Round 1: October 2nd, 2016
Round 2: January 2nd, 2017
Round 3: March 12th, 2017
The school rolled out a new curriculum in the fall of 2012 to impose more training in leadership and writing, and to teach core subject areas such as finance, marketing, and operations in a more integrated fashion. These changes come along with the appointment of a new dean who has pledged to raise the school’s rather timid profile in recent years. Dean Bob Dammon, who had been on the school’s faculty since 1984, has pledged to lead a more aggressive effort to publicize and market the school’s strengths, raise more money to house Tepper in a larger facility, and increase the size of its relatively small MBA program by 50% to some 300 students.
For a business school that has produced eight Nobel Prize winners, Tepper has been surprisingly circumspect in tooting its horn. As Dammon told The Wall Street Journal shortly after his appointment as dean in May of 2011, “We don’t talk about it much to the external marketplace, and I am going to change that. If we are going to be recognized for the quality of the program, we need to make sure the outside world knows about us. And if we want to move up in the rankings, that’s also a necessity. I want to be as visible as I possibly can.”
The new curriculum includes a BaseCamp exercise during orientation that immediately teaches students how the key disciplines of business come together in an integrated manner. “In Base, we give students the 30,000-foot view of business and how finance, marketing and operations fit together,” Dammon tells Poets&Quants. Incoming MBA students, among other things, study Amazon.com from the financial, marketing and operations perspectives and learn how each discipline supports the e-commerce giant’s overall strategy. “When students get into the core classes, they now understand the importance of each discipline to the health of the overall company and how those things come together.”
The core curriculum, which pretty much absorbs the entire first year, begins with a solid foundation in what Tepper describes as the three fundamental scientific disciplines – economics, behavioral sciences, and quantitative methods. The school doesn’t separate incoming students into cohorts that move through all these courses together. This approach is why the school sees itself as a smaller and more intimate academic cousin to Chicago Booth and MIT Sloan, though those rivals have far greater resources, stature and prestige among the major MBA players. What Dammon is hoping to correct is the notion that Tepper is merely a quant school overflowing with engineering types with high IQ but relatively low EQ.
As one recent Tepper graduate put it, “the ‘quant’ reputation of the school can be a double-edged sword. Two-thirds of the student class will come from an engineering background, so you cannot draw upon the varied business experiences of others, as this is probably their first exposure to business education, culture, and corporate environment. This can also lead employers to look at Tepper as a pool of students to fill the more technical or back office support roles in their businesses. Additionally, there is a learning curve for interpersonal soft skills for those from more technical backgrounds. So even though students are very bright, they may not appear to be as polished as their peers from competing business schools.”
All of this background makes the new curriculum changes, where were beta-tested on about 100 graduates in the Class of 2012, far more relevant. The alterations were informed by surveys of students, alumni and employers who believe the school could do more to prepare Tepper MBAs in the soft skills of managing and leadership. New students are now given a four-hour test assessment that measures their abilities as managers on nine different dimensions. Then, a customized action plan is put together for each student and bolstered through one-on-one coaching throughout the course of the two-year program. “Other schools all have leadership courses where you sit with 70 people to study leadership,” says Dammon. “But we are giving students a customized program of coaching and workshops that extends throughout their full two years.”
The school made room for the new leadership and communication sessions by expanding its entering base camp to three weeks from two and by shaving half a week from its mini-semester format so that each mini is now six and one-half weeks rather than seven. That said, Dammon wants to retain what is best about the school. “We take an analytical approach to the MBA,” he tells Poets&Quants. “We think that really gives students the skills they need to tackle a very complex world. This is critical. We are a rigorous program. We don’t want people who don’t want to work hard. We have two years to prepare people for a 40-year career. That is a challenge. The best way to do that is to give them the skills that will help them solve problems today and many years moving forward. So we teach the quant and analytical skills to understand the world and the leadership skills to change the world.”
Nice sound bite there. Still, this is a seriously research-focused institution. In fact, Tepper has one of the largest PhD programs in business, with nearly 100 students. Dammon says Tepper boasts the largest Phd student to faculty ratio of any of the top business schools. In any given year, the school will admit between 12 and 15 PhD students who each get a tuition-free education and an annual stipend of $25,000. That commitment to train PhDs, largely for other schools, costs Tepper $6 to $7 million a year.
In any case, the flexibility of the second year curriculum—virtually all elective courses—continues to offer students the opportunity to further integrate what they’ve learned, to explore the areas in which their career interests lie, and to gain additional breadth across management areas. The school offers more than 120 electives in various areas. All students also have a capstone course requirement. Among recent choices available to Tepper students was an A.T. Kearney project where the consulting firm brings in 15 to 18 of its clients who bring projects for student teams to tackle over a 12-week period. Another capstone sponsored by Deloitte Consulting had a group of MBAs attempt to figure out what millenmials are looking for in cars.
Three months after graduation, 92 percent of the MBAs in the Class of 2012 had received a job offer, marking another strong year of recruiting. The mean salary for the MBAs in the class of 2012 is $107,700, a record-high for the Tepper School.
This year’s high employment rate, combined with a 91 percent rate for 2011, marks a return to the robust levels that were the norm before the recession hit, said Stephen Rakas, executive director of the Career Opportunities Center at the Tepper School. “We ended another successful recruiting year despite the lagging economy,” he said. “Tepper students are performing very well in the job market.”
The Employment Report of the MBA Class of 2012 also revealed a shift in career focus. Thirty percent of the class found a job in consulting, where the starting salary averages about $122,000. Tepper School MBAs also gravitated toward jobs in marketing functions (25 percent) and the high technology (21 percent) and biopharma healthcare industries (10 percent).”We are moving ahead as a school in consulting, technology and health care,” Rakas said. “We have one of the highest percentages of biopharma health care of any top MBA school.”
While job offers in those fields grew, those in the financial sector declined to 19 percent, down from about 40 percent in its heyday. “That reflects a shift in all of the top MBA programs,” Rakas said. “I speak with a lot of colleagues. There are just not as many opportunities in financial services, nor do we see the same level of interest from many students.”
The job offers are already flowing into the MBAs in the Class of 2013. As of the end of October, 50 percent of the second year MBAs had a job offer in hand, compared to 38 percent during the same time last year.