In January, Harvard Business School told MBA students in the midst of their add/drop period that the school would add a STEM track to the program. A Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math concentration would give international students a pathway to three years of visa-free work experience in the United States; without it, and without a visa, they would have only one year.
HBS students scrambled to enroll in classes that would qualify them for a STEM degree. Months passed. Last week, Poets&Quants wrote about their concern with the lack of communication and seeming slow progress in attaining STEM designation, since graduation was mere weeks away. Days after the publication of that story, on April 23, the school told students that the STEM pathway had finally been approved.
“Today,” reads an email to all students that P&Q received a copy of, “our request to create a track of the MBA Program designated as Management Science was approved. When paired with a STEM-designated role after HBS, this academic track qualifies international students on an F-1 visa for a 24-month extension of eligibility to work in the U.S. after graduating. We wanted to share this great news as soon as we learned it, as we know our graduating students are facing increased career pressures during the pandemic. MBA students and faculty, you’ll be hearing more details next week from the MBA team. Our thanks to the faculty, staff, and students who spearheaded this effort.”
37% INTERNATIONALS IN HARVARD’S MBA CLASSES OF 2020 & 2021
HBS has 37% internationals in the Class of 2020 and the same proportion in the Class of 2021. In 2019, 20% of HBS grads went into the technology sector, the most since 2015. Contacted by P&Q, Mark Cautela, HBS director of communications, said the delay in establishing the STEM pathway was due to a lengthy process of “discussion and review both within School and at University. That being said,” he added, “we are eager to do anything we can to support our students, especially in this unsettled time.”
The Management Science STEM track comprises a series of first- and second-year courses that qualify students for a management science focus. Students who opt into this track through their course selection “are demonstrating a commitment to STEM-focused careers,” according to a statement emailed to P&Q. “We are pleased to let you know that on Friday this track was approved!” The email went on to direct students with questions to the Harvard International Office.
Many HBS Class of 2020 MBAs will be relieved. Speaking to P&Q anonymously so his candor would not impact his job search, one student being recruited for a tech role said, “Being able to tell employers during recruiting that I have immigration status certainty for the next three years means a lot more than for just one year. There are also people in my year who have a job lined up, but not knowing how they will fare in the H-1B lottery affects the way they and their employers plan for the future.”
NO MORE STEM ADVANTAGE FOR HBS’ PEER SCHOOLS
HBS was not entirely without STEM pathways already. It has two STEM degrees, both joint degree programs with other schools at Harvard. The first, launched in 2018, is the Master of Science in Engineering Sciences and Master of Business Administration (MS/MBA), operated jointly with the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. It is a two-year, full-time program that spans four semesters, augmented by additional summer and January term coursework. In the first year, students take a System Engineering course that “emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach to analyzing complex systems,” as well as the HBS MBA Required Curriculum which “conveys concepts and builds skills across disciplines relevant to general management, including marketing, organizational behavior and finance.”
However, peer schools like Columbia Business School, MIT Sloan School of Management, Yale School of Management, and others had gone further, earlier, establishing STEM designation in all or parts of their MBAs earlier this year — which had been giving their grads an edge, the HBS second-year said.
See more of Poets&Quants‘ STEM coverage here.