MBA Program Of The Year: Rochester’s New STEM Play

Andrew Ainslie, Dean of the University of Rochester’s Simon School

‘THIS IS DEFINITELY GOING TO HOP UP THE NUMBER OF FOREIGN APPLICANTS’

Ainslie expects to get additional gains in application volume as a result of having STEM designation for the full-time MBA experience. “We’ve held our own in every year and in a couple of years we’ve way up. The price drop two years ago was hugely successful, with applications up 40% up over two years. So we are more than holding our own, and this is definitely going to hop up the number of foreign applicants.

“For the MBA program, it is a great signal to the marketplace that we are giving students these analytical skills that are so valued in the workplace. In consulting, we tend to be on the more analytic side. We put a lot of people into pricing as a specific consulting area. So this is a signal to recruiters about the quantitative and analytical nature of our programs.”

While the chance is in sync with the greater emphasis placed on analytical skills by MBA recruiters, however, the most consequential impact of the change will be on international students who want to stay and work in the U.S. “Getting 36 months on an OPT work visa is trivial compared to the exercise you have to go through for an H1b visa,” says Ainslie. “A company doesn’t have the massive expensive of a lawyer and paperwork. Every recruiter is used to this and knows how to do the paperwork on their side.

‘THIS WILL OPEN A LOT MORE DOORS FOR OUR STUDENTS’

“With 36 months on a work visa for a STEM-certified job, it gives a student three attempts to get an H1b visa instead of one,” adds Ainslie. “Secondly, in those three years you might be able to get to other optios, including straight to a green card. It is an extended period during which an employer can decide whether they like the employee and vice versa. Right now, for any foreign student, it’s been something of a scary moment. Quite a few companies have pulled back from offering foreign students jobs. This will open a lot more doors for our students.”

The rules require that at least 50% of the class work in a course are in STEM topics. For Simon, that has meant retooling several courses, largely electives, to insure they meet the standards for STEM designation. Managerial Accounting and Performance Measurement (ACC 410), a popular elective that had largely been taught via case study, was modified so that it would have a significant data analytics component with MS Excel and Stata being the primary data analysis tools used. Simon also introduced new courses, such as Quantitative Finance with Python (Finance 418), an offering that equips students with the tools necessary to build and use quantitative models for financial decision making.

The reengineering of Simon’s courses, moreover, has occurred as the school has gone through a curriculum revamp. Among the changes, electives have now been introduced earlier into the first-year curriculum so MBA students have expanded opportunities for electives before the start of their summer internships. The school also increased its leadership and professional development content to meet recruiters’ needs and market demand.

‘EVERYTHING HAS BEEN ORIENTED AROUND WHAT CORPORATE RECRUITERS NEED’

“When the STEM option showed up a year ago, we started going through class by class with the faculty,” says Ainslie. “So there has definitely been some change at the course level, partially driven by a completely new curriculum and the STEM certification.”

Next year, Simon will move from a quarter system to a more traditional full semester system. “About 80% of the top 50 business schools are on semesters because so many major recruiters
have a semester-oriented recruitment period for interns and full-time employees. Moving to semesters allows us to be in sync with the market.

“Everything has been oriented around what the recruiters need. Recruiters have been saying to us that it is very hard to find talent in the U.S. and very hard to employ foreign students because of the uncertainly around the H1b visa. This is a big win for both of us.”

MBA students at Rochester University’s Simon Business School

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