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Johnson Graduate School of Management to Change Core Curriculum

Cornell JohnsonMBA students will find a new core curriculum that places greater focus on leadership and modeling and analytics when they arrive on campus at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management in the fall. Planned changes to the core also include shifting the timing of the courses to better accommodate an increasingly intense recruiting environment.

Johnson’s core has remained relatively unchanged for the past decade, though individual course are constantly adjusted to reflect feedback gathered from students, alumni and recruiters. The changes planned for next year are the result of a systematic reevaluation of the entire curriculum undertaken by the administration. They were outlined in a recent article by Jeffery Gordon, MBA ’15, in the Cornell Business Journal.

Johnson Associate Dean Douglas Stayman chaired the review committee, which included both faculty and staff members. The review process took place over three years and included focus groups with students and alumni as well as a survey sent to more than a thousand recruiters, students and alumni, Gordon reports.

The purpose of the survey was to gauge how effectively the existing Johnson curriculum met the needs of each of these constituencies. Respondents were asked to benchmark Johnson students and alumni against graduates from other business schools on a range of skills and then indicate how important they felt those skills were in today’s workplace. According to Stayman, feedback was consistent across all three groups and defined several key areas of improvement for the school, chief among them being leadership and communication, modeling, analytical skills and better preparation for internship interviews.

“The new core curriculum seeks to address each of these issues,” writes Gordon. “The most important change is to the way Johnson teaches leadership, which the new core will address in a more systematic fashion.”

Specifically, leadership development will be a part of MBA students’ full two years at Johnson, beginning with a course called “Leading Teams” in August prior to the first year, continuing with “Critical and Strategic Thinking” in the second half of the fall semester, and culminating with “Principled Leadership” in the first half of the fall in the second year.

To address the call for greater focus on modeling and analytics, the existing “Statistics” course will be redesigned into a course tentatively called “Data Analytics and Modeling,” to be taught by Professor Bill Schmidt.

Finally, because the recruiting process at business schools has changed significantly over the past ten years, the timing of the core courses has been adjusted to reflect the fact that recruiting for internships now begins much closer to the start of the year. “Many students and alumni complained about the course load during the heavy internship recruiting season, and many recruiters commentated that Johnson students were underprepared for their interviews,” Gordon writes. Recognizing this, “Critical and Strategic Thinking” is now scheduled for the fall semester to help students be better prepared for interviews. Meanwhile, the total number of credit hours in the second half of the fall semester will be reduced from 7.5 to 6.5, to lessen the workload when recruiting is in full swing.

The core courses have likewise been adjusted in the spring semester. “Data Analytics and Modeling” and “Operations” will now run concurrently over the course of the entire spring semester, but each course will only be 10 weeks long. To provide more time for recruiting and end-of-semester projects, core classes will not be held the first two or last two weeks of the semester.

Learn more about upcoming changes to Johnson’s core curriculum.