Stanford Business Magazine Fall 2023

Explore the Fall 2023 issue of Stanford Business — and see how people from all corners of the Stanford GSB community are coming together to change lives, organizations, and the world.

Campus Illustration by Kate Evans

Dean’s Letter

Even as it responds to change, the GSB is following a distinct path.

Editor’s Note

As much as I miss the ’80s, I’m not sure I’d want to relive them. Sure, the music and my hair were way better back then. But otherwise, things were pretty gnarly.

Rewind to 1983: The economy was rebounding from a serious downturn. Americans were worried about inflation, jobs, and crime. New technologies were upending communication, entertainment, and labor. (A Nobel Prize–winning economist predicted that “Human workers will go the way of the horse.”) Tensions between Washington and Moscow were at their highest point in years. And scientists were warning about “an unprecedented rate of atmospheric warming.”

That was the familiarly messy world that Henry A. Fernandez stepped into when he received his MBA 40 years ago. As he reassured this year’s grads during his commencement address in June, “Every GSB class thinks they are graduating at a uniquely difficult moment in history. In a way, they are all correct.” It’s never been easy to envision the future, especially when the present is unsettled. Yet Fernandez, the chairman and CEO of MSCI, emphasized that this is no excuse for short-term thinking: “Perspective is the perfect remedy for both irrational exuberance and undue despair.”

This issue features many people with that long-term perspective — and what Everett Harper, MBA ’99, describes as “comfort with ambiguity and complexity.” We meet young “ecopreneurs” who are working on products designed to clean dirty water, expand renewable energy, and prepare farmers for climate change. And we profile the new wave of executives keeping their companies focused on sustainability and impact. As one of them, Peggy Brannigan, MBA ’87, says, “You have to have some buoyancy, some optimism — and you have to be in it for the long haul.”

We also return to artificial intelligence — a topic we last covered a year ago, way back when ChatGPT was barely a household word. Now that AI apps are suddenly everywhere, we asked GSB professors for practical advice on how to adopt them without being too hasty or hesitant. They note that one of the best applications for these tools is making predictions, but caution that they’re no substitute for old-school decision-making and vision. There’s still no such thing as a crystal ball. Or a time machine.

— Dave Gilson

Maker: Richard Gay, MBA ’95

Lead producer of Hippest Trip — The Soul Train Musical

This show resonates with everyone. No one has ever asked, “What’s the Soul Train musical going to be about?” Instead, we frequently hear, “Oh my gosh, that hasn’t been done already?”

We’re telling the Soul Train story, including some really serious stuff. But you’re going to have a lot of fun while you’re there, too.

How “Ecopreneurs” Spent Their Summer of Sustainability

Students from the new Stanford Ecopreneurship program spanned the globe to help build climate-focused ventures.

These are some of the 35 aspiring ecopreneurs who formed a supportive community as they developed their ventures.

Spot illustrations by Israel Vargas

Voices of Stanford GSB