They’ve taken the plunge. Just days after Harvard Business School announced the creation of a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math pathway in its MBA, Stanford Graduate School of Business has completed the process to “go STEM” itself.
In a brief message to all graduate students today (April 30), Brian Lowery, senior associate dean for academic affairs, says Stanford GSB has entered the implementation phase of STEM designation for its MBA and MSx degrees. The move is sure to come as a relief to the GSB’s international students: Graduation from a STEM program qualifies MBAs on F-1 visas to work for up to 36 months in the U.S. before needing an H-1B visa — 24 more months than would otherwise be the case. It is especially important as the coronavirus pandemic has thrown many students’ job and internship security out the window.
“We are pleased to share that the academic codes for the MBA and MSx programs will be changed so that they are STEM-eligible for current and incoming students on F-1 visas,” writes Lowery in an email co-signed by Paul Oyer, senior associate dean for academic affairs, and Margaret Hayes, associate dean for the MBA and MSx programs. “We know that many of you have been waiting for an update and wanted to share the news promptly.”
The move to STEM is the culmination of an initiative “developed over the course of many months of planning and development, working in close collaboration with GSB faculty, Stanford University colleagues, and staff of the GSB’s Career Management Center, admissions offices, and MBA and MSx programs,” a spokesperson tells Poets&Quants. Lowery does not outline how a student would achieve STEM classification for their degree — for example, what classes they would have to take, but the school promises to provide additional information to the Stanford community in the coming weeks.
STANFORD AMONG FEW SCHOOLS WITH RISING NUMBER OF FOREIGN MBA STUDENTS
Poets&Quants reported in February on one student’s push to get Stanford to make a graduate-degree STEM designation. That student, Anupriya Dwivedi, wrote a highly publicized op-ed in the student newspaper The Stanford Daily calling for the GSB to “just do it already” and designate the school’s graduate degrees as STEM. Asked about the announcement that Stanford had finally “done it,” Dwivedi, an MSx student who graduates in June, says she is “thrilled and thankful.”
“While my Linkedin and phone is on fire with personal messages of congratulations, which is reassuring, this was never an argument about one student or even the whole international student community,” she says. “STEM designation was required to preserve the competitiveness and brand of the GSB and I am pleased to see the results of this very long (and tiring!) advocacy campaign. This process could not have been easy for an establishment the size of the GSB or Stanford University, but I am ecstatic and grateful to the administration for delivering on this.”
Stanford continues to be a beacon for international students in a difficult time. Internationals made up 43% of students in the latest MBA intake, fourth in the P&Q top 50, up from 42% in 2018 and 40% in 2017. That’s unusual: Over the last three admissions cycles, 31 of the top 52 MBA programs lost international enrollment volume — 22 of them by double digits.
That explains in part why the past year going back to mid-2019 has seen a veritable “STEM-pede,” with 23 major programs declaring STEM designation to some degree. The cause is plain to see in recent application data for the most common program represented, the MBA. Of the 17 schools in the top 25 of our 2019 ranking (in which Stanford is No. 1) that have made the move to STEM in the past year, the total number of applications dropped from 73,735 to 63,842, equaling a decline of 9,893 or 13.4%. The biggest losses came at Indiana Kelley (-40.6%), UNC Kenan-Flagler (-38.5%), and CMU Tepper (-28.7%); the smallest were at Columbia (-2.2%), Cornell Johnson (-4.1%), USC Marshall (-5%), and Chicago Booth (-5.2%); Stanford’s loss was modest but measurable at 10.2%. The average decline was 17.8%.
‘COMPLICATED PROCESS’ REACHES END STAGE
Lowery’s email to the Stanford GSB community thanked faculty and staff for their hard work, and also praised students for their “patience as we worked through this complicated process,” singling out student leaders for representing their classmates.
Despite their embrace of STEM (but certainly not because of it), many programs are bracing for an application hit again this cycle, the most disrupted since the Great Recession a dozen years ago — though some hope for a jump in apps given gatekeepers’ relaxed requirements at some schools. In the midst of a suddenly tight job market, recently graduated international MBAs are pushing for retroactive STEM classification at several leading schools, including Harvard and Northwestern Kellogg, in the hope that having a STEM degree might qualify them for employment deemed essential — which is to say, less likely to be laid off. Meanwhile, criticism of B-schools’ “STEM-pede” continues to mount.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for STEM jobs will grow by 13% by 2027, with higher wages than non-STEM jobs: The national average for STEM salaries is $87,570, while non-STEM jobs earn roughly half as much, with an annual average of $45,700; and of course MBAs from top schools make a great deal more.
AND SEE OUR COVERAGE OF THE TOP SCHOOLS’ MOVE TO STEM:
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