STERN TAKES FULL ADVANTAGE OF NEW YORK’S PLENTIFUL RESOURCES
Kellogg’s Chicago home is nicknamed the “Second City.” Try as it might, it simply doesn’t match up with New York City, home of New York University’s Stern School of Business. Vice Dean Sundaram is more than happy to tout the program’s benefits, starting with its emphasis on continuous innovation, which ranges from branching out into three countries to launching the first FinTech specialization. He also enjoys watching applicants’ jaws to drop when he says they can study under three Nobel Laureates. In the end, he returns to the obvious: Stern has the best location of any MBA program — and the school leverages this advantage to the hilt, particularly in the realm of experiential learning.
In particular, New York City has afforded the school with extensive contacts with a wide range of industries and leaders. As a result, the program boasts a long list of experiential learning projects with firms that include the Fashion Designers of America, MasterCard, JetBlue and HBO. These are supervised by both professors and company representatives, acting almost as additional internships for students. Sundaram cites one example, where Albert Wenger, the managing partner of Union Square Ventures, teachers a course where three member Stern teams work with eight different companies in one go-around. In fact, Stern has become an epicenter that draws top practitioners like BuzzFeed President Greg Coleman to teach and connect with the next generation of business leaders.
“Experiential learning is a fantastic opportunity that Stern provides because it combines the best of academic learning and case study because the experience is the case study itself,” Sundaram explains. “You’re learning about the project and you’re learning hands-on in way where you’re learning to apply all the tools, techniques and concepts and ideas that you learned in the classroom.”
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE AT STERN
Quality is only half of the equation. Sundaram is fond of saying, “There is a project for whatever taste that you have at Stern.” Owing to Stern’s New York locale, the school can quickly develop courses that address emerging trends or increasingly popular topics — most often with academics and practitioners who are shaping thought or nurturing enterprises in these areas. Sundaram points to the school’s curriculum, which includes 215 different electives and 395 sections for MBA students alone. That doesn’t count the two dozen specializations. For example, the school now offers eight courses in FinTech — and is building up another 4-5 courses in the area. At the same time, Stern has introduced courses in promising new areas like Robo Advising and Blockchain.
This quantity of courses, coupled with its emphasis on experiential learning, sets Stern apart in Sundaram’s view. “There is an enormous range depending on what students are interested in. That’s a key differentiator for us and it is something that we’re very conscious of deepening and widening as the world around us is changing.”
All work and no play make for disgruntled students. Both Kellogg and Stern have managed to infuse fun with thought-provoking discussion in their signature events. Kellogg, for example, hosts an annual spring “Bollywood Bash.” Merrick equates it to an Indian dance show, where 200 or students step out of their comfort zones by dressing in costume and following the routines. This year, the school will open up its brand new Global Hub, with 415,000 square feet of classroom, office, and meeting space, that sits 50 feet off the shores of Lake Michigan and features a stunning view of downtown Chicago. This addition is destined to boost student satisfaction for years to come. “The Global Hub is designed that way to keep fostering and driving this engagement and communication at Kellogg,” Merrick says. “We have this fantastic space that will amplify collaboration specifically.”
STERN “LAUNCH” BRINGS TOGETHER A DIVERSE CLASS
At Stern, the defining moment for students happens at the very start. The school’s week-long Launch Program sets the tone for the rest of the experience with an event that’s both inspirational and relevant. Structured and activity-driven, the Launch is divided into three parts: Expand, Experiment, and Explore.
During Expand, which encompasses the first two days of Launch, Stern invites speakers to share their experiences and their secrets to success both in business and personally. In recent years, Expand has included leaders like Ellevest CEO Sallie Krawcheck and Dan Schulman, PayPal CEO and President and Chairman of Symantec. For this segment, Sundaram seeks “visionary people” who can resonate with students and open them up to new possibilities. “We’ve had a range of people who come in who are being inspirational in the way they motivate our students to think beyond the narrow confines of a classroom into, ‘What is it that you can do in this world?’”
Experiment takes this a step further. Here, students are broken into teams and given two days to work on a project. In 2016, for example, they were asked to come up with a business solution that addressed the scarcity of food, water, or shelter. The exercise serves a key purpose: introducing students to Stern’s brand of teamwork along with challenging them to solve large scale obstacles using business tools.
Turns out, the 2018 Class was up for the challenge, with Sundaram describing the results as some of those most “amazingly imaginative ideas” that he has seen yet. The overall winner was “Bundle of Joy,” a subscription service for children’s clothing that relied on sharing economy principles. The runner-up was “Flying Fish,” where grocery stores would sell expired organic food, that would normally go to waste, at a discount to be used as animal feed. One group created a cross-business points system that offered incentives from retailers to perform sustainable actions. Another envisioned an online platform that connected vacant property owners with people needing short-term rentals. All of them found potential solutions in unexpected places.
The event naturally concludes with Launch. Pulling the week together, this step shows how the various resources at Stern — and New York City as a whole — could fuel their passions and interests. “The event shows students all the things you can to do with business to solve problems,” Sundaram beamed.
EMPLOYERS CITE COMMUNICATION AND COLLABORATION AMONG KELLOGG GRADUATES’ VIRTUES
Kellogg and Stern aren’t just popular with students. Employers have also taken a shine to them, further increasing student satisfaction. Kellogg placed 96.4% of its 2016 graduates within three months of graduation. At the same time, Stern grads pulled down first year packages of $158,080, third only to Harvard Business School and the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Not surprisingly, Kellogg’s employer data shows that its graduates excel in communication skills, team collaboration, and engagement. This feedback serves to vindicate the plan plotted out by the school decades ago.
“If you look at the way organizations are today versus a decade or two ago, they are much less hierarchical,” Merrick observes. “Having to work across organizations and teams is much more of a standard today than they ever used to be. Also, when you look at job descriptions for MBA jobs, the most common skill is always communication skills. Being able to articulate your point of view, challenge people the right way, and engage in fruitful discussion is so important. Those are areas where we do well.”