M.B.A. program undergoes ‘a major curricular advance’

The Olin School of Business has adopted several major innovations in its master of business administration curriculum.

The Olin School has completely remodeled and enhanced its preprogram, overhauled its orientation program, expanded its “ICE” (Integrated Case Experience) Week Program, added an extended offering on the school’s “Managing Your Career Strategy” program and enhanced coordination to ensure greater consistency in the quality of M.B.A. core courses.

Stuart Greenbaum

Olin School Dean Stuart I. Greenbaum, Ph.D., said the M.B.A. program has added “substantial additional rigor” to the core curriculum with a number of changes, including an expansion of hours in the core and the transformation of the school’s Professional Development Program into a yearlong series of individual programs of study.

“Along with the further refinement of the Olin School’s concentration tracks in general management, strategy and consulting, finance, manufacturing and operations, marketing, entrepreneurship, and international business, and the addition of several new courses, we have achieved a major curricular advance,” Greenbaum said.

Last year, the Olin School formed an ad hoc curriculum team, which included faculty, administrators and students, to study and recommend changes in the school’s M.B.A. curriculum. The group’s report, augmented by advice from a team of McKinsey & Co. consultants, resulted in a number of sweeping and fundamental enhancements to the curriculum.

Joseph Fox

“The changes made to the M.B.A. curriculum over the past year-and-a-half have been aimed at raising the expectations and the quality of outcomes in the core of the program — while retaining the unique characteristics of the country’s most flexible M.B.A. program model,” said Joseph P. Fox, associate dean for M.B.A. programs. “At each step, we have worked hard to efficiently raise the level of engagement, which has a very positive ‘spiraling up’ effect as it works from the very start through the core and on into the electives and the concentrations.”

Curriculum enhancements include:

• Enhanced analytical and modeling skills: Students must successfully complete an analytical modeling case project before moving on to the second semester. This effort is supported by a spreadsheet-training module in the new preprogram, self-assessment tools, expanded skill-development workshops and self-development resources.

• Enhanced teamwork skills: Students must develop their own operating plan and rules of engagement and develop a “team contract” with their fellow students. They must identify and become familiar with resources for building team skills and dealing with team problems; participate in team workshops; and pair with alumni who act as “team mentors.”

Additionally, they must successfully complete the school’s expanded and comprehensive Professional Development Program segment on the development of teams and teamwork skills.

• Enhanced functional concentration tracks: Students are enabled to demonstrate competence in a functional track before beginning their internships. They are offered a sequence (nine to 12 credit hours) of courses that leads to competence in one of the Olin School’s specialized tracks, such as finance, brand management or strategy consulting.

• Enhanced ICE Week Program: Students are required to work with core curriculum teams to analyze four comprehensive cases. During the Olin School’s ICE week, student teams must present their analysis and recommendations for each case to the school’s core program faculty and other members of the Olin and corporate communities.

Finally, a new element of the school’s ICE week includes the analysis of a series of cases testing students’ individual analytical skills. The analyses are reviewed and graded by a team of core program faculty.

The Olin School’s Professional Development Program (PDP) has been revamped into a yearlong series of presentations titled “Managing Your Career Strategy.” The redesign of the PDP promotes professional self-discovery and features improved design of individual programs of study with an emphasis on “real-world” job searching, résumé building, interviewing, negotiating, and presentation and self-assessment skills.

“The entire Olin community — faculty, administration, alumni and students — have been involved in this significant retooling of the Olin M.B.A. curriculum,” Greenbaum said. “We got the message that our students wanted more rigor in an already tough curriculum, and we’ve delivered.

“Our students and their future employers are both going to benefit greatly from these substantial enhancements to the Olin M.B.A. curriculum.”

Fox added, “There is a lot more work for all parties involved: students, faculty, and staff. But the outcome has been gratifying and well worth the investment.”