They called themselves orphans, pearls without a string, and the lost graduates. But on April 5 and 6, these wayward souls found a home, when graduates of the JD/MBA joint program gathered at the Charles Hotel for their first reunion. The fact that it was at a central location between the schools was a relief for these men and women, who spent one year at Harvard Law School, one year at Harvard Business School, and two years trudging between the campuses on opposite sides of the Charles River.
Of the nearly 330 graduates of the joint-degree program, more than 80 attended the reunion. Participants ranged from those who graduated in the early ’70s, when the program began, to current joint-program students. Some of the earliest graduates of the program recalled the minefield of incompatible schedules, skeptical
classmates, and dubious admissions officers.
Yet students who pursued a joint degree faced obstacles long before the start of the official JD/MBA program. HLS Dean Robert Clark ’72 noted Dean Roscoe Pound’s (1889-90) reaction to one student who in 1931 announced that he was going to pursue a degree at Harvard Business School. “Business is not a profession!” Pound exclaimed. “And they don’t teach you anything over there.” As Dean Clark concluded: “We’ve come a long way.”
During panel discussions, current students discussed the program’s present incarnation and graduates spoke of potential career paths. Though most of the JD/MBA students end up in the business world, the advantages of having the law degree are clear, said Reza Dibadj ’97. “The obvious benefit is that whenever there is a legal question to a business problem that a client has, you can help,” he said. “Also, the Law School teaches you a way to analyze problems that can be applied very successfully in the business setting.”
The requirements of entry into the JD/MBA program were a major concern for many of the participants. The program averaged 17 students in its initial years. Yet when the Business School decreased the number of students it would accept directly from undergraduate institutions in the mid-1980s, the enrollment in the program dropped precipitously–to a low of three students in 1988. Though enrollment figures have recovered, some participants contended that the program is still suffering from the Business School’s admissions guidelines. They were encouraged, however, when Harvard Business School Dean Kim Clark announced that HBS was changing its admissions policy and would encourage more undergraduates to apply.
According to Lawrence Golub ’84, president of the JD/MBA Alumni Association, the reunion invigorated the relationship between the schools and the people who pursued the program. “The existence of this event is the most dramatic positive statement that Harvard Law School or Harvard Business School has ever made about the program in any of our memories.”