The proliferation of data, unprecedented economic conditions, globalization, increasing competition and rapidly changing markets are all dramatically raising the bar for next-generation business leaders and decision makers. As a reflection, the changes surrounding MBA education are equally relevant.
As evidence of businesses’ expectations regarding analytical abilities, the Graduate Management Admission Council has added a new “integrated reasoning” section to its pre-admission exam, GMAT, assessing abilities in analyzing multiple data streams. Likewise, addressing the end goal of post-graduate career path, corporate recruiters are now conducting student interviews at business schools remarkably early in the program. Between them, the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University – the pioneer of the science of management – is unveiling a new MBA curriculum designed to push analytical decision-making to a new level and to create the next generation of business leaders in demand by the modern marketplace.
“We have two years to prepare students for a forty-plus year career in business, including teaching them how to tackle increasingly complex business and economic challenges for which there are no precedents,” said Bob Dammon, dean of the Tepper School. “Our approach has always been, and always will be, to rely on fundamental business principles and to combine critical thinking with solid economic analysis to make better decisions. With the level of complexity reaching new heights in today’s global business environment, it is imperative that business leaders develop a strong understanding of the fundamentals, the ability to think strategically and holistically about the world around them and the analytical skills to transform data and information into opportunity.”
The Tepper School’s new MBA curriculum begins with an extensive four-week orientation program called BaseCamp during which students receive an integrated view of business, with an emphasis on how core disciplines and business functions work together. BaseCamp made its debut in August 2011 and was extremely well-received by both the entering MBA students and the faculty that taught in the program.
“We know that, with corporate recruiters showing up during the first few months of classes, it greatly benefits our students to have this integrated view of business early in their MBA education,” said Laurie Weingart, Carnegie Bosch Professor of Organizational Behavior and Theory and co-chair of the curriculum review committee. “The majority of our MBAs are switching careers and many come from technical and engineering backgrounds. BaseCamp sets them up for both successful interviews and effective learning.”
Beginning in the fall of 2012, the Tepper School’s new MBA curriculum will realign class schedules to position business fundamentals as the core, first year emphasis. Electives and capstone courses, which enable students to apply their learning to real-world business situations, will follow in the second year. This course strategy provides key content that the students need for internship interviews by the end of their second mini-semester, in December.
“We are seeing trends elsewhere in business education that are moving to a more a la carte approach to classes,” said Michael Trick, senior associate dean for education. “That is not for us. We are keenly aware of the coursework that best prepares our students for their internships at the end of the first year based on what companies are demanding. Our approach is validated by the students when they return in the fall. The new curriculum makes sure that all of our MBA students are benefiting from this fundamentals-first approach.”
Also beginning in the fall of 2012, the Tepper School’s new MBA curriculum will create four individual weeks for immersive learning and career development. These weeks will be mid-semester, fall and spring, during each of the two years, between the school’s mini-semesters. Each week will be designed and timed to address a specific need in the development of MBA students, such as leadership development, job searching, or experiential learning. This behavioral learning will enable students to greater leverage their analytical skills and integrated knowledge of business.
“We are able to incorporate these new programs into our curriculum without sacrificing core classes,” said Burton Hollifield, professor of financial economics and co-chair of the curriculum review committee. “We identify personal skills that students need, such as the ability to make presentations or to lead people, teams and organizations, and we provide them through coaching and through immersive learning weeks administered by the school and partners like the Carnegie Bosch Institute (CBI). Sharpening these skills will greatly help our students leverage their analytical abilities throughout their career.”
Additionally, MBA students arriving in the fall of 2012, the class of 2014, will each participate in a new personalized leadership skills assessment administered by the school’s new co-curricular center for leadership and communication in conjunction with Development Dimensions International (DDI). The center, which will be officially announced by the school in Spring 2012, will provide workshops and coaching, working with students to implement personalized plans for developing their oral and written communications and leadership skills throughout the program. The assessment and an immersive 2-day workshop were piloted by the school in 2011 and have proven valuable in helping students improve their abilities at integrating their leadership and interpersonal skills alongside their quantitative, analytical expertise.
“There is no better complement to powerful analytics than strong communication abilities,” said Weingart, who is also been selected to chair the new communications and leadership center. “The combination of the two will create MBA graduates with exceptional talents and of incredible value to businesses. The final personal assessment for each student closes the loop on our MBA experience and begins their journey as alumni and professionals who are demonstrating the power of analytics within companies around the world.”
The Tepper School’s new curriculum improves on a proven formula for success, but it’s not the first time that the school raised the bar for business education. Carnegie Mellon revolutionized business education in the 1960’s, creating the formal model of Management Science and pioneering analytical decision-making and data-based decision-making. This history was recently featured in a chapter of the book The Roots, Rituals, and Rhetorics of Change: North American Business Schools After The Second World War by Mie Augier and James March. Additional history of the school and curriculum is available online.
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