Program Of The Year: Cornell Tech MBA

The Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City


The city began a competition among universities and several, including Stanford University, tossed their hats into the ring. But ultimately Cornell University, in partnership with Israel’s Technion, gained the rights to the land, and Cornell opened the doors to its new campus in September of this year.

Doug Stayman, associate dean of the Cornell Tech MBA program

“Right from the get go, part of the application to the city was that the business school would be part of the campus and that we would combine business school students with engineering and computer science students,” says Doug Stayman, associate dean of Cornell Tech. “We’ve since expanded that to include design and law. So the MBA program was consistent with the whole Cornell Tech vision.”

The program, however, also was designed to fulfil a need. Bain & Co. and Deloitte Consulting were enlisted to survey and speak with would-be applicants and employers. “Companies told us that they can hire technical people and they can hire business people,” recalls Stayman. “But the way digital is going is that people who span both fields are needed and they are difficult to find. So training people to bridge the business and technical was one very important insight from the market. The other was the importance of digital product management. That is the heart of Cornell Tech and the MBA program. We are trying to train students to not only understand business but to understand technology and technologists.”


The market research convinced Cornell that employers essentially wanted MBA graduates from an MBA program. “They wanted them to have the business fundamentals, leadership training and maturity,” says Stayman. “So we partnered with Cornell’s Johnson School to do the business basics in Ithaca over the summer. Then, we bring the students to the Cornell TEch campus in New York to learn about new business models and disruption. And the third part of the curriculum is bringing the MBA students in contact with students from the technical programs to design and build things.”

Given the tech focus, slightly over half of the students have technical backgrounds, with the remaining students non-technical. “The balance works well,” says Stayman. “You need a lot of technical expertise to build these products. There was pressure for the MBAs to do some of the coding and that is not what we want them to do. We want them to do product evaluation, strategy and the go-to-market plan.”

By creating the MBA program from scratch, the school didn’t have to deal with legacy issues of any kind where invested faculty might resist dramatic change. “The idea that we were going to have a practicum curriculum has never been debated or pushed back upon,” says Huttenlocher. MBAs still take the recognizable core classes, but we then took what normally would have been the free electives said that is going to be studio here. So we do have a much more rigid structure than comparable MBA programs elsewhere. There are very few free electrives but the benefit they get is this unmatched experience building products.”


Cornell Johnson Dean Mark Nelson

Mark Nelson, dean of Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, points out that the NYC campus was specifically built and designed for multi-disciplinary collaboration. “So the idea of the campus being something that was looked at as a clean slate is unique,” he says. “From a faculty perspective, it feels more like you are walking into a large tech firm. There are no private offices. The faculty are out in shared spaces, and the students work in open spaces, too.

“The goal of the campus is to be very involved in the startup scene in New York,” adds Nelson. So in the Tata Innovation Center, one of the initial four buildings on the Cornell Tech campus, the top three floors are actually leased to companies, including Citigroup and Cigna. “So those firms are part of the campus. Being part of that community is fundamental to the experience and to the vision that Mayor Bloomberg had when he launched this whole process.”

The first Cornell Tech MBA class of 39 students began three years ago in 2014 in Google’s New York headquarters building in Chelsea. With this fall’s opening of the Roosevelt Island campus, the school moved its newly entered fourth cohort of 62 students into the modern classrooms and studios in late August. That’s up from the 53 graduates of the program this past July. Within five years, predicts Nelson, the Cornell Tech MBA program–which currently has a tuition price tag of $98,940– could enroll as many as 175 students, nearly three times its current enrollment. That compares with with the 277 entering MBA students in Cornell Johnson’s two-year MBA program this year.


The first two master’s programs at Cornell Tech were in business and computer science. Now the school has seven programs, including operations research, electrical and computer engineering, law and design, the latter a partnership with the Parsons School of Design. Another 50-50 partnership with Israel’s Technion runs what is called the Jacobs Institute which helps PhD students commercialize research, largely in healthcare tech and connective media.

“All of those students from all those programs do studio together and that is very important for the MBA studnets,” adds Stayman. “Think of any other MBA program in business. It will not only be in a business school, it will be in a separate physical building. At Cornell Tech, that is not true and that is what is unique. Students live, work and study together with classmates from all these programs. But we are an entreprenurial campus, not an entrepeurship campus. We want to change existng companies and not only do startups.”

For MBA student Vivian Ho, who lives in the newly erected residential hall on Roosevelt Island with other graduate students, the experience has been a true eye-opener. Her product team, composed of students in law, computer science and connected media, as well as another MBA with a background as an electrical engineer. They built an augmented reality application for SAP for students to study astronomy.


“In the beginning, my team had a little bit of a rough start because we were getting used to each other’s cultural norms,” she says. “But the process worked itself out. We pivoted our product at least four or five times and finally picked one we liked, During our final sprint to develop the product, the lawyer actually coded half the app. If you want to learn more about tech and you don’t have a strong background in tech this is a good opportunity to learn with a team that will support you.”

She has been surprised by the number of relationships that Cornell Tech has with New York City companies and organizations even though it has been in the city for four years. “We’ve had a lot of opportunities to work with these companies through the studio curriculum and a series of ‘studio conversations’ with industry leaders, she says, citing two examples including Apple’s chief diversity officer and the White House’s first digital officer.

If anything, Ho has found the classes so compelling that she wishes they could have been longer. “I have really been surprised at the pace of the program. It’s accelerated, but we still have to take the same number of credits as an MBA from the Johnson School. These classes have been really interesting and I wished they were longer.” When she graduates in May, she expects to return to Deloitte, transitioning from consulting for the government to focus more on innovative industries. She’ll  be back with one of the most innovative and differentiated MBAs in the world, the 2017 MBA Program of the Year.


  • TrueProspective

    Right…have fun at NYU. Stop using dirty tricks to manipulate digital media channels to defame a competing program. I am even getting ads for the NYU Tech MBA when I google Cornell Tech MBA. Get a life and stop trolling this thread for us prospective students!

  • FormerCornellTechMBA

    I’m the original poster that was using the name “FormerCornellTechMBA” … don’t know who wrote the above since I posted as a “guest” so anyone can use the name “FormerCornellTechMBA.”

    I do agree that most CT MBAs did not want to do the program in Ithaca, though. Every other program that I applied to was in a large city, and many CT MBAs only applied to the CT program and no others.

    In terms of the AMBA program, it is no shock that they felt the CT MBAs were young. The AMBAs are typically older than the 2-year MBA program anyhow, because they already have to have both a graduate degree and work experience to be admitted to the AMBA program. A few of the AMBAs even had MBAs from other countries, and were just doing the AMBA program to have a credential in the US.

  • FormerCornellTechMBA

    Yes — I did attend the program. You can choose to believe that or not.

    The only reason that I posted anything is to share my experience. I wish I would have known how negative the environment was when I was choosing Cornell Tech over other programs. You do what is right for you; I personally regret having chosen Cornell Tech.

  • M7Student

    Are you serious? Johnson over Kellogg and Fuqua???

    Sounds like you either got some real good scholarship money or you have very poor decision making skills

  • CornellMBA

    Ah, that’s where you’re inexperience clouds your thinking. Not everyone wants to do their MBA in a big city; asssuming that people are ‘better’ because of it is not only ridiculous but also shows poor critical thinking skills.

    Personally, I chose Cornell in Ithaca because it was a better fit for me. I can say that for 90+% of my classmates felt the same way. I wanted a collegetown location where I could make lifelong friendships, spend quality time with my partner, get a good job, and be the happiest during my MBA. I got admitted to Kellogg and Duke, which are both amazing schools and I am sure I would have been very happy at either place; however, I chose Cornell because it was a better fit for me.

    I am sure the Cornell Tech MBA will be an amazing program with amazing people, but I believe they lowered the bar with the ‘experimental’ classes. From what I’ve heard, the administration has corrected the problem with future classes and is now looking for more seasoned individuals, similar to any other top MBA program.

  • TrueProspective

    Is this person a true attendee of the program? Seems like FormerCornellTechMBA works for another B-School like NYU or Yale.

  • FormerCornellTechMBA

    Actually, I think the student quality is actually better with the Cornell Tech program. Cornell Tech MBAs think that the Ithaca MBAs were all forced to pick the dreadful Ithaca location because they have no other decent program choices. Cornell Tech MBAs picked the program because of the New York City location and the unique innovative tech approach. All of them would have never applied to the middle of nowhere Ithaca program.

  • TrueProspective

    Jeez.. it seems like Prospective2k is not a prospective student and works for another B-School, maybe NYU or Yale?

  • CornellMBA

    Funny you say this. MBAs at the Ithaca campus felt that Cornell Tech MBAs would not have gotten admitted to the 2-year MBA. From conversations with AMBAs, Cornell Tech folks were too young and inexperienced. People felt that Cornell Tech was diluting the brand initially but it would eventually help. Hopefully they’ll make the Cornell Tech MBA as selective as the 2-year and 1-year MBAs.

  • FormerCornellTechMBA

    Honestly, as someone who attended that program, I am shocked at this ranking and I really regret having chosen this program. They did a great job of branding, but the actual experience was already out-of-date in my opinion.

    Unprofessional, negative, and outright sexist — it really felt like the program combined the problems associated of working at a startup (the studio class is a disorganized mess where egotistical behavior is glorified) with the downside of being in a large institution (lots of red tape and out-of-touch leadership).

    Granted, I was part of the “experimental years” before the RI campus opened, but there are serious issues with the program that the administration has refused to address (for example, the multiple sexual assaults spanning multiple years… on a campus with less than 300 people).

    It really feels like Cornell Tech could have been an instigator in improving the tech industry, and instead embodies everything wrong with tech right now. Great place if you’re an domineering, sexist dude tough!

  • luislarrea

    Yes, you are missing something and lost in your own statement. Cornell is ranked currently number 10 on Forbes, 14 on Bloomberg,and 15 on Vault. Plus, you are talking about an Ivy League school with 150 years of academic excellence recognized worldwide. If You are planning to do an MBA based only on Rankings, you are doing entirely for the wrong reasons.

  • Moveout

    I think the long term strategy for Cornell 2 yr MBA program is to eventually move into their NYC campus and shut down Ithaca program.. I think that’s their only option to remain relevant or even survive. I don’t think they can do that right away because it’ll draw criticism from NYC since they got the NYC land based on promise that tt’ll be used to foster tech related programs. Once the new campus settles down, I think they’ll move in.

  • JohnAByrne

    None of the existing rankings even attempt to measure how creative and innovative an MBA program is. We are honoring this program on the basis of how inventive the school was in establishing the curriculum, listening to market needs from a core and booming segment of the economy, placing great emphasis on experiential learning and combining students from different disciplines to work together on major projects on a new campus built specifically for this purpose. We consider all of that a major achievement.

  • GettingTech

    In establishing Cornell Tech administration worked with McKinsey and Deloitte to understand what tech companies wanted from MBAs. Two major factors were interdisciplinary structure (working with engineers, designers, and other non business professionals) and speed to market (tech changes a ton in one year much less two).

    If you’re interested in working in big tech or a start up these factors should be a huge part of your calculus already. From my network at CT I know that folks have routinely performed as well or better than peers from other top schools (including HBS, Stanford, et al) in these two career areas appearing to provide support for the research from those two consultancies.

    However, if you’re trying to break into another industry then a two year program is probably a better fit for you.

  • Hexagon

    I guess the emphasis is on new. A launch in a saturated market can be seen as entrepreneurial, bold and innovative. Besides, PQ cannot award the same winners from previous years.

  • 2018applicant

    A new program from a business school that’s not even USN top-15. Can anyone help me understand how this is program of the year? Am i missing something?

  • NoBros

    NYC = more fun, more diverse than the tech bro culture of SF/Boston

  • TheOutsider

    I wonder what the Cornell’s business school administration is thinking? They obviously know that the 2-year program defines rankings and general perception for all other programs but continually to neglect it. The administration seems to be doing a poor job of running the business school with rankings trending down year after year. All of the students and alumni should demand a change in leadership and go for a better big time hire (just like Yale SOM did). Without a solid 2-year program, everyone in the graduate school suffers.

  • Red Layug

    Good back up school for Haas/Sloan/Stanford.

  • CornellUndergradNotMBA

    Great point. The full time Cornell MBA is at the absolute bottom of the priority list at the new overall business school at Cornell. The big focus is Cornell Tech, followed by merging the 3 programs in Ithaca (MBA, hotel, undergrad) no one in Ithaca is focused on improving the full time MBA program, the stats prove this. This is a huge problem for Cornell Tech applicants, no matter how amazing that program is, at the end of the day you’ll get a Cornell MBA and if the full time program stays as weak as it is, you’ll be dragged down by it.

  • calypso14

    I disagree with a few points made here.
    1) the distance between the Tech campus and the main campus is not an appropriate metric for comparison. Cornell Tech pumped in $2bn in the NYC Campus, so they’re not short on resources. I’m not sure how being closer to the parent campus would benefit such a program.
    2) NYU program hasn’t matriculated their first batch yet. All we know is what’s there on their website. So again, not a good comparison I think.
    3) the NYU and Cornell brands are comparable in terms of prestige IMHO. Columbia is of course a notch higher.
    The whole point of a tech MBA is a closer collaboration with the tech students and the engineering school, and of course the wider community in the city. In those respects, I think Cornell has an advantage.
    As another user pointed out, someone looking for a more traditional route to the tech sector through a 2 year program will be better off going to Stanford, MIT etc. But for those looking for a program built from scratch for the digital age, Cornell Tech is an attractive option.

  • Malvern

    Good question. Cornell’s 2 year MBA program actually lost ground in terms of overall application whereas peers experience a rise. Cornell’s acceptance rate went up (easier to be accepted). People say quality of applicants is not as high caliber compared to peers. Lost a few places in rankings. People argue that 2 year MBA lost priority with Cornell TechMBA taking up lots of manpower/resources.

  • Im

    In fact, my MBA friend travels between campuses every week. I have no idea how that’s being paid though.

  • Im

    There are only a few CS department better than Cornell’s in the U.S, none of them in NYC. The tech sector is booming in NYC at the moment. Also, they are trying to make remote collaboration work, all the rooms at Gates (in Ithaca) have equipments that allow you to quickly remote in. You can cross register and take the same classes at either place (with one side being remote in). You can get funded to travel across campuses and you can stay at either place on different semesters. I don’t know about the MBA much, but I’m a PhD student there. I think having campuses at different locations would actually work great if done well, you get to experience different environments. Quiet rural area for hard study and city area for networking and hosting big events.

  • Confused

    It seems like Cornell has only been hard selling the Tech MBA nowadays. Have they done anything to improve the 2 year program? I think I saw application volume dropped by like 15%???

  • Prospective2k

    Those are definitely great programs but doing a top brand MBA in half the time and in the greatest city in the world are hard to resist

  • M7orBust

    Totally agree. CornellTech’s MBA brand is driven by the overall Cornell MBA brand / ranking, NOT anything else Cornell related. Students come out of this w/ Cornell MBA, not a Cornell MEng. Cornell’s overall MBA brand is not even close to the top 10 level (let alone M7). No matter how amazing the CornellTech MBA is, it will always be weighed down by the weakness of the main 2 year MBA program. Another issue is the school has diverted all its energy / funds TO the CornellTech program (as well as the 3 school Ithaca mashup, MBA/Hotel/Undergrad) and AWAY from the full time 2 year program despite very little synergies btwn the two programs….so don’t expect the Cornell 2 year program to sky rocket to the top 10 anytime soon……It’s just so hard to get excited about Cornell Tech, with Cornell’s 2 year MBA’s lack of prestige.

  • maas

    Why not do a full time MBA at MIT Sloan, Stanford or Haas? Seems like a better option than both

  • Prospective2k

    I don’t think Tepper is the right tier for comparison. Hard to pick Tepper over Top 15, M7.

  • Prospective2k

    At the end of the day, you will be receiving an MBA and not a technical engineering degree. The NYU Stern/CBS brand is stronger than Cornell Johnson’s, and much of the prestige is based on the two year program. I see Cornell Tech MBA’s potential/attractiveness being limited by Johnson’s inability to compete with other top programs at the two year level. The NYU 1 year tech MBA will benefit from the strong recognition given to it’s residential program and continue to flourish.

  • PS

    I think you’re missing a very important point. Cornell, unlike NYU and Columbia, has strong engineering and sciences schools, making it a more attractive option for a tech MBA. Look at other MBA programs known for tech.

    Also, one doesn’t have to better than the other. Look at Kellogg and Booth. Both are in the same city and both are equally good.

  • 1stYearStudent

    Disagree, Cornell’s engineering/tech programs are much better. As Tepper has demonstrated, MBA opportunities depend on the quality of the broader university’s technology programs. Cornell simply has more technology connections within NYC to leverage.

  • Prospective2k

    Agreed that there is definitely room for more tech MBA programs but I just don’t see how as a prospective student I would pick Cornell over NYU’s tech MBA program. NYU has more alumni, connections, and resources in NYC than Cornell. All of NYU’s core departments are in NYC unlike Cornell’s – setting up even more opportunities for students. Cornell may have the short lead for now but will be dominated by NYU (or even Columbia) in the future.

  • lma

    I’m not following – why would proximity to the main campus matter? Here’s more important than distance: where alumni end up (a majority of Cornell alum are in NYC), how close partnerships are between the school and companies (Cornell Tech is designed for this), and how many resources the school has (Cornell Tech is a $2B campus and marketed as a hub for innovation in NYC). I think the program is fine. Second, the market for this kind of program, and more largely, the market for tech skills in general is growing. There’s more than enough room for multiple Tech MBAs in the city.

  • Prospective2k

    Cornell’s program is too far from the main Ithaca campus. I can see NYU Stern’s 1 year tech MBA dominating this program down the road with help from the nearby parent school.