When NYU’s Stern School of Business launched its one-year MBA program last year geared for students interested in technology, school officials imagined they would fill the class with mostly men, many of them from overseas.
So it was surprising that 42% of the inaugural class, which graduated this month, were women. Even more surprising, however, is that this May’s entering class of 40 students for the Andre Koo Technology and Entrepreneurship MBA has reached gender parity (see class profile on following page).
“We launched it was with the presumption that it would attract a largely male and perhaps even a majority international class,” says Stern Dean Raghu Sundaram. “What surprised us was that the very first class had a better female ratio than our regular MBA and the second year numbers are even better: 20 women and 20 men. That we reached parity in tech is incredible to me. We are actually thrilled about it.” About 35% of the Class of 2020 in Stern’s two-year MBA program is composed of women.
APPLICATIONS FOR THE SECOND TECH MBA COHORT ROSE 16%
Applications for the second tech cohort rose by 16%, allowing an increase in the size of the class to 40 from the inaugural class of 33, twice the size of initial expectations. The tech MBA was launched in tandem with another one-year MBA program centered on fashion and luxury where this year’s entering class of 22 students is 60% female and 40% male, a vast improvement from the debut cohort of 26 students in that program with 89% women (see class profile for the latest entering class for the fashion and luxury MBA). Notes Sundaram: “This year the male population has tripled in the class. So overall we are very happy with the work experience, the backgrounds, and the gender mix.”
Stern reached gender parity in its tech MBA without a special initiative to attract more women. Sundaram believes the school was able to get to a 50-50 gender mix as a result of the shorter, less expensive nature of a one-year MBA program. “We’ve known for 20 years that women are much more cautious than men about making large investments,” he reasons. “They look at costs much more carefully. I think the lower time and costs of the program have attracted more women to it.”
While the quality of applicants to Stern’s two-year MBA program remains strong, applications to the school’s mainstream MBA fell by 6.7% this past year after a more modest 3.5% decline a year earlier. Most of the downfall is attributed to fewer international candidates willing to come to the U.S. but also to a strong economy that is keeping young professionals in their jobs.
‘WE HAVE REGRETTABLY BECOME MORE HOSTILE TO FOREIGN TALENT’
“We are in a booming economy where people are less willing to take two years off,” says Sundaram, a long-time finance professor at Stern who became dean in early 2018. “They worry what they could lose in two years in a tight labor market. So I think that is one factor that is undoubtedly leading to a decline in applications in the last two years. The second is the international factor. It’s not only a fact that we have regrettably become more hostile to foreign talent; it’s also that other countries have now copied the U.S. model and have their own MBA programs. So the competition is increasing. I also think as business school deans we have to face up to a third factor: The cost-benefit ratio is not what it used to be. So we need to look into that at much greater depth.”
Sundaram thinks business schools need to provide more options to students, including one-year models, specialty master’s degrees and certificates. “The MBA is in need of some fine-tuning for the times,” he believes. “But it is a program designed particularly well for people who are looking to change careers. It’s a wonderful model, and I think the MBA will remain a very important degree in the years to come. But it’s perhaps time to move from a one-size-fits-all world to multiple models. People are looking at the time it takes to earn a graduate degree and asking, ‘Do I really want to spend that much time in school today?’”
Those ideas informed the early thinking behind the launch of the two focused MBA programs at Stern. “There were really three motivating points to starting the focused MBAs and one was the issue of cost, both monetary and time,” he says. “As the MBA has gotten to be an expensive degree, we thought there were people who would be hesitant to do the degree over a two-year period. But also this is a generation that has become increasingly impatient with spending two years out of the workforce. So we wanted to do something that was less expensive in terms of time and cost. That was one motivation, though not the primary one.”
‘NEW YORK CITY IS A WORLD CAPITAL OF MANY FIELDS’
The school also wanted to leverage the advantages of its strengths in other academic areas as well its location in New York City. “Stern has always been one of the preeminent schools of finance, and we are very proud of that,” explains Sundaram. “We want to hold on to that with both hands, but we also have five departments that are ranked within the top ten. Our idea was to build programs to highlight the strengths in those areas that also take advantage of the incredible ecosystem that we are in.
“New York City is a world capital of finance but it is also a world capital of fashion, luxury, entrepreneurship, tech, entertainment, media, and sports. This is an amazing place to be in for almost any industry today, especially given the transformation in the last ten years around technology and entrepreneurship. So the idea was to bring these three things together in programs that would exploit our inherent strengths and the location we happen to be in.”
Before launching both programs last year, the school worked closely with corporate partners in the design of the program and also insured that those same companies would be interested in hiring graduates of the new MBAs. For the tech program, there were early conversations with IT officers at both Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. “I had a conversation with them about merging technology and business into a single degree and they both absolutely loved the idea,” says Sundaram. “Before we launched the model, we spoke to a lot of people in both industries about whether they would be interested in partnering with us and then hiring these students. Part of the model was to produce students they wanted to hire.”
IMMERSION TRIPS TO MILAN FOR FASHION AND SEATTLE & SAN FRANCISCO FOR TECH
Ultimately, dozens of companies participated in the outreach, many of them with executives on the two advisory boards for each focused MBA experience. Stern gathered highly impressive groups of executive talent on those boards. The CEOs of Jigsaw, Deloitte Consulting, Infosys and PayPal as well as senior executives of Microsoft, Amazon, IBM and Rally Health sit on the tech board. On the fashion and luxury advisory board are senior officials from Tiffany & Co., Estee Lauder, Sotheby’s Hudson’s Bay Co., LeSportsac, bareMinerals, Barney’s, Carolina Herrera, Piaget, Perry Ellis, and Tommy Hilfiger Americas.
To squeeze the MBA experience into 12 months from the actual 16-month experience of the two-year MBA, Stern minimized elective offerings and created a more intense schedule for students. “It meant taking advantage of the gaps between semesters,” explains Sundaram. “It is literally a non-stop program that starts in May and ends the following May. You finish the degree in your area of interest at a lower cost but you do the same amount of work so it is much more intensive.”
Of course, students in these one-year MBA programs also lose the opportunity of a summer internship, often a mandatory tryout of sorts for jobs in investment banking and consulting. To offset that loss, Stern designed a good deal of experiential learning in the focused MBAs, including company visits, workshops, and immersions.
For the tech MBA, three product managers at Uber led a workshop on using and interpreting data for decision making. Student teams were also assigned to special projects with such companies as IBM, CNBC, Intuit, and Infosys. And there was a tech study trip to Seattle and San Francisco for two weeks, with sessions at Microsoft, Seattle, and PayPal.
For the fashion and luxury MBA, students traveled to Milan to meet with four Italian brands on market entry strategies to the U.S. Companies that sponsored student projects included Carolina Herrera, LVMH, and Happy Socks.