First Look: Inside Kellogg’s Inaugural MBAi Class

The inaugural cohort of the Northwestern MBAi. Courtesy photo


While AI and analytics hold promise for businesses, Anderson explains that most firms continue to struggle with delivering and scaling successful outcomes. “It’s often true that technologies advance more quickly than the businesses they support. And as a result, businesses are struggling,” says Anderson. “The failure rate of AI and analytics projects was 85% in 2017, according to Gartner, and it continues to be very high despite many advances in AI since then.”

When speaking with executives around the globe, Anderson says that the continually feedback is how they need people who can effectively connect their work, people, and goals with emerging technologies. “As the business landscape continues to evolve, organizations increasingly need new decision-making processes, culture, and organizational structures,” he says.

According to Anderson, the MBAi will equip business leaders with the skills to be able to support businesses into the future. “As an MBAi graduate, students are uniquely prepared to take on novel, emerging roles to tackle challenges organizations may not yet be able to articulate but are imperative to address,” he adds.


The MBAi curriculum consists of five quarters. The first is composed of a Computational Thinking course – Feng’s favourite course so far – to build the necessary foundation for the following technical content. This quarter also includes core MBA courses that build a framework for AI-driven technological strategies. Here, there is a large focus on leadership.

The second and third quarters build upon the core Kellogg MBA course sequence, as well as technology-focused and integrative courses that help students practice applying their business strategies.

The fourth quarter is when the full-time summer internship begins. At this time, an academic component is held during evenings or on weekends out of the Northwestern San Francisco campus, however the students’ location of their internship will determine if they participate in the classes in-person or remotely.

Finally, in the fifth quarter, students will prepare for the next steps in their careers through a capstone product lab experience. They will also have opportunities for electives and a pre-term course on Crisis Management. “The capstone project is like a culmination of everything we’ve been learning and working on,” says Feng. “It will involve us solving real problems.”


Eric Anderson

Feng says that what sets apart the MBA curriculum from that of the traditional full-time MBA program is that there are some customized core classes and classes in conjunction with the McCormick School of Engineering curriculum as well. “We’re getting the technical aspects from McCormick, and the business aspects from Kellogg,” he says. “A lot of the content covered in classes will be used in our future careers, such as AB testing and product analysis.”

“The curriculum really offers the opportunity for people within the MBAi program to pursue lots of different career opportunities,” continues Feng. “It lets us get an idea of what it would be like to work with people from different backgrounds and varying technical knowledge, and then use the theory we’ve learned in class to apply it to real experiential types of learning.”

With the ability to take any McCormick elective, students are able to decide what areas they want to dive deeper into. Plus, since the MBAi is STEM-designated, a student may qualify to apply for optional practical training extensions to their F-1 visas which, if approved, can allow a person to stay in the United States for up to three years following graduation if they work in a job related to the management science field.


Williamson mentions several courses that made an impact on her, one of which being Applied AI for Business. “This course is catered to applying techniques that we’re learning to real world business problems that we might face after Kellogg,” she says.
Each week in this course, the class talks through different tools that artificial intelligence gives them to solve problems. “For example, we’ll look at personalization and how Netflix uses their algorithms and past viewing history to provide recommendations for you. We develop both the code and a write-up about the benefits of that particular technology, as well as some of the risks or considerations. This helps us flex these muscles and prepare for a career post Kellogg where we’re faced with a business problem that we need to solve.”

While Applied AI for Business may be the most helpful, her favourite course so far has been a weekly seminar. “Each week, a different business leader comes in and talks about how their company is engaging with artificial intelligence. We’ve had a wide diversity of speakers to date and it’s been a great informal session where we all are able to ask questions. That gives you a taste of how this is being used in the world today and what the challenges are that they’re facing so that we can be prepared to take that on when we graduate,” says Williamson. “A core part of this student experience has been exploring those different avenues and figuring out what I’m specifically passionate about so that I can prioritize the speaker events that I go to or the extracurricular classes that I take.”


While the curriculum was a huge draw for both Feng and Williamson, they’re favourite part about the experience so far is the collaborative learning culture. “I was surprised by how quickly it became a cohesive cohort experience,” says Williamson. “It’s been amazing to experience and learn from such a variety of different backgrounds.”

“The willingness of people contributing their knowledge has been the most pleasant surprise of this experience so far,” she says. “For example, in one of our more technical coding classes, I have classmates that were working as software engineers or were in product marketing and I can draw on their experiences.”

Feng adds that they’re constantly presented with opportunities to get involved with clubs, activities, and projects with Kellogg and McCormick. “I think there are tons of opportunities to build your own community or just branch across different groups within the MBAi class as a whole,” he says. “We’re a very tight-knit group. These people have become some of my best friends, and will continue to remain so.”

“It’s like a playground of opportunities here,” continues Williamson. “There are so many different avenues you can explore here. Even from the focused curriculum of an MBAi, there are different places you can go. It’s a great jumping off point.”


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