‘THEY THROW YOU IN THE DEEP END’
That approach seems to suit the students just fine. “They’ve created an environment where we don’t get grades,” says Teran. “The emphasis is on learning versus getting a high GPA. It’s more representative of life. In the real world, you don’t get a GPA. For someone who is frustrated with traditional education, it’s awesome to be a part of this. They throw you in the deep end and a week later they throw you a rope to tow you to safety. Then, they yank the rope away and let you float again.”
Initially some faculty were skeptical. After being exposed to some of the students in the program, however, one prominent professor who had withheld his approval of the program stood up at the end of a presentation and said, “I was skeptical but I am totally changed,” recalls Karen Golden-Biddle, another of the core MSMS faculty. “It is unlike any teaching I have done before,” she says. “The students’ individual growth is so much fun to watch through feedback and learning. The learning occurs because they want to learn. It’s just a different form of relating to students.”
The university approved the program in January of this year and Questrom filled the class within two and one-half months. Initially, the school was expecting a class of 20 to 25, but ended up admitting 50 out of 130 applicants. Some 43 admits put down deposits and the school enrolled 39 students in the beta program that costs $48,182. Each admit was interviewed by faculty who were heavily involved in the admissions process.
‘THE PICKED THE NERDS WHO AREN’T SO NERDY’
The initial cohort includes students with academic backgrounds in biomedical engineering, neuroscience, biology and electrical engineering from such undergraduate schools as UCLA, Syracuse, Lehigh University and BU. “They picked the nerds who aren’t so nerdy,” quips Rafael Listman, a 23-year-old mechanical engineering undergradate from the University of Miami. “We are scientists who can talk to people. That is who they are looking for, people who can speak to both languages in business and in science.”
Listman, who graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in mechanical engineering, found himself not really enjoying his chosen field. “I had more passion for talking and working with people,” he says. His mother sent him a link to the newly announced BU program and it had instant appeal to him. “Classes are stupid,” he says flatly. “Classes aren’t the best way to learn. Life isn’t linear and work isn’t linear. We rely heavily on teams and learning from each other, and you do have supportive faculty. There is a life guard.”
Faculty work closely with the students, including five one-on-one, 30-minute coaching sessions throughout the program. “The faculty are more like mentors than authority figures,” says Teran. “We are all on a first name basis with faculty. We have their personal cell phone numbers and we can text them at any time. They are working closely with us to help us get the most learning from the projects.”
‘THE STUDENTS HAVE BEEN BREATHTAKING’
For some, that took getting used to. “At first, it’s a little bit weird,” concedes Courtney Lyons, 22, who had majored in engineering. “The relationship we have with the professors is so unique. The one-on-one reviews help further that relationship. It’s a high touch program.” In fact, most of the students say they had never met directly for any length of time with a faculty member during their undergraduate years.
“We thought STEM students would be stiff and rigid and have a hard time with this,” adds Grant. “But they have been breathtaking. We give them hard feedback and they don’t get that kind of feedback anywhere else.”
Questrom expects to enroll another single cohort this coming August and then go to two cohorts the following year.