Catherine Ahlgren is the executive director of Boston University's Graduate School of Management Career Center, which is ranked in the second tier in BusinessWeek's 2004 MBA rankings. She arrived at Boston University in 2003 as a senior corporate recruiter and assumed the executive director position in August, 2004. Previously, she worked with IBM (IBM), where she led teams of both sales and technical personnel.
Ahlgren says Boston University's B-school graduates climb the corporate ladder quickly because of their ability to balance quantitative knowledge and technological expertise with people skills. She recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online Contributing Correspondent Jeffrey Gangemi about the employers attracted by the school's students. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:
Q: Which of BU's programs do you think is particularly attractive to employers?
A: We're strong in anything requiring finance, quantitative skills, or technology. We have a flagship program called the MS-MBA, where students earn a dual degree in two years. They learn about the basics of management and the benefits of technology and how it can take companies to the next level. It's very rigorous, and the participating students are basically in class all year long -- with an internship during summer and online classes at night. A number of big employers, including Raytheon (RTN), Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY), and Pfizer (PFE), come to campus looking specifically for graduates of this program.
Q: What motivated the creation of the MS-MBA?
A: The idea is that in the past, Information Systems was a stand-alone thing. Now, leaders need to be able to speak that language and determine what impact technology can have on a particular company. Some of the courses include Business Architecture, Telecommunications, Issues in Managing Network Systems, and IT Strategies for a Networked Economy (a requirement for all MBAs). During the MS-MBA's second year, teams are assembled to work on-site with a client, where they're assigned a task to improve that company's technological infrastructure. The employer benefits from the free, on-site consulting help, and the students receive credit and genuine work experience. They later present their findings to their classmates.
Q: What are your most innovative services?
A: We've established a corporate recruiting team that goes out and generates excitement about the Boston University Graduate School of Management programs among recruiters. In the past year, these efforts have resulted in a 93% increase in the number of companies that have provided opportunities for our students. Also, we've divided our corporate recruiting team so that each person has a specialty -- whether that be investment banking, finance, or entrepreneurship.
Q: Why have your alumni been so successful?
A: Our students rank well academically, quantitatively, and mathematically, but they also possess strong communication and people skills. Nearly 90% have job offers within three months of graduation. Recruiters tell us that BU students jump in, roll up their sleeves, and are ready to take on any project without preconceived notions.
Q: How is your alumni network in Boston and beyond?
A: It helps us to form partnerships for our corporate recruiting program. We also just recently opened an alumni club, where students, alumni and faculty can go for lunch. We also try to sponsor events that benefit alumni, so they'll want to stay involved with this network. Our office also provides lifetime job support, so alumni can come back anytime to take advantage of our services.
Q: What types of recruiters come to your campus?
A: Novartis (NVS), Pfizer, Microsoft (MSFT), IBM, Standard & Poor's, UBS (UBS), and Liberty Mutual are some of the bigger ones. Some of the newer accounts are with Bank of America (BAC), Raytheon, Merck (MRK), and Genzyme (GENZ). We're still trying to get into the larger multinationals like Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Proctor & Gamble (PG), but we're proud of where we've come in the last year. We've seen an increase in average base salary to about $88,000 and in the number of job offers for our graduates. I believe our program can compete with the best of them.