01 Sep 2015

Opening Minds Through Expanded Learning Opportunities

Re: Paul Moskowitz (MBA 2015); Nitin Nohria; Mihir Desai


History by the Case Method

Professor David Moss

David Moss knew his proposal to develop a history course for Harvard College students might take Dean Nitin Nohria by surprise. But it was Nohria who surprised Moss when he suggested that his History of American Democracy course be taught in a combined undergraduate/MBA classroom.

"It was definitely a departure for both sides of the river," says Moss, the School's Paul Whiton Cherington Professor of Business Administration, an eight-time recipient of the HBS Student Association's teaching award. "Business School professors have successfully engaged undergraduates with business topics in the past, but the idea of a pure history course taught by a business professor in a class comprising students from Harvard College and HBS was an experiment."

By all indications, the experiment is working. This fall will be the third year Moss has taught the course, which has an enrollment of 100 and convenes at the Business School. The syllabus covers a wide span of events—from the drafting of the US Constitution to recent disputes over same-sex marriage. Last year, the innovative offering was among the highest-rated large courses at the College. Moss believes part of its appeal may be the timeliness of revisiting the country's founding principles at a period when many today see government as dysfunctional.

But he points to another element—the experience of learning history through the case method—as the course's "secret weapon." "It's the first exposure most undergraduates have to the case method, and they've embraced it," says Moss. "Even for the history majors, debating decisions faced by James Madison, for example, leads to a deeper understanding of the realities that shape historic events."

For HBS students, studying with undergraduates adds a different kind of depth to the learning experience. Paul Moskowitz (MBA 2015), now working at Bain Capital, says, "We helped each other think outside the box. The undergrads with history backgrounds contributed valuable background context for many of the cases. Similarly, the MBAs used their financial knowledge to highlight economic dimensions of the debates."

Moskowitz, who is interested in someday entering politics, says it was "extraordinary to push beyond finance, operations, and strategy and have the chance to think and talk about democracy and politics. In many ways," he adds, "it was the highlight of my HBS experience."


Igniting a Passion for Business Scholarship

Tami Kim (standing) with Harvard College students and PRIMO participants Marcus Dennis and Hannah Leverson

"For many young scholars, especially those from demographics traditionally underrepresented in our programs, graduate business study has not been a natural leap. PRIMO is one way to change that."


Tami Kim was a rising senior concentrating in government at Harvard College in 2011 when she participated in the inaugural session of the Program for Research in Markets and Organizations (PRIMO). "I was someone who never would have thought of pursuing an advanced degree in business," says Kim, now a PRIMO mentor and a DBA candidate in Marketing at HBS, with a focus on consumer empowerment and firm transparency. "That summer really ignited my passion for business and put me on the path to what I'm doing now."

A 10-week summer offering that brings Harvard College students to the Allston campus to work on research projects with HBS faculty, "PRIMO shows undergraduates that there's a fascinating world on this side of the river," explains John Korn, executive director of the Doctoral Programs at HBS.

Founded under the guidance of Mihir Desai, HBS Mizuho Financial Group Professor of Finance, PRIMO is in its fifth year. The program enrolls 15-18 Harvard undergraduates who live in College dorms but spend their days immersed in the scholarly community at HBS, utilizing resources in Baker Library, working closely with faculty and doctoral student mentors, exchanging ideas over meals, attending lectures by distinguished business scholars, and sampling case method learning in sessions taught by HBS faculty or doctoral students.

"The program has really gathered momentum," says Korn. "We are thrilled with the success so far and we are looking forward to building on that success in the future."


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