Chapter 5 Chevy Malibu: Expanding Vistas

Arriving on the Stanford University campus in the fall of 1988, Mary Barra stepped into a completely different environment. It wasn't just the palm trees and mild Pacific breezes that were a departure from the lake-dotted flats of southern Michigan. Stanford was one of the most selective programs in the country, and the Graduate School of Business class of 1990 was peopled with students from 34 states and 20 different countries. Most of the students had backgrounds in finance or general management, and many had studied at exclusive East Coast academic establishments that were nothing like the gritty, hands-on training Barra had experienced at General Motors Institute.

Stanford's business school was founded in 1926 at the instigation of alumnus Herbert Hoover, a mining engineer who became U.S. president in 1929. The school established a reputation as one of the best in the country for training good general managers using the social sciences as a framework. By 1990, the program was so much in demand that there were 4,354 applicants for the 330 places.

The faculty included luminaries such as George P. Shultz, President Ronald Reagan's secretary of state, and Myron Scholes, who went on to win a Nobel Memorial Prize in economics a few years later for his work on valuing derivatives. Women were a rarity among the faculty. Only nine of the 120 professors listed in the business school catalog were female, and fewer still had tenure. One of the ...

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