The one-year MBA model just made serious gains on American soil. New York University’s Stern School of Business is adding two new one-year MBAs to its programmatic suite. The Tech MBA and Fashion & Luxury MBA are both slated to enroll its first cohort of around 30 students each in May 2018. Those programs join the school’s full-time MBA, two part-time MBA options, two executive MBA options and will include 51 credits over a 12-month span.
“The impact of technology is ubiquitous in the sense that companies and industries around the globe are being affected by it,” Stern Dean Peter Henry tells Poets&Quants on a phone call. “It’s undeniable there are certain hubs that are epicenters of the disruptive change. Silicon Valley and Northern California has certainly been a key area. But when we think about it, where we sit, New York is also a key epicenter and we are at close proximity to what I would argue is a new and rising epicenter of disruptive innovation — the so-called Silicon Alley here. And there is a big opportunity for us to help develop that ecosystem.”
More than a degree program, Henry believes the model could be the next evolution of how the MBA degree will continue to stay relevant in an increasingly technologically-driven world where software engineers rule.
“If you look at the history of our school in a broad context, we’ve been arguably one of the most important suppliers of talent to the financial services sector for the last 50-plus years,” Henry explains. “And we will continue to be one of the most important suppliers of talent to that sector and other sectors going forward. But, particularly, technology is having a huge impact on all industries and all businesses. If you think about the new economy, what we’re seeking to do is be relevant to the new economy for the next 10, 15, or 20 years as we’ve been to to the financial sector for the past 50.”
According to Vice Dean of Programs and Online Learning at Stern, Raghu Sundaram, the school will begin accepting applications for both programs in September. Round two deadlines will happen in November and the final round will close in January 2018.
DEDICATED ‘CORE’ TO REAL-WORLD EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING IS SET TO MAKE UP FOR INTERNSHIP
For Henry, who announced his resignation earlier this year and will step down at the end of the calendar year, conversations surrounding the development of these programs have roots from the time he “walked in the door” at Stern. “When I arrived in 2010, we really thought about how do you take a great business school and keep it relevant to the changing times,” Henry explains. That mindset soon led to a renewed emphasis on experiential education and the creation of the LAUNCH orientation program.
“You go to business school to learn how to turn problems and opportunities into value for society,” Henry says of the mission and mindset the school has taken. That manifesto has made experiential learning a key element at Stern for the past 15 years or so, Henry explains. After creating LAUNCH, conversations surrounding experiential learning continued. “And as part of that discussion, we landed on Stern Solutions, which is going to be an essential part of the new programs,” Henry continues.
Stern Solutions is the school’s new marketing phrase for its re-commitment to experiential learning — something that will play a big part in the two new degrees. Of course, one of the biggest limitations of the one-year, accelerated MBA model is the lack of internship opportunity when compared with the traditional two-year MBA. It’s something Stern hopes to compensate for by dedicating an entire “core” section of the one-year degrees to real-world projects with nearby companies. Each degree program is comprised of four core sections, including business, tech or fashion and luxury, real-world experiential projects, and electives.
“One of the challenges for one-year programs, previously, is this absence of real, relevant industry experience,” Henry admits. “And the learning that we’ve gained through experiential learning over the past 15 years, is really creating something different.”
KEEPING PACE WITH THE ‘NEW ECONOMY’
Both Henry and Sundaram say conversations about the programs began “in earnest” about two years ago when industry partners began expressing a need for a specific kind of talent.
“The problem we’re trying to solve is that there is this thing called the new economy, which is rapidly evolving and changing,” Henry explains. “And the firms we talk to — whether it be the large tech firms or the small tech firms and everyone in between — everyone says the same thing: we can’t find enough talent to fill the jobs we have.”
Sundaram confirmed on a separate phone call with Poets&Quants.
“Over the last decade, as we all know, technology has become a central part to just about every business,” Sundaram says. “And over the past year or two, the conversations we were having with people from industry focused around the need to create people in business who understand technology and people in technology who understand business.”
STERN TRAILS MANY COMPETITOR SCHOOLS IN TECH SECTOR PLACEMENTS
Graduates from Stern’s full-time MBA program have increasingly entered the tech industry for the past three years — but just slightly. In 2014, just 6% of the class went into tech, compared to the 37% that went into financial services and 28% into consulting for the same graduating class. The number ticked up to 9% in 2015 and 10% in 2016. Meanwhile, graduates entering financial services dipped slightly to 34% while consulting gained a percentage point to reach 29%. The 10% mark is incredibly low when compared to many other elite B-schools. The University of Washington Foster School of Business, for example, had the highest mark for the graduating class at 2016 with 52%. According to Poets&Quants analysis from earlier this month, at least 13 elite MBA programs around the world pumped at least 20% of their 2016 classes into the tech industry. However, the roughly 10% does beat out cross-town B-school rival, Columbia Business School, which sent about 7% into the sector in 2016.
Still, Henry and Sundaram explain, these two degree programs are designed for a completely different market than most two-year general management MBAs. For instance, the tech degree is a “business meets technology” program, Sundaram says. “This is designed for students with very strong technical backgrounds — not necessarily computer science, but definitely STEM backgrounds,” Sundaram continues. “And certainly one of the aspects we are looking for in students is a background in coding.”
Sundaram explains it as looking for the typical two-year MBA candidate with a “plus something else.” The plus something else is the ability to do basic coding for the Tech MBA and a proven previous and future “dedicated interest” of entering the creative services industry for the Fashion & Luxury MBA.
“We are not creating an MS in technology management,” Sundaram says of the Tech MBA degree. “We are creating an MBA with a depth of focus in the technology sector or fashion and luxury.”
Henry says their faculty and the focus groups created with current students see the programs as an entirely different category to the graduate business education market.
‘SOME PEOPLE LOOK AT THE PACE OF CHANGE AND ARE FRIGHTENED BY IT’
Henry knows there will be students always wanting the two-year transformative experience. They will want to take electives, explore new industries with internships, and take their time experimenting. “But there are also going to be students who really want to focus on technology,” he says. “They want to be in the tech or startup world. And there will be those that really know they want to be in creative services — they want to be in fashion and luxury. For those students and those industries that are really demanding the talent out there, the combination of our faculty — I think we have more computer scientists on faculty than just about any other business school out there — and our proximity to what’s happening. There are many other business schools out there, but this epicenter of technology is blocks away from us. I mean blocks away.”
Sundaram says the luxury and retail space has traditionally been a “key strength” for Stern and that the school’s current luxury and retail track is one of the most visited pages on the school’s website. For students in fashion and luxury, Henry explains, there is a big need in the those industries to bring a combination of creativity and core business knowledge. “For students who know they want to do fashion and luxury and want the opportunity to do so with experience, Stern Solutions is going to allow them to get to that destination much more quickly,” Henry says.
For a school that has recently introduced initiatives ranging from a center focused on human rights and business to a specific financial technology (fintech) track for full-time MBAs, an emphasis on constant programmatic innovation is something Stern has embraced, Henry says.
“This is a really exciting time. Some people look at the pace of change and are frightened by it,” Henry says. “We’ve looked at the pace of change and we’ve decided we have a responsibility to produce leaders that are comfortable with ambiguity and have the skills to shape the future.”