For This Southern California B-School, STEM Was Already In Its System

The Rady School of Management at UC-San Diego. File photo

For big schools and small, the appeal of STEM in graduate business education is universal. And not just because Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics certifications can help international students stay and work in the United States for longer periods, though that is the most immediate and obvious benefit.

The latest to secure a STEM designation is the Rady School of Management at the University of California-San Diego, the No. 75-ranked program in Poets&Quants‘ annual ranking, which announced this week that it has received the certification for its full-time, FlexEvening, and FlexWeekend MBA programs. But Rady’s place among the business schools that already have received the designation in recent years was perhaps easier for the Southern California school to secure, as Rady already had a strong quant element to al of its MBA programs, says those programs’ executive director, Silvia McCallister-Castillo.

In fact, she tells P&Q, Rady didn’t have to make any curricular changes to achieve the STEM designation.

“The new STEM certification reflects the existing quantitative nature of the school’s MBA curriculum,” McCallister-Castillo says. “The Rady MBA has always emphasized the importance of quant skills for managers. Increasingly, we see that recruiters are placing a great deal of effort in finding candidates who are data savvy, comfortable with technology and keen to use sophisticated analytical tools to inform decision-making.”


UC-San Diego Rady School of Management Dean Lisa Ordoñez. Courtesy photo

Designating all or part of their MBAs and specialized master’s degrees as STEM allows B-schools to lure international students with the promise of legal standing to remain in the U.S. three times longer. With three years’ eligibility in the Optional Practical Training program, international graduates get three attempts to secure visas. Rady’s STEM designation will apply to all current students — Rady has about 56 in its full-time MBA — and is retroactive to Class of 2020 graduates.

Rady’s STEM designation was granted after a campus review of how the programs are categorized by the National Center for Education Statistics under a Classification of Instructional Programs code. The new CIP code categorizes the Rady MBA as “a general program that focuses on the application of statistical modeling, data warehousing, data mining, programming, forecasting and operations research techniques to the analysis of problems of business organization and performance.” The MBA has been changed from “Business Administration and Management, General,” to “Management Science,” which is considered a STEM program.

The STEM designation for its MBA programs means that all Rady master’s degrees — including the Master of Finance, Master of Professional Accountancy, and Master of Science in Business Analytics — are now STEM-certified.

“We are thrilled to be able to open additional career opportunities for our talented pool of international students,” McCallister-Castillo says. “The STEM designation triples the length of time that they can work under OPT and gain valuable work experience in the U.S., which is extremely enticing to domestic employers.

“But then I think a second thing is, and it’s not just for international students, but for a long time students have been choosing Rady in part because our program is super-intense and it does have that strong analytical component. We have a lot of folks coming in who already have STEM degrees — we have engineers, we have scientists. We have a lot of people who already have that kind of background or are interested in acquiring it. So this is something that’s quite attractive to a lot of candidates.”


Rady made headlines in March for the wrong reasons, after admitting to overstating its rankings data to The Financial Times. Five months earlier, in October 2019, the school was in the headlines for more positive news, having hired a new dean — only the second in school history — and announced the enrollment of 60% women across its graduate programs. 

The new STEM designation is an initiative of that new dean, Lisa Ordoñez, who said last year that big changes were on the way.

“It has been an active focus for many Rady programs to say, ‘It is time that we make a big change here,’” Ordoñez told Poets&Quants in October 2019. “With a new leader, it’s a new time, a time to start that growth process even more. We’re going to do a strategic plan, but I think it’s very clear that the community asks for this school. They’re the ones that stepped up and said we needed a premier business school in San Diego. I don’t see any other way but doubling down on what we’re already doing and finding ways to really further embed ourselves in this amazing ecosystem here.”

Upon taking the reins at Rady, Dean Ordoñez immediately called for the MBA to be certified STEM, says McCallister-Castillo.

“Our MBA program was designed to be quite quantitative, quite analytical in nature,” she says. “So the dean sat down with our director of graduate programs and they basically realized that we didn’t need to make any changes to the MBA program in order to get the STEM designation. So it just made sense to do it.”

In a larger sense, the school’s leadership also hopes the move will help put Rady on the map, she adds.

“Because I think now we’re going to be one of the few schools that has the STEM designation for all of our MBA programs,” McCallister-Castillo says. “There are quite a few schools that have it but only if you do a data analytics specialization, or if you do certain electives. But for us, all of us get it. MBA students don’t have to think about it.”


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