MBA News: Activist Investors Are Enthralling Business School Students

A relatively new trend is buzzing within the business school world: activist investors. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), exploring the phenomenon earlier this month, observed that such schools as Columbia Business School and Harvard Business School are introducing more activist investment case studies to the curriculum and inviting investors to speak at the schools in response to students’ rapidly spreading interest in this topic. The fascination with activist investors could very well change the course of some MBAs’ careers, as many students who once planned to pursue more traditional types of investing jobs have recently changed direction.

A high and rapidly manifesting pay rate is a possible lure for some students, but one recent UCLA Anderson School of Management graduate told the WSJ that making a deeper impact on companies through direct investments could also be a draw. “There’s definitely excitement around [activist investors] and what they do,” the student, Lance Cannon, said. Yet, some experts say the trend could prove to be a dud because of its fast pace and alleged lack of commitment to the future. “There’s plenty of evidence to support the view that activism does far more harm than good,” Cornell Law School professor Lynn Stout commented in the article. Despite the criticism, activism appears to be claiming a prominent seat within business schools. “Activism has changed so much about business,” Christopher Crawford, a Columbia Business School second-year student, told the WSJ. “Whether you think it’s constructive or not, it’s not going away.”

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