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MBA Students Embrace New Curriculum, Now in Place at Johnson at Cornell University

02/03/2015

New curriculum prepares students in two-year MBA program to lead, with emphasis on critical thinking, targeted leadership skills, and data analysis and modeling







MBA Students Embrace New Curriculum, Now in Place at Johnson at Cornell University
Following an extensive two-year review process, the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University has launched a new curriculum for its Two-Year MBA Program. The curriculum, now being fully rolled out to the Class of 2016, emphasizes collaborative, leadership, and analytical skills to better prepare students for a technology-driven global business environment.

The redesigned curriculum represents the next series of innovations in Johnson’s long-established history of pioneering MBA education. Johnson invented immersion learning, introduced one of the first twelve-month MBA programs for candidates with an advanced degree, and was in the vanguard of sustainable global enterprise education.

Johnson embarked on a comprehensive, two-year review of curriculum and learning priorities in 2011. An extensive data-collection effort included student and alumni focus groups, peer benchmarking, and surveys of students, alumni, corporate recruiters, faculty, and staff. The process reached more than 1,000 participants from the last 12 MBA class years, and identified three priority areas for refinements and advances in MBA learning.

The school’s faculty developed new and redesigned coursework and programming in the three areas:

Modeling and Decision Analysis: An enhanced required course, Data Analytics and Modeling, takes students beyond statistics, to data modeling and Big Data techniques and strategies. Modeling is woven into other courses to help students develop the analytical skills needed in all areas of business.

Personal and Leadership Skills: Every Johnson student progresses through a targeted curriculum in leadership consisting of the proprietary Johnson 360° Leadership Assessment, coursework, case exercises, teamwork, hands-on leadership experience, coaching, and customized programming. The personalized program begins in the pre-term, with individual assessment and feedback, and continues through the first year, with the Leading Teams Practicum, and second year with Principled Leadership. Marquee leadership instructors teach intensives on leadership topics. These classes are enriched with a menu of Leadership Skills workshops and Leadership Expeditions that span the entire program.

Integrative and Critical Thinking Skills: In their first semester of MBA study, students learn and practice critical thinking skills, with a focus on analyzing, integrating, and synthesizing information for optimal decision making, in the face of challenges, such as incomplete, inaccurate, or ambiguous information.

“We are committed to being one of the top business schools in the world, and that means refining our curriculum to speak to a complex business environment. Our new curriculum reflects the findings of the curriculum review, as well as industry and research trends in leadership, collaborative teamwork, and data analytics,” said Vishal Gaur, associate dean for MBA programs. “We’re carrying forward innovation in required courses to elective offerings, as well, exposing students to fresh ideas and creative, team-oriented problem solving approaches.”

Among the innovative elective courses being introduced:

The Art of Innovation: A Design Thinking Immersion and Making Design Thinking Work. These hands-on courses prepare MBAs to be future innovators by teaching them the human-centered design methodology known as Design Thinking.

Core Leadership Skills for a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) World, with retired U.S. Army General George Casey. This course builds on the skills acquired in earlier components of the leadership program, through discussion and interaction with an experienced practitioner and former leader of the United States Army.

Johnson’s FinTech Trek and Hackathon. Students convene at Cornell Tech in New York City to learn about disruptive technologies facing the financial industry and develop relevant solutions. The experience culminates in a hackathon, in which participants have about 24 hours to develop financial products or services that meet a real business need. Similar classes are planned, each focusing on a different industry.

“Business education requires continuous improvement, as well as big jumps,” Gaur said. “As we implement the new Johnson curriculum, we are also thinking of the next educational innovations that will leverage the strengths of Cornell’s two campuses.”


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