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Spotlight on Historical Collections

Khurana Uses Baker to Trace Development of Managerial Education

Published: 12/15/2005

When HBS professor Rakesh Khurana decided to do research on the development of managerial education and business schools, he only had to walk a few hundred feet from his office to dig deep into primary sources.

Khurana has used Baker Library's Historical Collections extensively to study this transformation in mission of managerial education and the still-contested question of whether management is truly a profession. His new book, From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: The Social Transformation of American Business Education, will be published by Princeton University Press in late 2006 or early 2007. At the conclusion of his previous book Searching for a Corporate Savior: The Irrational Quest for Charismatic CEOs, Khurana asked to what extent business schools had contributed to the logic and legitimacy of CEO compensation. "I decided to look at the founding of university-based business schools, to look at the source of those ideas," he said. That led Khurana to Baker's Historical Collections.

"This is the kind of research I could only do at HBS," says Khurana. "I have support and the willingness to discuss these ideas. Historical Collections was great. The material is fantastic and the people are fantastic."

Using the archives both when they were housed temporarily at 145 North Harvard and later at the re-opened Baker, he researched documents on the founding principles and activities of HBS and of other schools, too, in addition to primary materials related to the American Association of Colleges and Schools of Business, the minutes of all AACSB meetings between 1916 and 1946, and materials from the Ford Foundation. Khurana also used the Columbia University archives and the Ford Foundation archives (which are actually maintained by the Ford Foundation) in New York City.

As we think about business education for the twenty-first century, says Khurana, it is critical to ask how management as a profession has been defined, how it has evolved, and how it has diverged from its founders' intentions.

How has the mission of university business schools evolved?

"If the early founders came back," said Khurana, "they would be very impressed by the quality of business school research, the faculty, and the institution of business education in American society. They would, however, question the idea of our unwillingness to give students a normative direction as to where and how they should apply the skills they learn. For the founders, character and competence went hand in hand."

"University business schools were founded at the dawn of the industrial revolution," he concluded, asking, "How will they adapt in post-industrial revolution society?"

Contact: Historical Collections


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