Most top MBA programs offer a core curriculum that provides a foundation of knowledge for future success in any field. Students can then specialize and diversify their interests through electives, concentrations, pathways, and global experiences. In order to stay relevant and meet the demands of growing industries, business schools have been expanding their course offerings, focusing on more opportunities for customization, expanding global experiential learning, and offering multi-disciplinary courses, speaker series, and clubs.
According to Fuqua’s Dean Bill Boulding, “We are in a period of such rapid transformation in the world. Some are calling it the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The skills our students need to succeed in business today and what companies are looking for in talent are constantly evolving, which requires continually innovating as a school to meet those needs.”
Innovative Courses and Approaches
In 2020, Fuqua Business School at Duke introduced three innovative themes into the Daytime MBA curriculum, including “leading technology transformation, entrepreneurial mindset and action, and creating common purpose in a world of differences.” Fuqua stresses that its curriculum has 16 concentrations, fewer core requirements, and allows students to take elective courses sooner than other programs.
Flexibility, specialization, innovation, and a personalized experience are now common themes in the process of MBA curriculum mapping among top business schools. Stern at NYU, for example, boasts that their curriculum is “customizable to the core” and states that their guiding principle is “flexible first.” Stern’s full-time MBA program offers 20 specializations and over 200 electives. Kellogg provides “pathways” to students who are interested in building expertise in emerging areas and evolving industries.
The Haas School of Business at UC-Berkeley offers 13 Areas of Emphasis for MBA students who want to “direct their studies in pursuit of specific career goals,” and each Area of Emphasis offers electives, speaker series, and related activities on campus. Tuck offers six Centers with specific industry focuses that offer students the ability “to personalize their experience and create their own unique career pathway.”
Modern businesses function in a global market, and therefore most top MBA programs offer global opportunities ranging from a semester abroad to a two-week intensive course or internship in another country to gain real-world insights and management perspectives. Stanford’s MBA program has a Global Experiences Requirement (GER) and Harvard Business School offers the FIELD Global Immersion (FGI) semester-long MBA course.
Stern at NYU offers several pathways to a global experience, including one-to-two week immersive courses through the DBi Program, Global Courses that culminate in a trip abroad, and a Study Abroad program for MBA students. Tuck offers Global Insight Expeditions (GIXs), whereby courses begin in the classroom on campus and then students gain experience traveling abroad with faculty during March break.
According to Find MBA, knowledge of Big Data or Business Analytics gives students an edge in understanding how to interpret and understand the implications of data and how to use data in attaining goals. “Certainly, with the rise of big data, businesses increasingly need managers who can quickly analyze and understand the implications of huge amounts of information.”
As such, MBA programs are increasingly weaving analytics into their core curriculum, as well as offering specializations and various elective courses in the field. “Analytics is showing up across all areas of the curriculum,” explains Maura Herson, assistant dean of the MBA at MIT Sloan School of Management. “We’ve got marketing analytics, finance analytics, human capital analytics. Everyone’s applying analytics frameworks to gain new insights.”
In 2020, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth added an analytics course to its core curriculum which is organized around the themes of “using data to describe the world, predict outcomes, and make recommendations.” Wharton offers a robust analytics program across multiple disciplines including AI, Neuroscience, and Sports, and the school hosts 4 annual analytics conferences. According to Discover Data Science, as of January 2021 there are 42 B-schools that offer an MBA with a concentration, focus, or specialization in an area of data or business analytics, which has been a growing trend over the past several years.
The STEM movement has seen B-schools increase their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics offerings. According to Poets & Quants, now every top-25 MBA program offers some option to earn a STEM degree, through various pathways including concentrations and joint degrees, or because their whole MBA program is classified as STEM.
Qualifying for a STEM designation from the Department of Homeland Security also has implications for attracting international students to MBA programs. The Wall Street Journal states, “Business schools are racing to add concentrations in science, technology, engineering and math to their MBA programs as they try to broaden their appeal to prospective students overseas who want to work in the U.S.” For example, the Chicago Booth MBA degree is designated STEM-eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) purposes, which allows international students on F-1 student visas to apply for an additional 2 years of training through work experience after earning their MBA.
Students are increasingly focused on starting their own businesses, and MBA programs have responded by offering more entrepreneurship programs and concentrations, as well as by teaching entrepreneurial thinking throughout coursework. Stanford’s Graduate School of Business is known for producing the most startups in the Top 100, but Harvard is not far behind according to P&Q’s annual analysis.
Other schools leading the way in teaching entrepreneurship include Babson College and Washington University in St. Louis’ Olin Business School.
As more and more MBA graduates want to make a change in the world for good, more programs are offering opportunities to explore social impact. Yale offers a Social Impact Lab, a weekly speaker series in which lecturers discuss major trends in social impact. Topics run the gamut from impact investing and philanthropy to education reform and environmental sustainability.
Kellogg’s Energy & Sustainability Pathway, for example, builds on the core MBA curriculum and teaches students about both traditional and renewable energy, natural-resource-based industries, corporate sustainability and consulting, and entrepreneurial and investment roles.
As another example, Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business offers a program called Business on the Frontlines, whereby students travel to under-developed, post-conflict countries and study the impact of business by collaborating on projects with partners including international humanitarian organizations, local NGOs, Fortune 500 companies, and religious organizations.
The possibilities for planning your MBA curriculum may seem endless, but at Collegiate Gateway we can help you decide the best MBA programs for you, as well as how to take advantage of innovative coursework and experiences.