Professor Tyra Banks to Teach MBA Course at Stanford

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That's Prof. Banks to you.  (Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

The class won't start until April, but if you're a student at Stanford's Graduate School of Business, you should probably start practicing your smize right now. If there's one thing we've learned from America's Next Top Model, it's that disappointing Tyra Banks has dire consequences.

Banks, identified by Stanford's online course catalog as a "Supermodel/Entrepreneur/Television Executive/Business CEO," will be coaching 25 lucky MBA candidates through an eight-week spring semester class called "Project You: Building and Extending Your Personal Brand."

Among other coursework, would-be mini-Tyras will be asked to consider the following: "What is a personal brand and how can it be unleashed as a valuable, competitive advantage? Why do you need a personal brand? How do you differentiate yourself and create a brand identity and strategy? How do you use social and traditional media to enhance your brand effectively as well as measure the metrics of social media responses? And how do you know when to pivot and evolve your brand for sustainability?"

The class final will see students sharing "their honed personal brand to the public via three viable platforms (Facebook Live, local television, YouTube) to jump-start their personal brand extension." If you're a Stanford MBA and you're still on the fence, know that this probably shouldn't be your first entrepreneurial/self-branding rodeo: A 90-second video stating "Who you are, what your personal brand is, and what you want it to be" is a requirement before you even show up to class.


Banks, it should maybe be noted, has a somewhat sticky relationship with formal business education. She's gotten into hot water before by allegedly misrepresenting herself as an MBA pedigreed by Harvard Business School (she did graduate from the school's "Owner/President Management" program in 2012). But anyone who would doubt her qualifications in the field of branding and entrepreneurship should also note that at 42, she's ranked repeatedly on TIME magazine's list of the world's most influential people; she successfully transitioned from modeling -- an industry many women age out of by 25 -- into helming her own veritable business empire; and she's currently worth an estimated $185 million.

Also, surprising exactly zero people who have any experience with her personal brand, Banks told the Wall Street Journal that she has no plans to be a softie as a professor. “If I see somebody not paying attention, I’m gonna call on them," she said. She also aims to keep students off their cell phones in class -- unless they feel the need to “tweet something I’ve said.” That's lesson A1 in personal branding, maybe: If someone wants to talk about you on social media, you let them.

And for those of us who have the misfortune to not currently be enrolled as business students at Stanford? We can plan our outfits really well, plot strategic visits to Palo Alto's most fashionable shops and restaurants, and burn incense at homemade altars featuring pictures of her face in the hopes that the universe will smize upon us and place Tyra Banks in our path without the mandate of an advanced-level university course.

Or, you know, we can do what Tyra would probably want us to do: Get to work.