BOSTON—“Do you think this idea is brilliant or shocking?” asked Harvard Business School Professor Dennis Campbell, as he taught a case study he had co-authored on Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union, which focuses on empowering employees to put customers’ best interests ahead of either the organization's interests or their own. As a result of this focus, the credit union must determine what to do with its profitable indirect auto lending business, which some see as inconsistent with the strategic direction set by the management team.
Professor Campbell, an expert in financial reporting and control, was asking the question before an enthusiastic group of 81 rising college seniors who were recently on the HBS campus for the School’s Summer Venture in Management Program (SVMP), a one-week management training program designed to increase diversity and opportunity in business education.
A flurry of hands shot up in one of the u-shaped classrooms in Aldrich Hall. The student Professor Campbell chose to answer said he was not in favor of the decision to empower employees to make final decisions about auto loans for Affinity Plus members. Since not all employees would use the same levels of judgment, he reasoned, it would be impossible to maintain any approval standard across the company.
The rest of the 80-minute class consisted of students taking sides on this decision by the company, which had notified all employees of their approval power via an email.
An annual offering at the School for 31 years, SVMP helps a select group of college students develop a broader understanding of the numerous career options offered by the MBA degree, the challenges business leaders face, the many dimensions of the business world, and the impact they can have on their community and the world through business leadership.
All students live in a dormitory on the School’s 40-acre campus, analyze and discuss HBS cases that present them with real management situations and decisions, work together in study groups, and attend classes taught by HBS faculty members.
This year's curriculum also included cases on LeBron James, Benihana of Tokyo, Jay-Z, Airbus A3XX, Threadless, and the Greek financial crisis. In addition, a full schedule of activities took place on-campus including social events and panel discussions with current HBS students and SVMP alumni.
Admission to SVMP is competitive and based on academic achievement, demonstrated leadership, and personal characteristics.
Participants are selected based on academic achievement, demonstrated leadership, and personal characteristics, and they are expected to take part in the entire program. Previous courses in the field of business are not necessary for selection.
In keeping with SVMP’s objective of promoting educational diversity and opportunity in business leadership, additional criteria to be considered, among others, are whether the applicant is:
- the first family member to attend college,
- a member of a group that is currently underrepresented in business schools and corporate America (e.g., African American; Latino; Native American; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender),
- from a family with little business education or experience,
- from a school whose graduates are sometimes underrepresented (e.g., the applicant attended a community college before entering a four-year degree program or attends a predominately minority college).
In addition, SVMP participants must be employed in a summer internship and be nominated by and have sponsorship from their company or organization. Sponsoring organizations can include public or private companies, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations.