Kellogg Makes Another Big Tech Investment With New ‘MBAi’

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management already sends a huge number of its MBAs into technology fields. Now the school is investing even more in tech as a future home for its graduates. In response to unrelenting demand for MBAs with expertise in AI and data science, Kellogg is partnering with Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering to offer a 15-month, five-quarter, accelerated joint “MBAi,” beginning in September 2021.

More than 25% of Northwestern Kellogg’s MBA Class of 2019 went into the tech industry, higher than the total output at all but seven of the 36 schools in the United States and Europe examined recently by Poets&Quants. Kellogg’s share of tech MBAs has grown 67% in five years, up from 15% in 2015. The school has a popular Data Analytics pathway in both its one- and two-year MBA programs, a certificate in Management for Scientists and Engineers, and a slate of executive programs in business operations and technology management.

But the demand for tech talent keeps growing — so when Kellogg’s Francesca Cornelli was contacted by McCormick Dean Julio Ottino immediately upon her taking the deanship last year, she didn’t hesitate to agree about a collaboration on a new analytics-focused program. The MBAi “will marry best-in-class management principles with strategic technical engagement,” according to the Kellogg School’s description, “allowing for students to advance their careers and lead organizations and industries at the intersection of business, technology and science.”

“I think the Dean of McCormick Julio Ottino will tell you that as soon as I arrived, he sent me an email saying, ‘I think we should do a program together in the space of analytics,’ and I immediately embraced it,” Cornelli tells P&Q. “And so this is really the result, the child over one year when you’re brainstorming and trying to work together. Kellogg and McCormick already have a program together, which is the MMM, so we have a lot of relationships with them. I think it’s a very typical characteristic that Northwestern schools work together very well. And I think that it’s an advantage.”


Eric Anderson, Kellogg’s Hartmarx professor of marketing and director of the Center for Global Marketing Practice, is the director of the new MBAi program. Kellogg photo

The dual-degree Master’s in Management and Manufacturing, known as the MMM program, was launched in the early 1990s. The two-year program integrates business education with design innovation and gives graduates both an MBA from Kellogg and an MSDI from the Segal Design Institute.

In five quarters between September and December, students in the new MBAi will take customized courses in machine learning, robotics, computational thinking for business, how data science and artificial intelligence drive innovation, and more — making the MBAi “the only top-tier accelerated degree offering comprehensive coursework and experience that wholly integrates AI and data science with business in a blended learning environment.” The degree was created to address a need for MBAs who can lead strategic, business-driving innovation, while comprehending the complexities of the technologies involved. Eligibility requirements include four to six years of work experience in technical roles such as product owner, project manager, data scientist, software engineer, or R&D associate; or an undergraduate STEM degree or major.

“We’re excited,” says Eric Anderson, Hartmarx professor of marketing and director of Kellogg’s Center for Global Marketing Practice, who will direct the new MBAi. He says the genesis of the program began five years ago when he was teaching senior executives in AI and analytics, helping them build out organizations “and create organizational muscle in that space. And what we realized in numerous conversations with hundreds and hundreds of executives is that everybody recognized the promise of AI analytics, but they continue to struggle with delivering and scaling successful business outcomes. And this was a huge challenge.”

The MBAi includes this interesting wrinkle: an experiential summer quarter where students gain work experience in a full-time, 10-week summer internship and engage with industry leaders, all while continuing their studies through 2-credit evening-and-weekend classes. The quarter concludes with an immersion experience in San Francisco that includes company on-site visits, industry networking events, case competitions, and more.

Prospective students can apply to the inaugural class of the MBAi program by October 21 for Round 1; January 6, 2021 for Round 2; or April 7, 2021, for Round 3. Cost: Kellogg and McCormick are in the process of finalizing tuition information and will share this as soon as possible in the weeks ahead.


B-schools are giving more and more attention to the demand from industry for graduates with business analytics skills, and the decline of what were once flagship MBA programs has sparked the rise of smaller, more specialized programs that take one year rather than two. In the past five years, most schools big and not-so-big have launched specialized master’s in business analytics or concentrations, certificates, and other approaches that give those looking to work in fintech or data science or management analysis or any number of occupations a plethora of choices in the space. Add to that joint degrees of the kind Kellogg and McCormick are now launching.

“One of alums told me, ‘Well, actually I sit on boards and that’s the challenge companies face: They have to introduce data analytics, they have to introduce AI or other types of technology, they know they have to do it but they don’t know how to go about it,'” says Cornelli, who is now beginning her second year as Kellogg’s dean. “And that’s the challenge everybody faces. Others were venture capitalists and they say, ‘This is the people we need. This is the type of company we are creating.’ So really we felt the ‘why,’ I wouldn’t say obvious, but it was clear to me there was that need. I thought the cooperation between us and McCormick was crucial in doing something that.”

The collaboration was crucial, Anderson tells P&Q, because the science has far outpaced business’s ability to adopt the technology.

“So we have tremendous new models when it comes to neural networks or machine learning,” he says. “There’s been tremendous examples, but putting those into a business and getting them to work in an operational environment and then scaling them turns out to require that you change how decisions are made. You have to change the culture inside the organization. You might have to change the structure. And so it requires firms to adapt, and they’re struggling with that.

“And that’s where the idea for this program came about: that if we want to train the leaders of the future, they need to be able to understand the business challenges are that you will face as you start to implement these technologies at the same time. You can’t really do that unless you have a deep toe in the water when it comes to the technology.”


In a news release announcing the new program, McCormick School Dean Ottino expressed delight in the new partnership with Kellogg, noting the schools’ now nearly 30-year-old partnership in the MMM and their shared interests in research.

“We are delighted to partner with Kellogg on this program,” Ottino says. “Through a combination of intensive curricular and technology industry experiences, students will be prepared to lead teams that are heavy in technology capabilities and guided by strategies rooted in business needs and return on investment.”

Adds Sara Sood, the Chookaszian family teaching professor in computer science at McCormick: “As part of the department of computer science’s growth, we have made efforts to further connect with education and research efforts across campus. The MBAi program is an important next step to leveraging computer science and other areas of considerable strength at McCormick to educate individuals prepared to lead innovation.”


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