Classroom and Field Work: Methods of Instruction

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Field Work

The field work apprenticeship program ran from 1937 until women entered the Harvard Business School MBA program in the early 1960s. "The field work provided the students with immediate practice in testing both their powers of observation and the analytical abilities which they had been developing in the classroom," Ragnhild Roberts, an administrator of the program, explained. "The fieldwork concept was based on the realization the students had been exposed for about sixteen years to academic classes, with little or no realistic knowledge of the working world."27 Students gained experience in business, industrial, government, and nonprofit organizations. More than one hundred firms across the country offered apprenticeships, including Sylvania Electric Products, General Electric, Bloomingdales, American Optical Co., American Broadcasting Co., Metropolitan Life Insurance, and R. H. Macy.

Sponsoring companies also benefitted from the apprenticeships, and the long term relationships between the firms and the program often led to businesses employing women in new areas.28 The program initially matched students to two full-time job assignments. The first, an unskilled position such as a production line worker, sales clerk, or office clerk, familiarized students with supervision issues and customer-employee relations. "Our students find that they are better equipped to understand and deal with workers after they have held the worker's type of non-specialized job," Roberts explained. "The best way to appreciate the endurance and difficulty of the lowest paid job is to hold one."29 The second, a position at an administrative staff level, included experience in market surveys, production planning, scheduling, and other managerial functions. The courses that students studied in the program dovetailed with their work assignments, and graduates usually found careers in fields related to their interests and field work experience.

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Case Method

Women who sought a business education at Radcliffe College and Harvard Business School learned through the case method of instruction, which placed students in the position of solving real-life business problems. "The focus of the program is to help you in such a way so you can handle any business problem regardless of which business you go into," explained Ernest Enright, director of HRPBA. "We have no textbooks. Each class is a discussion of a business situation."30

Over the course of their studies, students analyzed hundreds of business cases, written by HBS faculty. Small study groups as well as teacher-facilitated classroom discussions provided opportunities for students to explore the business problems identified, recommend a course of action, and follow up with a written analysis.

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The 1956 - 1957 Harvard-Radcliffe Program in Business Administration course catalogue outlined the benefits of the method: "The learning process, repeated over and over again, develops . . . the ability to define the essentials of a particular problem, the power to analyze and weigh the important factors in context, the imagination to put facts and ideas together as solutions or alternatives, the readiness to make decisions, and the sensitivities needed to work easily and effectively with other people."31

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Doctoral Program and Executive Education

In 1959, the Harbus News reported, "Twenty-seven men and one woman are entering the Harvard Business School (HBS) Doctoral Program this fall."32 Edna Homa Hunt (DBA 1967) became the first woman to receive a doctorate in business education from Harvard. The doctoral program focused on preparing students to join faculties at graduate schools of business, as well as careers in government or the corporate world.

The Advanced Management Program, established in 1945, became available to women in the spring of 1962. Companies sent their mid-career executives to this intensive program so they could achieve new levels of leadership within their organization. "It is our hope to attract and admit women who in background, present position, and future promise would be entirely comparable to the men," HBS Dean Stanley F. Teele wrote.33 The Program for Management Development, centered on the needs of young executives in middle management, opened to women in 1963. Women could now be members in all HBS educational programs.