Hubbard and Kravis on Business and Community in Manhattanville

By connecting Columbia Business School and Manhattanville, the School’s state-of-the-art new home will strengthen both the MBA curriculum and the local business community.

October 26, 2010
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On October 5, Henry Kravis ’69, founding partner of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and cochair of the School’s Board of Overseers, announced that he has pledged a gift of $100 million to the School for its planned state-of-the-art new home on Columbia University’s new Manhattanville Campus. The facilities — two new buildings — will more than double the School’s physical space to approximately 450,000 square feet, providing unprecedented opportunities to bring students, faculty members, alumni, and business practitioners together. Here, HERMES talks to Dean Glenn Hubbard and Kravis about this pivotal moment in the School’s history.

What is your vision for the School’s new home in Manhattanville?

Glenn Hubbard: A guiding principle shaping the building’s design is that education is best delivered in spaces that foster communication and collaboration — and it is possible for good architecture to do so. Moreover, by uniting the entire School community under one roof, we will facilitate and enhance interactions among students, faculty members, alumni, and business practitioners, which in turn will drive the innovative thinking that is the hallmark of Columbia Business School.

The design of these new facilities will reflect the fast-paced, high-tech, and highly social character of business practice in the 21st century. Business culture has been evolving away from the hierarchies that dominated organizations in past; instead, organizations are moving toward more horizontal, collaborative models — which underscores the importance of such social intelligence-based skills as leadership, management, teamwork, and negotiation. The School’s new home will be a space that encourages and inspires collaboration, enhancing the efforts of our faculty researchers, who are increasingly working cross-functionally.

Henry Kravis: Columbia Business School’s new home will be a vibrant community intersection, where energy, entrepreneurship, and experience meet to create a powerful force for positive change. It’s not about a building — it’s about something much bigger than that. What matters to me is what happens in and around that building and the impact it has on our students and on this community, our nation, and the world.

I want to contribute to an academic environment that encourages idealistic students to put their talents to work for societal good. Students will come here to learn in the classroom and in the real world. They will learn by listening and by doing. And if they have the courage to take chances, they will leave here to create jobs, opportunities, and prosperity in this community and beyond.

What is significant about the timing of the School’s move to Manhattanville?

Glenn Hubbard: Columbia Business School’s reputation as a great business school rests on three pillars: faculty who lead in generating ideas in their fields and across disciplines, our extraordinarily successful and accomplished alumni network, and the School’s unique ability to combine its faculty and network to generate ideas that connect academic theory with real-world business practice. For the past 20 years, the School has worked relentlessly to unlock its full potential as a source of ideas and talent, focusing primarily on intellectual capital investments. These efforts have brought the School to this critical moment of reckoning in its history: We have today the people and programs of a first-rate institution, yet facilities that are only second-rate; the disparity between the two has never been greater.

Henry Kravis: Columbia Business School is a great institution, and now — finally — we’re going to have the facilities to match.

How will the School’s presence in Manhattanville strengthen the local business community?

Glenn Hubbard: It is my expectation that these new facilities will enable us to deepen the two-way ties between the School’s intellectual capital and business practitioners. What we teach here is as applicable to the small business owner as it is to C-level executives in virtually any industry around the world. The School’s far-ranging expertise — particularly through our centers and institutes, which span a wide variety of subjects — means that we are extraordinarily adept at finding solutions to the most challenging issues of the day.

This is an opportunity for us to build upon the good that the School — often, through programs led by students — has already been doing in the community. We will be able to connect local entrepreneurs with cutting-edge knowledge and skills — and, in turn, deepen our students’ ability to apply what they are learning in the classroom to the real world.

Henry Kravis: We’re not just constructing a building — we’re creating a community of entrepreneurs. It is my hope that innovation and entrepreneurship at the School will encourage and support innovation and entrepreneurship in Manhattanville and beyond.

Importantly, these new facilities will bring the School’s various community initiatives together in one place, forging closer ties between the academic community and the real world. Students working with such initiatives as the Columbia Community Business Program, which gives local business owners a chance to tap into the expertise of Columbia Business School faculty members and alumni, and the Nonprofit Board Leadership Program, which connects students with alumni board members so that they can learn what it means to run a nonprofit institution effectively, will have more opportunities to connect with small business owners in the community, and all involved will benefit from the experience.

While these and many other programs are wonderful, we can do so much more. Students who participate in these efforts tell us that the programs are constrained by lack of space. That is about to change.

Mr. Kravis, you’ve been a generous supporter of the School for decades. What inspires you to stay connected?

I am here today because Columbia Business School helped nurture my dreams. I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The School and this city opened a new world.

I took a job on Wall Street while studying for my MBA. I got a great education in the classroom and at the office. I learned by listening and by doing. And what I learned convinced me that my path in business had to include taking risks. I crave challenges, and I’ve always liked to work without a safety net. I’m here today because I want to encourage that entrepreneurial spirit — at the School and in the community.

It has been a long time since I attended Columbia Business School, but I have the same sense of excitement and anticipation that I had when I first walked on campus as a student. This is a new beginning for a school that has nurtured dreams for nearly a century.

I am thrilled to be part of that effort.

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