Many business schools claim to bring together people from various fields to create an interdisciplinary vibe on campus, but few have gone as far as Tepper to make it a reality.
In late 2018, Tepper opened an actual physical space to encourage crossover: its funky new Tepper Quad, a building that houses the Tepper school and also functions as an innovation hub for the entire campus. MBA students at Tepper can also expect to find themselves working with people from the other six schools at Carnegie Mellon, including engineers, computer scientists, and designers. CMU is renowned as a center for AI, robotics, big data, and other related disciplines, and fusing these with the business school is at the heart of its interdisciplinary approach.
Tepper is ahead of the curve in other respects, too. In addition to such traditional core courses as marketing, finance, and strategy, the Tepper MBA teaches analytics, which involves learning about subjects such as optimization and predictive modeling, in order to enhance strategic thinking and problem solving. This is the modern evolution of the “management science” that has always underpinned a Tepper education.
Leadership and job searching are embedded in the MBA right from day one, so that students are thinking about how to apply their learning while they are acquiring it. Grads often sing the praises of the school’s career services team, which holds 2,000 one-on-one coaching sessions per year. More than a hundred events by outside speakers each year ensure that students hear about cutting-edge issues and make lots of useful contacts.
MBAs can choose from five “tracks,” such as Business Analytics or Entrepreneurship, which allow them to look at a particular field in greater depth. They tend to consist of 8-10 electives and a capstone course. Some tracks involve cross-campus collaboration with faculty and other graduate students.
Also, once you take three or four electives in a subject area, you are deemed to have completed a concentration — there are 12, including Accounting, Strategy, and Organizational Behavior.
The Tepper full-time MBA has a class size of about 220, which translates into an average of 55 people in a class for core subjects and 31 for electives. Overall, the school has a healthy 8:1 student to faculty ratio. Over 40 clubs and societies help create a social glue that contributes to a supportive atmosphere.
Tepper has 16,000 alumni and 33 alumni chapters, while CMU as a whole has 94,000, dispersed across 53 global alumni chapters. Graduates often say how friendly and helpful alumni can be.
Kate Barraclough, head of MBA program
At Tepper, we’re looking for people who have a level of curiosity, who are interested in looking at why things work the way they do; asking good questions; and being thoughtful about how they think about their answers. Also, people who will roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty with some work. The Tepper curriculum is rigorous and our students are very much a group who aren’t afraid of crunching numbers and looking at data and drawing conclusions from that data. We’re looking for people who are excited about the future of business leadership and where they want to take their careers.
Victoria Lopez, MBA 2019
I studied politics and philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, then worked for a nonprofit at the university providing consulting services to startups and small businesses. I decided an MBA could bridge the gap between my education and my work experience. Tepper was a good choice for me because the quantitative aspects of the program complemented my experience.
I also wanted to get work experience and help finding a job in a larger company and the sort of industries that I was interested in. The career center helped me, and other students that I’ve talked to, to know how to brand and position themselves. I’ve got a job at Microsoft in New York in a marketing sales role.
When exploring and choosing an MBA program, the question every applicant will inevitably ask themselves is this: “What’s going to differentiate me in the market?” At Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, everything starts and ends with a dual focus on analytics and leadership.
HEART AND SOUL OF THE TEPPER MBA: LEADERSHIP AND ANALYTICS
The business school says leadership and analytics in the core curriculum are what differentiates it from other institutions and what will differentiate graduates who complete the program. While analytics is far from new and, in fact, has created a wave that’s sweeping across many of the top business schools, Tepper says its two-year curriculum is less about gathering big data and more about making big decisions. In other words, providing MBAs the wherewithal to take mounds of data and use it to drive a business forward.
“We do believe that data is important and that analytics is important, but it is important in order to make better decisions,” says Mike Trick, an associate dean at Tepper. “If all you can do is manage by the seat of your pants, you will make some good decisions, you will make some bad decisions. By looking at data and doing analysis, you can more consistently make better decisions and run better organizations.”
While “Don’t manage by the seat of your pants” is one Tepper mantra, “Most leaders are taught, not born” is another. At the core of its focus on leadership development are effective communication and interpersonal skills. MBAs at Tepper receive a customized leadership development assessment, one-to-one coaching, and their very own leadership roadmap. The roadmap is so personal, in fact, that leadership development doesn’t start with an MBA course at all. It starts with the student and a simulation tool — Manager Ready — that puts them inside real-world scenarios to test their leadership. Strengths and opportunities for improvement are identified for each student to cultivate while chasing their MBA degree.
With the exception of the Economist, you can usually expect to find Tepper amongst the top 20 in MBA program rankings. In 2017, the school jumped two spots from 19 to 17 in the Poets&Quants ranking, the highest it’s been since 2013 when P&Q placed it at 16th. For the most recent U.S. News ranking, Tepper comes in at 17, but it’s not alone. It shares the 17th spot with the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business. Back in 2014, Tepper did at one point crack the top 10 when BusinessWeek crowned it the 10th best MBA program for that year.
Out of the top six most-looked to rankings, the Economist has been the most difficult for Tepper to overcome. Not totally surprising given that the publication is known for its large year-over-year swings in school placements as well as ranking criteria that tend to favor schools outside of the U.S. From 2013 to 2016, the school experienced a steady decline, dropping from 14 to 22 — only last year moving in a positive direction by moving up one spot to 21.
By and large, Tepper’s change in standing amongst the top publications remains fairly minimal. For all six — other than the Economist — changes in status were mostly in small increments of one or two.
ROOTS THAT RUN DEEP IN TECH
With this backing of analytics and leadership, Tepper MBAs fare well in the job market and are known to do particularly well in the tech industry. Katie Glass, a first-year student, can attest. Glass, who spent time as a marketing manager prior to Tepper, says she wanted an MBA to help her switch careers. In her transitional pursuit from marketing to product management — and her sights set on the tech industry — she narrowed her focus on Tepper.
“I explored several top 20 MBA programs and ultimately applied to four programs,” says Glass, who had six years of professional experience when she arrived at Tepper. “I chose Tepper because of the tight-knit community, deep connections within the tech industry, and entrepreneurial focus.”
Much of the deep connections are found right on the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania campus of Carnegie Mellon where Tepper is housed. The university has a long-standing reputation for science and tech and Tepper provides open-door access for students to engage in campus-wide programs, courses, clubs, and professors.
What’s more, Fall 2018 will bring the opening of Tepper’s new home, the Tepper Quad. This innovation hub will serve to connect all seven campus colleges and enable business students to learn, engage, and collaborate with other creative minds in computer science, architecture, robotics, entrepreneurship, and more. In addition to being a state-of-the-art learning and research facility, the school says the quad will amplify the connection between technology and business education to prepare students for leadership roles within a world that’s driven by technology, big data, and analytics.
When it comes to the deep tech connections mentioned by student Katie Glass, the proof is also in the placements. In the past several years, tech has led the way as the top industry for Tepper MBA grads. From 2013 to 2017, tech has been the top industry four out of five times with repeat recruiting partners including the likes of Amazon, Apple, and Google.