Five Questions – Dave Wilson
An interview with the president and CEO of the Graduate Management Admission Council.
October 4, 2011
Dave Wilson has been the president and CEO of the Graduate Management Admission Council since 1995, a former MBA professor at Harvard University in the 70s and a long-time advocate of MBA education. Here are the highlights of our interview:
1. Record numbers of applicants are taking the GMAT exam and the numbers are steadily rising, why is that?
We've just experienced the fourth highest years of GMAT students in history. Part of our growth is the globalization of business education. Non-U.S. citizens accounted for more than half of all GMAT tests taken in 2010, with growing numbers taking the GMAT in China and India. GMAC now has more than 550 test centers in 110 countries. The GMAC organization is thriving. In 2010, nearly 240,000 GMAT exams were administered. The exam is used by more than 5,000 programs at about 2,000 schools across the world. Seven years ago, GMAC had 56 employees and now is at 135 people with four offices including Hong Kong, London, Delhi and Northern Virginia.
2. Does this also mean the value of the MBA degree is increasing?
Absolutely, the value proposition of the MBA itself has grown. Employers see MBA graduates are mature candidates and team workers who respond well to critiques. The case studies MBAs undergo are like having a continuous 360° performance evaluation. Additionally, MBA programs are seeing more successful candidates, marketing themselves well and MBA graduates are becoming more strategic with their job search. We hear less carpet bombing approaches whereby the student sends the same generic application to multiple employers. This adds to the value of the degree — prospective students are always skeptical of the return on investment of the MBA degree but the more successful jobs are secured, the clearer it becomes the MBA is worth it. Today’s MBAs are focused, well disciplined and well qualified.
3. Why do you think more MBA programs and more organizations that hire MBAs like candidates from a military background?
When I talk to recruiters, they say they will hire military background MBAs in a heartbeat. These applicants have maturity, life experience that few people have at such a young age; they are efficient, focused and able to manage logistics that will stun most managers. They will also work very hard. Military are generally wonderful candidates to bring into a program. We started Operation MBA five years ago, which helps connect military personnel with MBA programs. We also created test centers at Camp Victory and Camp Phoenix in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively, five years ago. We were inspired to do this when a man stationed in Iraq contacted us saying he wanted to take the GMAT, but it was difficult to get to a test center in another country. It made sense to bring the testing sites directly to the military.
4. Please tell us about the new integrated reasoning section of the GMAT launching in June 2012.
The real driver for changing the format of the GMAT exam came from a large faculty survey we conducted. This reminded us what is taught in the MBA classroom is meant to be a microcosm of what the MBA graduates will encounter as management in the real world. Our GMAT examination has always tested for verbal skills, quantitative skills and writing ability. What we added is something more complex to test the candidate’s ability to move into the real world.
5. Is there anything you worry about moving forward?
No, because I strongly believe graduate management education will continue to thrive. Never before has an MBA degree been so greatly valued by employers. It’s an excellent degree to have in your personal portfolio.