With a focus on areas like sustainability, non-profit work and social impact, Stern has taken steps to ensure that its students are exposed to various areas of potential interest, so that we can engage and connect with those outside the traditional business world.
Stern students are known by many descriptions. Some of them are negative like “competitive” and “cutthroat.” As a school, Stern provides us with outstanding facilities and unparalleled opportunities, but it also invites comments from the broader NYU community. The Sternie’s general reputation seems to be “money-driven egotistical individuals who want to be investment bankers”, according to a student in Steinhardt. Students from CAS, Gallatin and Steinhardt have shared their opinions and experiences with Stern students, and the results are a bit surprising.
Not all Stern students seem to perpetuate these stereotypes. Non-Stern students find that, as individuals, Stern students are usually nice people, but in groups, we buy into a culture of competition and a “winner takes all” mentality. As told by these students, “the collective has a mind of its own which is intense, unapproachable, aloof, career-focused, finance-focused, intimidating and unwelcoming”. When in groups, Stern students are said to live in a bubble, wherein everyone is busy competing with each other, creating a perception of falsity in our interactions. This long-standing perception has extended past the group and to the individuals themselves, creating harsh stereotypes about the Stern student body. For example, there is a belief that Stern students will go so far as to sabotage our own friends and classmates just to get ahead, which seems unlikely when most people can admit that the Stern students they have met as individuals would not do that.
The group mindset is prevalent throughout Stern, but can be especially observed in Stern classes. An interesting observation by a Gallatin student was that Stern classes feel “impersonal” because we don’t usually introduce our pronouns in the first class, which tends to happen in Gallatin classes and some Steinhardt classes. Pronouns are personal and sharing them can allow a student to feel more accepted into the class. NYU has repeatedly stressed the need for this acceptance, including with its recent changes to Albert allowing the addition of pronouns. When the rest of the university can embrace students’ individualities and be mindful of their needs, Stern should be able to do the same. While these introductions might take away from the time that the professor is teaching, it seems like a small but impactful gesture that could enable this school to seem more welcoming and accepting of each student’s uniqueness, rather than thinking of students as numbers and metrics.
We also need to be mindful of the business school culture we are in. The business world traditionally commends those who can outperform their peers in a competitive environment. Stern prepares us well for the business world by familiarizing us through leadership opportunities, the rigorous academic courses and highly competitive recruiting events. Like many other top business schools, Stern produces a lot of students who go into the financial services sector. The industry traditionally values confidence as a necessary part of success, so it’s no surprise that Stern students tend to emulate that ideal. That being said, the industry seems to now be shifting its focus from the traditional result-driven, number-crunching employees to more well-rounded individuals who have technical as well as creative and interpersonal skills.
Stern aims to defy these stereotypes by implementing non-finance departments and admitting a more diverse pool of students. With a focus on areas like sustainability, non-profit work and social impact, Stern has taken steps to ensure that its students are exposed to various areas of potential interest, so that we can engage and connect with those outside the traditional business world. We are making progress and maybe we are only doing so on an individual level, but as more and more individual Stern students become less like “snakes,” as perceived by interviewed students, the collective student body will change as well.