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Intersecting business with technology

A look at the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA
University Business, March 2018

The Johnson Cornell Tech MBA is conferred by the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, but students don’t do all of their coursework at the Ithaca-based business school.

“Our Tech MBA is very unique in that our students are living and working with students from other [Cornell] programs in what we call ‘studio’ learning,” says Doug Stayman, associate dean at Cornell Tech and associate professor of marketing at the management school.

After taking core courses in Ithaca, students move into the immersive phase, which involves cross-functional teams of law, engineering and computer science students working together at the New York City-based Cornell Tech campus. They develop technology-driven solutions for actual business clients.

Link to main story: Higher ed sees a rise in specialized MBA activity

It’s the antithesis to the very methodical, strategic approach that most MBA programs take. “That’s great if you're building a steel plant, but not if you’re developing software, which is a more iterative process,” Stayman says.

As such, the program has attracted a new kind of MBA student—one with digital skills and engineering chops. “We won’t produce investment bankers,” Stayman says. “We focus on leaders for the digital age who will be product managers, digital marketers and entrepreneurs.”

There are 62 Tech MBA students this year, up from 39 when the program began four years ago. “Tens of thousands of people think about an MBA, but only a small percentage of them are really focused on digital,” says Stayman. “If we say, ‘tell us what you read,’ and you say, ‘the Wall Street Journal,’ this is not the right program for you.”

The other type of students the program attracts software engineers and others who would normally steer clear of formal business education. “Tech people don't usually say ‘go get an MBA,’ but we think our MBA offers the kind of digital training that will be effective for them.”

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