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On their way to revolutionizing our lives with technology and science, some companies have discovered a problem with their business model: the hybrid scientist–savvy businessperson they need is a rare species.
“Students from the STEM [science, technology, engineering, math] fields don’t have the business skills, and…business undergrads don’t have the interests and aptitude in science and technology,” says Paul Carlile, a School of Management associate professor of information systems. Big-name firms, among them Raytheon, Merck, Boston Scientific, AT&T, John Hancock, and Fidelity tell SMG they need finance- and marketing-versed employees who also have a grounding in science, he says.
Problem, meet a solution: BU’s new Master of Science in Management Studies (MSMS). Carlile, director of the new program and head of the team that designed it, says the MSMS “shrinks the distance” between student needs and those of companies, and by extension, society.
The one-year degree, open to recently graduated STEM majors and other grads with strong analytic backgrounds, will launch this fall, making BU one of only a dozen or so schools to offer an MSMS. The new program will enroll up to 25 students the first year, with initial recruitment from the University and fellow Patriot League schools.
And while those students will meet in an SMG classroom, Carlile promises that “that’s where the traditional educational look and feel stops.”
The big difference from that traditional model is that every three months, student teams will partner with a different company to help with a challenge it’s facing. The companies, the Paint Bar, a local watering hole that blends painting with drinking, Quintiles, the world’s largest clinical research organization, headquartered in North Carolina, and AT&T, will feed projects to students—sort of a 21-century version of the classic apprenticeship, Carlile says.
The three successive company-learning modules will grow increasingly complex over the year. For the first, he says, program organizers wanted a non-STEM company that would help students quickly grasp all the languages of business—finance, accounting, marketing, operations, and human resources—and the ways they interact. Paint Bar offers a product that you can see, smell, and touch, and students will be able to see how users experience it, Carlile says. Students will collaborate with Quintiles in the second module, stressing communications and collaboration in teams as students solve data-driven challenges. In the final module, students will grapple with the more complex issue of how a company like AT&T transforms itself from a telecommunications firm into a health services company that can directly provide value to hospitals and patients.
“Some days, teams of students will be working on business simulations to develop, as fast as possible, business skills and perspectives,” Carlile says. “Other days, they will have lunches with local business leaders and entrepreneurs.” Still other days will feature topic- and skill-specific lectures by professors and executives that the program has partnered with, all in an effort to help the student teams deliver solutions to their company partners.