Harvard’s MBA Oath Goes Viral

June 11th, 2009

Business Week

When most people think of professionals whose “purpose is to serve the greater good,” MBAs don’t leap to mind. That’s probably part of the reason authors of a new oath for MBAs, which uses those words in the opening sentence, set such modest goals for the project. Started by 33 second-year MBA students at Harvard Business School (Harvard Full-Time MBA Profile) as a way to bolster B-school ethics, the group originally hoped 100 of their classmates in the Harvard class of 2009 would sign up to “act with utmost integrity.” At the time, it seemed like a stretch.

But something about the project struck a chord. Maybe it was the desire to distance themselves from B-school villains of the financial crisis, or an effort to get a head start on their future careers in the nonprofit world, or maybe it was genuine idealism. But whatever the cause, the oath has quickly taken on a life of its own. Within weeks, more than half of Harvard’s class of 2009 had signed. Perhaps more interestingly, it didn’t stop at Harvard Yard. MBAs around the world forwarded the oath to friends, gathering nearly 800 signatures to date. Max Anderson, the 2009 Harvard graduate who came up with the idea, said he received requests from people at more than 25 schools around the world about bringing it to their campuses. He still sounds a little awed: “Our inbox has just exploded.”

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