B-schools in the United States have embraced the strategy of designating or designing programs with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math elements to tantalize international students with the prospect of long-term visas in the U.S. In an era of declining applications, schools see STEM as a way to shore up flagging international interest, particularly in full-time, residential MBAs. Last week Poets&Quants reported on one of the biggest schools to embrace, in whole or in part, a STEM designation for its business programs: UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, where all three MBA programs are now STEM-designated, a move that creates a pathway for foreign students to stay and work in the United States for up to three years post-graduation.
Now another giant in the MBA world, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, has opened a STEM pathway, a move that surely will add to the momentum of elite programs going STEM. Kellogg’s new Management Science major focuses on “the application of analytical techniques, tools, and models across the school’s academic disciplines,” according to the major’s webpage. The newest addition to the Kellogg MBA curriculum will explore a variety of topics, including how to use big data efficiently to understand capital markets and how to apply analytical techniques to solve business problems. “Students,” the webpage reads, “will deepen expertise across disciplines by learning techniques that can be applied to the analysis of problems of business organization and performance.”
“How can the science of science improve the quality of a workplace?” writes Matthew Merrick, Kellogg’s associate dean of degree operations, in a blog post announcing the new major. “Where can big data be used most efficiently to understand capital markets? And how do you identify other opportunities for applying analytical techniques and models to solve problems of business organization and performance? These are just a sampling of the types of questions that Kellogg students in the Management Science major — our newest addition to the Kellogg MBA curriculum — will explore.”
ARRESTING THE APPLICATION SLIDE
Amid a big shuffling of schools atop the new Poets&Quants ranking of top U.S. schools, Northwestern Kellogg was the only school in the top 10 to maintain its previous-year ranking, remaining in fifth place. Meanwhile, the Kellogg School has been No. 6 in the U.S. News ranking for the past two years.
Yet even its solidly elite status hasn’t protected Kellogg from the application slump that has grown from a mid-tier school problem to a crisis at most of the top U.S. schools as well. Kellogg’s two-year MBA lost 15.5% of its application volume in 2018-2019, dropping to 3,779 from 4,471, a decline of 692 candidates.
It was the second consecutive year of declining apps. Over the past two years, Kellogg experienced a 17.8% drop in applications from the record peak of 4,595 in the 2016-2017 admissions cycle. This past year’s falloff in apps is closer to Yale SOM, which reported a decline of 15.6%, and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, which saw a 14.6% drop. And it is significantly larger than the declines at Stanford (5.8%), Harvard (6.7%), or Wharton (5.4%).
By embracing STEM, Kellogg, like its peers, hopes to reverse that slide. It is the school’s second foray into STEM country, after the cross-disciplinary MMM program (MBA + MS Design Innovation), but far bigger and more consequential.
“Kellogg has always been a place where we marry innovative and research-driven topics with business fundamentals to create a multifaceted curriculum, and this new major follows suit,” Merrick writes. “Led by outstanding professors such as Dashun Wang, Nancy Qian, and Rima Touré-Tillery — just to name a few — the classes that qualify run the gamut from Social Dynamics & Network Analysis to Making Business Decisions with Big Data.”
Students who choose to major in Management Science, he adds, “will be well-prepared for careers in a wide range of fields, including consulting, technology, finance, and entrepreneurship. Our Career Management Center is working directly with recruiters to identify particular job opportunities where students completing the Management Science curriculum are highly desired.”
THE DAM IS BROKEN
The STEM Optional Practical Training program was launched in 1992 and expanded in 2008 and 2016. Eligible B-school graduates may apply for an additional two years of work on top of the initial one-year, post-completion OPT granted to all non-STEM-degree F-1 visa students; to be eligible, they must have a STEM degree from an accredited U.S. school and must secure employment with an employer that includes a minimum of 20 hours of work per week and formal training within the STEM field.
“There’s an important facet to this major that we want to emphasize for our international students and prospective students,” Kellogg’s Merrick writes. Because the Management Science major qualifies as a STEM-designated field of study, “if you earn the major and have it on your final transcript, you may qualify to apply for Optional Practical Training extensions to your F-1 visas, which, when approved, can allow you to stay in the U.S. for up to three years after graduation. This would also require you to work in a job that is related to the Management Science field of study.”
Northwestern Kellogg following UC-Berkeley Haas into a greater embrace of STEM surely is a sign of things to come. Just this month, Peter Johnson, assistant dean of the full-time MBA program and admissions at the Haas School, told P&Q that he and others at Haas were mindful about what the school’s move to STEM would mean for peer schools.
“Since we let our students know about this early in the fall, I’ve had a number of phone conversations with peers from other institutions who are asking how and why we sought this change and what impact it might have on our students,” Johnson said. “So yes, I think it’s likely that there will be other programs that will want to do this. And I think some programs are simply going to stick with, ‘Hey, we have a specific part of the program in a concentration or a major that is already designated this way, and we don’t want to pursue that for the entire MBA program.'”