Why are top MBA programmes embracing the STEM designation
One of the exciting developments in many top MBA programs in recent years is the designation of certain courses of study as “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) accredited, which can have important benefits for all students, but may be of particular interest to students with international backgrounds. This development reflects the increasing importance of quantitative and analytical skills paired with the general management and leadership knowledge of a top MBA program. In today’s world of business and management, top leaders have to know how to manage teams that are using data to drive decisions, facing major technological disruptions, and be informed consumers of analytics. These STEM designations allow students to build this specialization within the powerful MBA education.
At the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, MBA students can now earn an MBA with STEM designation by earning a Specialization in Management Science, which builds on the required Darden core curriculum by offering students the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of quantitative and analytical skills and capabilities. All Darden students already build this capability in the core curriculum, where coursework already includes understanding working with large data sets, conducting critical analytics to solve business challenges and managing the ethics of technological change.
This management science specialization is designed to meet the needs of business leaders today who want to have a deeper facility with key quantitative and analytical focus areas. By selecting from a range of courses with this focus across key disciplines, including Accounting, Economics, Finance, Marketing and Technology and Operations, students can take their analytical skills to a deeper level across many domains. Building on their Darden core curriculum, forty elective courses currently taught at the school satisfy the requirement.
Why might a student be interested in a Specialization in Management Science as part of an MBA at Darden? For all students, the specialization will be a signal to potential employers that students are conversant in a variety of skills relevant to all manner of jobs of the future, but especially technology and analytical positions. At Darden, we continue to see strong interest in technology careers, with 15 percent of the Class of 2019 pursuing positions in the field. Of course, advanced digital and analytical literacy is also beneficial for jobs in the consulting and financial services sector, which collectively attract about 60 percent of new graduates.
Notably, this is not a new MBA or redesign of the powerful education experience in the Darden MBA. Rather this reflects the way that analytics and quantitative decision-making has become embedded across the core curriculum as the content of our classroom keeps pace with the changing needs of business. Throughout the Second Year, students choose from a diverse selection of more than 100 electives and may pursue a variety of concentrations, including this new specialization. Most will end up building enough credits to qualify for the STEM designation.
There is an additional benefit beyond the career options that come from this skillset for international students interested in working in the United States after graduation: the new specialization is STEM designated, meaning for international students who want authorization to work in the U.S., it may allow them to qualify for a STEM OPT extension of an additional 24 months to obtain an employer sponsored visa. This provides a significant opportunity to remain in the U.S. if students desire that career path.
We think we’ve already seen the program bear fruit for international students in the first year of offering the option, as Darden’s international graduates reported double-digit gains in employment outcomes in the Class of 2019. Ninety-four percent of students without permanent U.S. work authorization both received and accepted a full-time employment offer 90 days after graduating.
It’s no secret that MBA programs in the United States are eager to attract top global students, and the specialization in management science is one more reason we hope students will take a look at a school like Darden.
Some may ask: Why are MBA programs, especially highly selective ones that often reject many more students than they admit, so eager to diversify their applicant and student ranks?
For a School like Darden, where international students make up about one-third of the full-time MBA program, we are a global business school because business is global. We teach by the case method, meaning much of the learning derives from the perspective of your peers.
Learning from diverse peers in conversations require active listening, persuasion and negotiation while navigating a variety of viewpoints. Learning to learn from and work with others is one of the key skills future leaders who aspire to lead on the global stage will need in order to thrive.
Those global interpersonal skills, combined with proficiency in quantitative and analytical skills, can produce a valuable, in-demand global leader.
(The author is Marc Johnson, Senior Executive Director of Global Affairs and Enterprise Initiatives at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business)