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Dean's Corner

STEM and Business Degrees Strengthen Universities and Communities

By Wisconsin School of Business

April 30, 2020

Business students learn in the Finance and Analytics Lab
In 2016, two of Wisconsin’s MBA specializations earned STEM designation, and last year we launched two new STEM-designated MS business degrees. Photo by Paul L. Newby II

I was recently asked by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the accrediting organization for the world’s best business schools, to write a post about the importance of STEM education for business students. This is a topic I am passionate about—and one where the Wisconsin School of Business leads—so I eagerly agreed to the opportunity.

Here is an excerpt from my piece:

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that “business schools are racing to add concentrations in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to their MBA programs.”

It’s fair to say that the Wisconsin School of Business got a head start in this race, as the first in the U.S. to earn official recognition for STEM-intensive MBA programs. We are proud of that leadership status, given our reputation for academic innovation and agility, but we do not rest on our laurels!

Just two years ago, while still leading the MBA program at Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business, I visited many of the big high-tech firms in California to learn about engagement and career opportunities for MBA graduates. I heard loud and clear that many of these firms would prefer STEM MBAs; in fact, one of the senior executives even encouraged me to explore and learn how the Wisconsin School of Business had pioneered STEM in its MBA programs. Little did I expect that, within a few months, I would be the new dean of that school and have a ringside view of our programmatic innovation and design choices.

Though the current COVID-19 pandemic will certainly disrupt many workforce projections, I can’t imagine a future where the United States and the global economy need fewer STEM graduates. The dynamic digital economy demands more people who combine excellent soft skills (design, collaboration, culture, communication, and creativity) with business acumen and contemporary technical expertise (analytics, machine learning, configuration, and coding).

Every facet of the traditional value chains, be it product management, supply chain management, financial, or talent management, is undergoing digital reinvention and reconfiguration. Transformational business models, in the form of omnichannel, platforms, or virtualization, are blending technology with new bases of economics and competitive advantage. This is true for all sectors, not just high-tech industries.

Today, MBA graduates must understand the bigger picture of how a digital economy operates and where innovation is going. It’s no longer sufficient to prepare students who can interact with technology experts. Business grads must be the technology experts and digital value creators.

Read the full post on AACSB’s website.