CMU Tepper Puts A Data-Focused Spin On The Management Master’s Degree

CMU Tepper Puts A Data-Focused Spin On The Management Master's Degree

Interior of the Tepper Quad

Q&A WITH KEVIN DIETRICK, DIRECTOR OF THE TEPPER MSBA & MSM PROGRAMS

Your dean said it takes about a year to get a program like this up and running. So you guys have been working on this for a year or more. Tell me about the spark that launched this program. Why now? Why is Tepper investing in this new program?

It does take some time. You’re the first person that kind of caused me to sit and reflect on the fact that it has been a year. It is a little bit of a process that we go through: conversations with faculty, staff members, industry and so forth, to sort of get to this point of being ready to launch this program, which is very exciting for us. The why now? I think there’s a lot of different variables involved. Some things that I’ve been able to observe here is the successful launch of several different full-time MS programs here at Tepper. We launched our full-time MSBA program last year with our first set of students on campus. Several years before that, an MS in Product Management program. And so I think with regards to timing, I think we’ve seen that we’ve done something successfully and wanted to parlay that success into this Master of Science in Management program.

I think also I can’t not state the appeal of this one-year program — and really it’s not one year, it’s 10 months — the ability for someone with little to no experience, who’s looking to gain that business insight and business education, there’s a lot of value in the degree to that extent. And we’re seeing now across the marketplace that there’s a lot of interest in that sort of a degree, which is a pivot or an upskill for folks who are looking at programs.

Was there talk about making this a STEM program in order to appeal to international students a little bit more?

CMU Tepper Puts A Data-Focused Spin On The Management Master's Degree

Tepper’s Kevin Dietrick: New MSM program “is going to be data-driven, but human-informed. In a sense, I feel like we’ve been here, ready for this data revolution for a long time”

That’s another one of those things that does take a little bit of time. You may be aware that our MBA program was one of the first to be STEM-designated, among the first. And so the STEM designation is under discussion here for the Master of Science in Management program as well.

Do you have a target population for the first class? How many seats do you want to fill?

I’ll tell you, I’m excited for this program in particular just to kind of see the quality of applications and to get this program going. I’m hopeful that we’ll get applications from anybody who’s thinking about this right now. So I want to get the most qualified students in the door and go from there.

If we go back to that starting point, students with non-business backgrounds, students fairly recently out of undergrad, what else might the ideal student for this program look like? Any other attributes that will really make somebody stand out?

So you hit on a couple of things, that zero-to-two-years of work experience. There are other things, and this is where we kind of start talking about the other side of the experience, like what are companies looking for? And these are things that maybe are hard to evaluate from someone who has zero to two years of work experience. But we have a really good admissions team that I think is skilled at doing this. But things like leadership, potential communication skills, teamwork, ability, which plays into communication skills, critical thinking — these are going to be a really important. Intellectual curiosity is another.

These are all things that as we’re kind of going through this next several months and this next year, we’re going to be evaluating candidates and how these things are visible within their spaces. So if they’re in college still, you can still exhibit leadership potential, you can still exhibit leadership versus if you’re someone who has a year of work experience, maybe you’re looking for a little bit of a change, you’re looking for a pivot to your career.

These are still things that we’re going to look for with respect to where you are then and there, if that makes sense.

So let’s talk about the curriculum. What are do students going to learn and when?

We do pack a lot into a 10-month experience. So if I kind of split the experience in half, the fall semester and the spring semester, students will kind of get those fundamental core areas of business: econ, finance, probability and statistics, accounting, operations, marketing, management presentations — a lot of their fall semester is spent in core courses. And as they get to the second half of the fall semester, they will have the opportunity to start dipping their toe in the elective waters, if you will.

When we get into the spring semester, sort of the reverse happens. They have a couple of core courses to complete, optimization, they’ll take a behavioral strategy course or a course of behavioral strategy and management, and then really the rest of their time is going to be spent on elective courses.

When students are here, they’ll select a specialization. So you’re not getting a Master of Science in Management necessarily, or just that. You’re going to specialize in something, you’re going to get a specialization. And the three areas that we currently offer are going to be finance, marketing, and operations. So, some of your elective coursework will be taken up by that, but you also have the opportunity to take additional elective courses outside of your specialization.

You touched on this, but a lot of the curriculum is going to have to reflect what employers want. How closely were companies involved in helping you decide what to teach?

That’s such a key part. I also am the director of our MS in Business Analytics program. And so I don’t know what you want to call it, right, the trend, the new sort of wave of AI that we’ve witnessed is something that’s very relevant to my leadership with the business analytics program. But I think what I’ve seen from companies across the board — whether they’re a data consulting company or whether they are a tech company, healthcare, whatever the case may be — is that everyone right now is trying to grapple with AI and sort of what the new-gen AI means for them and their business models.

And so a key part of what we’ve brought into this program is, again, I’ll kind of refer to what’s been at the heart of a Tepper business degree for all of our existence: It is going to be data-driven, but human-informed. In a sense, I feel like we’ve been here, ready for this data revolution for a long time. So that’s such a core part, right? The quantitative and analytical part of the MSM is really key, and I think that’s something that we’ve certainly observed from industry.

Well, I’d love to hear you elaborate on that a little bit. Tepper really is uniquely situated to offer a degree like this, isn’t it?

Yeah, it absolutely is. And I certainly don’t mean to sound like a little bit of a broken record, but I think where we are positioned, where we are uniquely situated right now, comes back from the hallmark of management science. We used to not offer an MBA, we’d offer a degree from the Graduate School of Industrial Administration. We’d offer a degree in management science. And the core at the founding of how we’ve educated business students for several decades is looking at the data. It’s quantitative analysis. And so I think uniquely situated is very well put.

Is the GMAT or GRE going to be required for admission to this program?

Yes, it’ll be required. Students will have the option to seek a test waiver if they’re interested in having that conversation. Come talk to our admissions team, we’ll have a conversation.

It’s always exciting to launch a new program, but this is a time when a lot of these programs in the U.S. are being launched and this is an exciting landscape, is it not?

We are excited about it. I think this is an opportunity for us here at Tepper to really continue with this management science education that we’ve been doing for a long time. Under the dean’s leadership, we’ve continued to really drive that home in our classes that I see students in every day of the week here. So I’m very excited about this for maybe more of a pre-experience population, that zero-to-two-years.

And we have our first info session coming up. If readers want to register for it, it’ll be on September 28 from noon to 1.

DON’T MISS THE TOP MASTER IN MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS IN THE UNITED STATES and THERE’S A NEW MAJOR PLAYER ON THE U.S. MASTER IN MANAGEMENT SCENE

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.