01 Mar 2010
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Analyze This

What a Mundane Mailing List Reveals about HBS
by Roger Thompson

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Story ideas sometimes come from unexpected places. I would hazard to guess that this issue of the Bulletin offers a first in the magazine’s long history. Inspired by a copy of our international mailing list, Senior Associate Editor Garry Emmons proposed writing an article about alumni who are the sole HBS graduates in the countries where they live.

Using the mailing list as his guide, Emmons found that 22 countries and territories receive just one copy of the Bulletin, ranging from Armenia to Uzbekistan. He managed to track down via e-mail five members of this singular group and invited them to write an autobiographical sketch. The resulting article, “Sole Mates”, gives us a fascinating snapshot of five very different lives — all making a difference in their far-flung outposts.

Curious about the list, I got my own copy and was immediately struck by just how much you can learn about the School by knowing where its alumni magazine is delivered. For the December 2009 issue, we dispatched 20,797 copies to 148 countries (out of 195 worldwide) and territories, from Andorra (2) to Zimbabwe (24). Talk about global reach!

Maybe I’m just a frustrated analyst, but I couldn’t help thinking of different ways to parse the numbers. Some examples:

How many copies go to major Western European nations? Answer: France (1,029), Germany (785), Italy (336), Spain (334), and the United Kingdom (3,231).

How many go to the fast-growing BRIC countries? Answer: Brazil (588), Russia (127), India (675), and China (937).

What about the Middle East? Answer: Iran (4), Israel (225), Jordan (11), Lebanon (31), Pakistan (74), Saudi Arabia (103), Syria (1), Turkey (135), and the United Arab Emirates (127). No copies ship to Iraq or Afghanistan.

What about major South American nations? Answer: Argentina (239), Chile (159), Colombia (83), Ecuador (39), Peru (82), and Venezuela (85).

On the African continent? Answer: South Africa (775), followed by Nigeria (239), the only other country in triple digits.

It hasn’t always been this way. In fact, Dean Jay Light remarked in a recent interview that HBS classrooms had very few students from abroad when he started teaching in 1969. But as business became more global, so too did the HBS student population. Today, among the 937 students in the Class of 2011, 36 percent hold non-U.S. passports, representing 70 nations.

In Light’s view, the School’s global embrace has had a profound effect on the learning experience. “Classroom diversity has changed things quite a bit and made for a much richer and more complex discussion,” he explained.

Which brings me back to the magazine’s mailing list. With the Bulletin already going to 148 countries and territories, there’s hardly a place on earth that hasn’t been represented in an HBS classroom. Who knows. Maybe the Class of 2012 will boost the School’s total country count even higher.

Roger Thompson

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