were No. 16."

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