Graduate School of Banking: A Winning Combination

Last Friday and Saturday, I participated in the annual lead instructor meeting of the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin (GSB). I was invited to this meeting, held in Chicago, as a representative of the GSB board of trustees. For many years, I have heard about the high quality of this yearly meeting from past participants. Consequently I felt honored to be invited and was excited at the prospect of witnessing the planning/review process from the perspective of the instructors.

GSB was founded in 1945, with its board of trustees consisting of the chief executive officers of the 18 member states of the Central States Conference of Bankers Associations (a sponsor of the school since its inception), plus a representative of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and two alumni bankers who sit on the banker advisory board. Of the six U.S. graduate schools of banking in existence today, GSB normally ranks among the top two — yet it offers the second lowest tuition fees and still remains profitable. GSB’s international bankers’ program attracts professionals from around the world; students from 18 countries were in attendance at the 2012 session. No other graduate banking school anywhere can boast that level of diversity. As both an alumnus and a trustee, I believe GSB is the best banking school in the world … though I may be somewhat biased.

It was inspiring last weekend to see firsthand the commitment and passion of GSB’s lead instructors, who set aside all self-interest so that the school can continue to provide the best educational experience possible. They methodically dissect the content of every class and every instructor, including themselves. I have seldom witnessed such candor in any setting.

These instructors and the others they employ are the face of the school. They teach and interact with the young banker students. Those same students, in turn, evaluate every class in which they participate. The entire structure of GSB is designed to facilitate accountability. There is no place to hide; the truth is delivered and dealt with.

In a couple of weeks, GSB’s banker advisory board will meet and utilize a similar process to assess the marketing of the school and the overall student experience, always with an eye toward improvement. Though I am unable to participate in that meeting this year, I hope to have the opportunity in the future.

GSB operates with a small, highly tenured staff, most having served for more than 20 years. Is it any wonder that GSB is so successful? It has a dedicated staff, passionate instructors, banker alumni eager to “pay it forward,” and trustees who understand banker education and the business of banking. It sure sounds like a winning combination to me, and the success of GSB continually proves it!

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