‘Gut Check Time’: Why Cornell Is Shuttering Its 1-Year Accelerated MBA

Cornell’s Andrew Karolyi: “We’ve never felt that we were able to drive hard enough with (the Accelerated 1-year MBA program) given its mission as it was crafted to be able to meet our ambitious goals for it.”

For years, Cornell University has boasted not one but two industry-leading one-year MBA programs. No longer. Cornell’s Johnson College of Business will shutter its one-year Accelerated MBA after the graduation of this year’s class in order to double down on the school’s other May-to-May program, the New York City-based Tech MBA.

Andrew Karolyi, dean of Cornell’s SC Johnson College of Business, says it was a hard choice to close down the Accelerated MBA, which for more than two decades has been among the top-ranked one-year programs in the United States. But he adds that Cornell’s leadership sees more promise in the five-year-old Tech MBA, a collaborative effort with Cornell Tech.

“It’s an interesting decision that we made, a very strategic one,” Karolyi tells Poets&Quants. “One has to paint the picture of where we are. It has been a program that has been around for 20-plus years and has been doing fine. But we had grander ambitions for it.”


The Tech MBA, launched in 2017 and was named Poets&Quants‘ Program of the Year that year on the strength of its innovative and immediately popular Studi curriculum, in which students develop and implement new product and business ideas in collaboration with innovators and thought leaders from New York’s tech and startup communities. The Tech MBA has grown steadily from about 50 students in that first cohort to more than 80 in the one that enrolled this summer, and Karolyi expects it to grow even more.

The one-year Accelerated MBA, meanwhile, has been shrinking for years.

“We’ve had some wonderful students come through the Accelerated program and have gone on to be able to leverage it for very successful careers,” says Karolyi, who became Charles Field Knight dean of the College of Business in April 2021 after three years as dean of academic affairs and many more years as a finance professor at the school. “It’s wonderful meeting them along the way. But we’ve never felt that we were able to drive hard enough with that given its mission as it was crafted. We never felt we were able to meet our ambitious goals for it.”

As the Tech MBA has grown, the Accelerated MBA has declined, he notes. “The Tech MBA program had an initial target number of 50, and it’s now blossomed to about 85. We see imminently on the horizon the fact that we can grow this one.”

Cornell Tech’s campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City


The new class of Cornell Tech MBAs that will graduate in May 2023 is about 31% women, down slightly from the year before, and 22% U.S. minorities. It is also 60% international, with students from 12 different countries. Most have some kind of engineering background, and the biggest group — 28% — comes from the business technology industry.

It is a full-time, residential, STEM-designated MBA that takes place over Cornell University’s two campuses: MBAs start with a 14-week immersion in the Ithaca campus in upstate New York, where they cover the basic courses, and spend the remaining two semesters on Cornell’s satellite campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City, immersed in the Studio curriculum.

Deciding the fate of the Accelerated program “was gut check time,” Karolyi says. “What we made was — no doubt — a tough decision to basically close down the one-year Accelerated MBA and redeploy those resources to the growth and expansion of the Tech MBA. We see the clearer potential and differentiation of that program in the marketplace. So the marketplace is telling us that. It’s successfully differentiating itself relative to its competitor peers.

“It’s the sleeker one-year program. So we’re essentially swapping a one-year for a one-year in terms of redeployment of resources.”


That “redeployment” also means changes are in store for Cornell’s two-year residential MBA program, including a lot of new faces at the front of the classroom. Karolyi says the school’s brain trust is exploring an “innovation wrinkle” wherein students have the option to spend the second year of the program in the Studio curriculum at the Cornell Tech campus, calling it “successfully reinvesting in our two-year residential” and “taking the best of both worlds towards amplifying and leveraging the Johnson Cornell Tech and that Studio curriculum.”

“That’s really sort of the logic behind closing down the Accelerated MBA: redeploying the resources into the Johnson Cornell Tech, but also redeploying some of those resources that are freed up toward fortifying the two-year residential MBA, but with this Johnson Cornell Tech second-year option.

“We knew there always would be this ever-expanding demand in that marketplace. The challenge will be for us to grow out our assets in New York City so that we can really deliver the goods. That’s going to take a lot of work. This year, the college has authorized 24 new faculty following on a recruiting year where we successfully hired 20. So we are definitely in growth mode and we’re building out these assets. We need to.”


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