At Stanford, business and education go hand in hand

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Historically, business schools have focused on making a profit. At Stanford, a unique program has been challenging that notion. The joint MA/MBA in Education and Business Administration is a collaboration between the Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE) and the Graduate School of Business (GSB), and is an ‘unlikely’ collaboration that has required two very different fields join forces and flourish.

Michael Kirst, GSE Professor Emeritus and former Stanford GSB Professor (courtesy), oversaw the launch of the program in 1969. He ran it for more than 30 years. In an interview with Stanford GSE News, he traced the development of the program.

“The story of this show is really one of persistence and change,” says Kirst. “It took a lot of will on the part of both schools to make this happen in the first place, and to make changes as the field transformed and student interests evolved. And it’s still flourishing.”


The joint program allows students to graduate with an MA and an MBA in just two years. Students take a full course load at both the GSB and GSE, plus a summer internship or independent study.

At first glance, business schools have very different values ​​than schools of education. Business majors are taught to maximize profits and shareholder value, while education majors are taught to focus on social responsibility and civic leadership.

“Normally there is not a lot of affinity and interaction between education and business schools,” says Kirst. “Schools of education often have reservations about business and its profit motives, and business schools have reservations about the quality of schools of education. Traditionally, there haven’t been very close ties between the two, and generally that’s still the case.”

When the joint program began, Stanford GSB had an ambitious vision. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, then-GSB Dean Arjay Miller wanted to refocus B-school education to focus on both social responsibility and corporate interests. Your solution? Launch a public management program in the GSB. A strong association with the school of education “fits where [GSB] we were going,” says Kirst. “And building a program with the business school really expanded what we could offer on our own.”

When the joint degree program was officially launched, it was initially created as a Master of Educational Administration (MEA) before changing to a joint MA/MBA program. The change was a significant change that helped make graduates look more attractive to potential education employers, from charter schools to educational startups.

“Yes [employers] I could get someone with an MBA and a master’s degree in education, that was gold,” says Kirst.

With all the differences between business and education, it seems that Stanford has finally been able to find common ground.

“The worlds of business and education are different but interconnected, and living in both allowed me to see that there are solutions that are not exclusive to either sector,” Van Ton-Quinlivan, 1995 graduate of the program and now CEO of Futuro Health , He says. “If you are going to work to reshape education, you have to be able to bridge these two worlds.”

It is the kind of bridge of two worlds that is not very common in many schools. In fact, according to GSE Professor Emeritus Deborah Stipek, it’s exactly what makes Stanford Stanford.

“One thing I’ve always experienced at Stanford is a culture of collaboration between different schools and departments,” says Stipek, who also served as GSE dean from 2001 to 2014. “I think that’s one of the reasons Stanford was able to do this, where many other universities would not, even if they tried and most did not try.”

Sources: Stanford Graduate School of Education, Stanford Graduate School of Business

Next page: How to spend your first year in business school.

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