What’s new in the MBA curriculum?


Innovation is crucial to the MBA curriculum, and it manifests itself in many forms. New courses emerge as a result of student feedback or from a professor’s conversion of his current research into a class. Faculty adopt different pedagogical approaches to bring a fresh perspective to existing courses. These innovations serve to keep the curriculum current and relevant, and to maximize learning. I would like to take this opportunity to highlight a few ways in which Wharton has recently innovated within our MBA curriculum.

MBAPO Academic Affairs Group

(MBAPO Academic Affairs Group)

The introduction of our new major, Business Analytics, was a noteworthy change in 2016. While other schools are in the process of designing separate Master degrees in Analytics, we decided to craft a major within our MBA program allowing us to leverage our analytical DNA. Students choosing the Business Analytics major are ideally suited for the growing set of careers broadly defined under the header of “data science” with responsibilities for managing and analyzing data. I am pleased to announce that 85 students will graduate with a Business Analytics major this summer.

While the major combines several courses within Business Economics, Marketing, Operations, and Statistics, it also includes courses that were offered for the first time this academic year, such as LGST642: Big Data, Big Responsibilities: The Law and Ethics of Business Analytics, as well as OIDD642: Analytics for Services, and OIDD643: Analytics for Revenue Management.  Several colleagues are currently working on innovating further within the set of courses under this umbrella.

Other new sought-after courses this year included FNCE 885: Fin Tech, exposing students to the fast-growing intersection between finance and technology, OIDD 636: Scaling Operations, a strategy course geared to successful new ventures that need to scale up to meet demand, FNCE 887: Shareholder Activism, exposing students to the approaches followed by leading shareholder activists, MGMT 765: Venture Capital and Entrepreneurial Management: Practices and Institutions of Silicon Valley, as well as MKTG 851: Introduction to Brain Science for Business, providing exciting insights into contemporary brain science and its applications to business.

A notable change also happened in terms of pedagogy. While we already have courses that have blended the more traditional classroom with online delivery, we have, for the first time, offered the same class, our core class OIDD 612: Business Analytics, in a flipped as well as the traditional format. The idea behind this is to offer students more choice in tailoring their education towards their learning style, in which the flipped format requires more preparation beforehand via online learning, and classroom time is primarily devoted to exercises done in small teams. We are currently analyzing the demand for OIDD 612 this Spring, exploring further what role the two formats could play in the curriculum more broadly.

Innovation is also part of our incentive structure at Wharton. Once a year we solicit nominations for our MBA Teaching Commitment and Curricular Innovation Awards. Activities these awards can recognize include examples of curriculum development, development and inclusion of international content, integration of material across courses, inclusion of relevant research in the classroom, technological innovation, and other important elements of teaching.

To give a few recent examples, in April 2016 we awarded Prof. Pete Fader for developing WHOOPPEE – the Wharton Online Ordinal Peer Performance Evaluation Engine – a peer evaluation system used in MKTG 776: Applied Probability Models in Marketing. Prof. Arthur van Benthem was recognized for the design and teaching of BEPP 763: Energy Markets and Policy. And in April 2015, the selection committee wanted to emphasize the KEROVKA simulation used by Prof. Witold Henisz in MGMT 715: Political and Social Environment of the Multinational Firm. Please stay tuned for this year’s winners, to be announced in late April.

I can’t say much yet about new courses for the academic year 2017-18, as some courses have yet to be formally approved. However, you might have noticed a new STAT course on the list of courses to be taught in San Francisco this Fall: Analysis of Text and Unstructured Data. This is a hot subject in analytics, covering topics such as extracting sentiment from text, predictive methods leveraging language models, and the analysis of image data. We heard from several of you wanting to see more coursework involving R, and I am pleased that this course is taking this direction.

Wharton also just announced new ways in which we celebrate excellence in the classroom. Many of you know about the Director’s List, the Honor’s Roll, and the distinction to become a Palmer Scholar, as some of the ways by which you can signal to potential employers. We felt it was important to add the Academic Excellence Fellowship – equivalent to the Ford Fellowship but rewarding performance in the second and third semester, as well as a Director’s List Fellowship to feature students dedicated towards learning in and outside of the classroom. I am pleased we were able to add these distinctions, and hope you join me in congratulating Madeleine Macks, Gayatri Sehdev, Andrew Griffin, Matt Connor, Siamak Sarvari and Travis Pfander becoming the first recipient of these awards.