Six members of the Harvard Business School (HBS) M.B.A. Class of 2009 have been named winners of the School’s prestigious Dean’s Award. The recipients, who will be recognized by HBS Dean Jay Light at Commencement ceremonies this afternoon (June 4) on the HBS campus, are Andrew Goldin, Garrett Smith, and the team of Rye Barcott, Alex Ellis, Neil Wagle, and Kate Wattson.
Established in 1997, this annual award celebrates the extraordinary nonacademic achievements of graduating students who, as individuals or in teams, have made a positive impact on Harvard, HBS, and/or broader communities. True to the M.B.A. Program’s mission, they have also contributed to the well-being of society through exceptional acts of leadership. Nominations come from the HBS community, and the recipients are chosen by a selection committee comprising faculty, administrators, and students.
“This award reflects the remarkable activities and achievements of our students outside the classroom,” said Light. “Recipients have set their sights on making our campus and the world a better place. We are happy to honor their accomplishments and confident that this kind of leadership and stewardship will continue throughout their lives.”
ENRICHING THE HBS EXPERIENCE
Andrew Goldin came to Harvard Business School in the fall of 2007 from New York City, but not via such traditional venues as a financial services firm, a management consultancy, or his own start-up. Instead, the University of Pennsylvania grad had spent three years as a sixth-grade Latin and science teacher in the New York City public schools, earning a master’s degree along the way from the Bank Street College of Education.
Assigned to Section E (one of 10 groups of 90 in which entering M.B.A. students pursue the required first-year curriculum), Goldin immersed himself not only in learning the basics of courses like accounting, marketing, organizational behavior, finance, and macroeconomics, but in making the most of the case method of instruction, with its emphasis on daily classroom interaction between professors and students. Given his background, Goldin was the perfect choice to serve as his section’s education representative (or “ed rep”) — the primary liaison between sectionmates and faculty on all issues affecting their educational experience. A year later he was named chair of the Education Committee.
Goldin pursued these positions with a passion, not only representing the immediate interests of his constituents but leading the development of programs that will contribute to the Business School learning environment for years to come. He provided feedback, for example, for the creation of a module called “Learning at HBS,” which was introduced last fall as part of each first-year section’s introduction to the School.
Offered by each section’s faculty chair, the new module focuses on the educational and social issues that frequently arise as HBS students adapt to the case method and the rigorous demands of the first-year curriculum. “Andrew’s background as an educator and his deep understanding of pedagogy made his advice particularly important in helping faculty members prepare to deliver this module,” wrote a student who nominated Goldin for the Dean’s Award.
In addition, Goldin contributed significantly to implementing a pilot program to improve the effectiveness of first-year learning teams — groups of six students who work together on daily class assignments as well as special projects. In his second year, he counseled newly elected ed reps and codified procedures. In short, this nominator added, “Andrew was involved in virtually every education-related event at HBS.”
Above and beyond his official duties, Goldin helped numerous other HBS students from the nonprofit and social enterprise sectors adjust to academic life at the School and feel more comfortable about participating in class. “These efforts have no doubt led to enriched discussions in several sections,” said a nominator. He also mentored dozens of classmates interested in finding jobs in education after they graduate. “I’ve enjoyed enriching my understanding of the HBS learning model and supporting my classmates as they navigated through it,” Goldin said.
Eager to do something for New Orleans (and particularly its school system) as it continued to suffer from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, Goldin traveled to the Crescent City with a group of HBS faculty, staff, and students in January 2008 as part of the School’s New Orleans Service Immersion. He was back again for 10 days at the beginning of 2009, this time as one of four student leaders who not only had coordinated and marketed the trip but had worked with faculty responsible for adding a formal academic element to the program (which had been renamed the NOLA IXP — or New Orleans Immersion Experience).
The 50 students on the trip used their business skills to make a lasting impact on the nine “partner organizations” they worked with in the city — a process facilitated by an expanded network of faculty advisers and a set of templates and protocols the student leadership created to enable the M.B.A. teams to structure their projects more effectively. Returning to campus, Goldin and a classmate began work on a field study based on their experiences. One result: a case study documenting what HBS students have accomplished in New Orleans so far.
The ways Goldin gets things done have not gone unnoticed by his nominators, either. “He has accomplished all this with integrity, joy, and a special brand of good humor that have made him a pleasure to work with for faculty, administrators, and fellow students alike,” a classmate said. That combination of qualities augurs well for Goldin’s life and career far beyond Soldiers Field.
BACK TO NEW ORLEANS
During his three years as a Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School joint degree candidate, Garrett Smith has demonstrated “catalytic” leadership skills that have had a long-lasting effect on the people around him. As one Dean’s Award nominator described it, Smith’s “humility, his ability to define strategic approaches while moving people toward common ground, his relentless initiative, his willingness to listen, and his capacity to inspire others all result in a style that has a laser-like focus on results and impact. He is an extraordinary student leader.”
Smith brought these stellar qualities to Harvard Business School’s New Orleans Service Immersion (now reconfigured and renamed the New Orleans Immersion Experience Program, or NOLA IXP) – a January program that takes HBS students, faculty, and staff to the Hurricane Katrina-ravaged area to contribute time and talent in a variety of rebuilding and consulting efforts. Since he is a joint degree candidate, Smith had the unique opportunity to participate in the trip for three consecutive years, in a different capacity each time.
As a first-year M.B.A. student in 2007, Smith co-led a team of students working on a strategic planning project with the Cowen Institute for Public Education at Tulane University. He played an important role in establishing a relationship with the institute and offering ideas and advice about the future direction of the city’s charter schools.
Following this trip, Smith was one of the student leaders who took responsibility for preparing for the 2008 Immersion. Beyond spending a significant amount of time and effort recruiting other students, he worked on creating ways to engage first-year M.B.A.s in key roles. Furthermore, along with other students, professors, and members of the Business School’s administration, he helped the New Orleans Immersion evolve into one of the School’s IXPs, with a more formalized academic component overseen by HBS faculty members. “Garrett’s ability to articulate his goals and vision and bring others along was impressive,” wrote a nominator for the Dean’s Award.
In his final year on the trip, Smith handed the reins of leadership to a new group of students, who followed the succession process that he himself had helped design. According to a nominator, “Garrett’s humility and his empowerment of the 2009 Leadership Team enabled the new group of students to step into their roles with confidence and comfort. He was always a quiet resource to the team, but never once came near the spotlight.”
As one staff member commented, Smith’s “passion for the people of New Orleans and his wishes to make a difference in the rebuilding efforts were evident and inspiring.” Not surprisingly, Smith regards the time he spent in that city as a particularly important part of his Business School experience. “That’s when I felt most proud to be an HBS student,” he said. “The people there were so grateful that a group of Harvard Business School students had given up their winter break to help out. I felt honored to be part of that group.”
Closer to home, Smith was also involved in the Student Association (SA) — the School’s student government — as a senator for two years and as a member and then chair of the Student Services Committee. This year, he volunteered to take on the task of revising the SA constitution — a daunting endeavor that had not been attempted for many years. After collecting comments and criticisms from numerous groups across the School, he updated the document, winning kudos from his classmates.
In addition, Smith was a key player in promoting and implementing various “green” programs at HBS. For example, he helped establish and foster a working group that brought together faculty, students, and staff members from the Dean’s Office, the Department of Operations, and the Social Enterprise Initiative to address key issues regarding the School’s environmental sustainability.
Smith leaves HBS with not only a broad range of accomplishments but a host of admirers. As one Dean’s Award nominator put it, “Garrett combines determination, strategic thinking, and an ability to communicate in a collaborative and clear manner. The result is an ability to foster productive, action-oriented dialogue and navigate complex processes. He has contributed in significant ways both within and beyond the HBS community and is most deserving of this exceptional honor.”
RYE BARCOTT, ALEX ELLIS, NEIL WAGLE, AND KATE WATTSON
Typically, Harvard Business School courses emerge from faculty research, but the second-year field study seminar Building Green Businesses is an exception. A team of four graduating students — Rye Barcott, Alex Ellis, Neil Wagle, and Kate Wattson — created this new offering, which debuted in the School’s curriculum this year.
The four members of the HBS Energy Club (Wattson is co-president) believed that the course “would be an important capstone of their personal education.” They also wanted to encourage and nourish the groundswell of interest in clean technology on campus and accelerate the School’s involvement and leadership in an area that is becoming increasingly important to the entrepreneurship and investment world.
“Though there are many ways to get involved at HBS, the classroom plays a pivotal role in career development,” said Wattson, who has an undergraduate degree from Harvard and worked at a wind development company in Houston before coming to HBS. “We wanted to make green business a part of students’ HBS experience, because as the industry grows, it is important that HBS alumni be present in leadership positions.”
Wattson, Barcott, Ellis, and Wagle discussed at length how the new course would be structured and delivered. Then they met last spring and summer with various members of the HBS faculty and administration, as well as fellow students, to lobby for its introduction into the curriculum.
Professor Joseph Lassiter of the Entrepreneurial Management Unit and Professor Forest Reinhardt, who heads the Business, Government and the International Economy Unit, agreed to sponsor and help shape the class. When the course was expanded conceptually to include work originating from the HBS Science-Based Business Initiative (SBBI), Professor Lee Fleming and Visiting Associate Professor Andrew King of the Technology and Operations Management Unit became involved. Formalized in 2008, SBBI seeks to transfer discoveries made in Harvard laboratories into society while creating leaders for science-based businesses.
With the help of these faculty members and a small cohort of others on campus, the four students organized and established the Building Green Businesses seminar in time for the fall 2008 registration period. Forty-one students from HBS, the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology enrolled, attending a total of 10 classroom sessions during the winter term.
As part of the course, student teams completed a project on building a green business — working with existing startups or exploring possibilities for launching their own clean-technology venture. Other requirements included a final written report and an oral presentation about their findings. The seminar was “phenomenal and offered an exhaustive syllabus addressing every major issue in the industry,” wrote one participant.
The faculty members who helped organize the course assign virtually all credit to Barcott, Ellis, Wagle, and Wattson. “All four were absolutely critical in getting the field study seminar off the ground,” said one professor.
In addition, the four students generated momentum that led to another event benefiting HBS, the first Building Green Businesses Conference, held in March on the HBS campus.
The conference, sponsored by the School’s External Relations group and the Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, brought together alumni and industry leaders active in the “green/clean” movement to share insights and ideas. Approximately 80 alumni and friends of the School attended.
Barcott, Ellis, Wagle, and Wattson hope that the interdisciplinary field study seminar they organized, along with the conference, will continue to advance the School’s research and course development efforts in the area of clean technology. All four are passionate about renewable energy and “trying to help the environment by applying practical business knowledge,” wrote one of their nominators for the Dean’s Award.
“This was a chance to plant the seed for a course and a conference at Harvard and perhaps most importantly, in a community of students and faculty here at HBS who can actually build green businesses,” said Wagle, a Harvard College alumnus who will also earn an M.D. degree from Harvard Medical School next year.
Ellis, who studied political science and government at Bowdoin, hopes that the seminar lays “the foundation for something lasting in the HBS curriculum.”
“We undertook this effort because we felt there was a need for such an interdisciplinary course,” added Barcott, a University of North Carolina graduate and former U.S. Marine Corps officer who is also earning a master’s degree at the Kennedy School. “This project strengthened my commitment to fighting climate change and reducing waste in the U.S. and beyond by harnessing the forces of industry and entrepreneurship.”