Every morning, on his way to class in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Taiwo Ajetunmobi walks by a little park in Kendall Square. He passes a statue there inscribed with seven words: “Most innovative square mile on the planet.”
An executive with a love of technology and a mission to build up emerging economies like his home country of Nigeria, that particular square mile is exactly where he needs to be, at least for this point in time.
“One of my professors said that every sort of amazing tech that is going to transform the world for the next 10 to 20 years has already been invented,” says Ajetunmobi, 37, a Sloan Fellow at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.
“I think the silent part of that statement is that it has been invented in a place like MIT. So I get to see all this amazing tech before it goes out into the world.”
SLOAN FELLOWS, IN A CLASS OF THEIR OWN
Ajetunmobi is part of an elite class of mid-career professionals who can call themselves Sloan Fellows. He’s in good company. Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize; Lord John Browne of Madingley, former chairman and CEO of BP and member of the British House of Lords, ; and Frank Shrontz, Boeing chairman, are all Sloan Fellows.
Only three schools in the world offer the program – Stanford Graduate School of Business, MIT Sloan School of Management, and London Business School. Created by legendary General Motors chairman Alfred P. Sloan and his foundation, it is the first general management and leadership education program targeting experienced managers. It is counted among the most prestigious business degrees in the world.
Compared to the traditional two-year MBA, the 12-month Sloan programs are quick, intense, and highly selective. Only about 250 fellows graduate each year from all three programs. The schools’ stellar reputations and the caliber of executives they attract combine to create a unique cohort experience, set apart from any other management degree. Graduates include CEOs of top companies like Pfizer, Hewlett-Packard and Citigrop. They lead prestigious universities, banks, and stock exchanges. They serve at high-level positions in world governments or have been U.S. presidential candidates. Three of the last four U.S. Postmaster Generals (not Louis Dejoy) are Sloan Fellows, as is a former commander of the U.S. Coast Guard.
“The caliber and experience of students and what that brings to the mix is an integral part of what makes the program unique,” says Jane Charlton, executive director of Degree Programmes and Student Experience at London Business School. “LBS Sloan courses are specifically tailored to experienced senior professionals who are looking to effectively lead change and drive organizational performance.”
NOT MBA OR EMBA
So what is a Sloan Fellows degree? It’s not an MBA in the traditional sense, though MIT’s program does grant a Sloan MBA. Residential MBAs at elite schools typically attract students with 4 to 10 years of experience, take two years to complete, and prepare graduates for professional roles requiring less experience. Sloan Fellows are seasoned managers with proven career success. They typically have 10 to 20 years experience coming into the program and step into senior leadership roles after graduation.
Neither is Sloan an executive MBA which, while attracting high-level executives with more experience, is a part time program with weekend classes to allow its students to keep working. The EMBA is typically application focused, allowing students to put their lessons to practice immediately while working on business problems existent in their own companies. Sloan Fellows is a full-time, residential degree. Most fellows live on their respective campuses and take a hiatus from their careers.
“In the Sloan Fellows program, you get a full year to really focus on yourself. You’re not distracted by working at the same time,” says Johanna Hising DiFabio, assistant dean of Sloan Fellows MBA & Executive MBA at MIT Sloan. “After the first semester, Sloan Fellows also have very little core coursework, so that they can design and craft their own curriculum based on what they are interested in moving into, whether that’s sustainability, entrepreneurship, data, or whatever.”
THREE SIMILAR BUT SEPARATE PROGRAMS
Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., then CEO of General Motors, created the first program in 1930 after realizing his company’s engineers lacked management savvy. MIT’s Erwin H. Shell proposed a business education program for promising engineers and created the MIT Sponsored Fellowships program, later to be renamed the MIT Sloan Fellows Program. The Sloan program expanded to Stanford in 1957 and eventually to London in 1968.
While the three Sloan programs aren’t formally linked, all share the ethos of applying rigorous business education to experienced, talented individuals with stellar business and academic credentials.
“While each school plays to its own strengths – strategy and leadership and a high-level of experience in the case of LBS – there is a strong connection between Fellows who have completed a Sloan degree,” says Charlton. “Pre-pandemic, there were alumni collaborations that we would love to continue in the future.”
Similar to executive MBA programs, most Sloan Fellows used to be sponsored by their companies. Now most pay their own way.
MIT’s program is the largest of the three, with 109 students, compared with Stanford’s 84 and LBS’ 52. LBS is the most experienced cohort, requiring a minimum of 12 years of experience to apply while its 2022 current cohort had an average of 18 years experience. This year, Stanford enrolled the most ever women for its Sloan program at 37%.
On the following pages, we dive deeper into the Sloan Fellow programs at London Business School, MIT Sloan, and Stanford GSB.
NEXT PAGE: The London Business School Sloan Experience