MBAnalysis Blog: Inside Names and Outside Names; Names I Love

When I was in high school, every night I would call my friend, Kenny Chin, to go over the homework. Yes, it was every night.

I would always ask, “Is Kenny there?”  At that point, I would hear his mother yell the Chinese version of his name (which I can no longer remember, let alone pronounce).  I have had this experience many other times with Indian, Israeli and other Asian friends who have both “inside” names, which their family and some friends called them, and “outside” names which the rest of the world knows them by.

Remembering this got me thinking about what business schools call themselves for the public, and what those on the “inside” – including students, faculty, staff, people-in-the know – call them.  This gives some insights into who the schools are and how they think of themselves.

Two schools that are very similar in all sorts of ways, including their naming, are Sloan and Haas, or as they wish to be called, MIT Sloan and Berkeley-Haas.  The reasons are the same: each business school is very integrated into their much more widely known universities, so they want to emphasize that relationship.

The flip side is true with Wharton which never mentions the University of Pennsylvania in its name (though technically it is there).  Wharton is its own powerful brand name, so no reason to dilute that.

Duke Fuqua is somewhere in between, with the name Duke being more prominent in some places, like overseas, while people on the inside call it Fuqua.  And if you are really in the know, you even pronounce it correctly, FEW- kwa.

Of course, donors sometimes have a big say in what a school is called … and sometimes not.  One of the great university brands, the University Chicago, took a backseat to the name Booth, as in an MBA from Booth.  Of course a $300 million donation by David Booth goes a long way to rebranding anything.

Not so successful, is the University North Carolina business school being called Kenan-Flagler.  No doubt because UNC is a lot more elegant than KF or maybe KF is just too close to KFC.

Much as Buckeyes refer to their school as THE Ohio State when football season starts, students at Stanford refer to their business school as THE GSB.  Not quite sure why in either case but good to know.

The oldest business school in the country at Dartmouth, generally calls itself just “Tuck,” with its students being “Tuckies.”  Too cute for Wall Street? Maybe.

And there is always Harvard Business School, known by nearly everyone as HBS.  Not quite sure if that is because it is a simple acronym or it highlights the fact that HBS is mainly BS, but I’m not saying that.

On that note, signing off as Harold Mark, the name my mother (and only my mother) called me.