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Johnson Graduate School of Management Upends Its Curriculum

JohnsonlogowebAs some leading business schools prepare to welcome new deans – Darden and Tuck spring to mind – others are choosing to revamp their MBA curriculum. The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Harvard Business School and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management have all recast their core course offerings in recent years, and now the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University is getting in on the curriculum overhaul action.

Johnson recently went public with its redesigned curriculum, providing an overview of its main features as part of a press release earlier this month. Now in full roll-out mode to the Class of 2016, the changes are designed to place greater emphasis on collaboration, leadership and analytical skills, which the school hopes will better prepare students for today’s technology-driven global business world.

The curriculum redesign is the culmination of a comprehensive two-year review process the school launched in 2011. Through student and alumni focus groups, peer benchmarking and surveys of students, alumni, corporate recruiters, faculty and staff, the review process reached more than 1,000 participants from the last 12 MBA class years and identified three priority areas for redesigned coursework and programming,

To address the first area, modeling and decision analysis, Johnson has enhanced one of its required courses, Data Analytics and Modeling, to teach students not only statistics but also data modeling and Big Data techniques and strategies. In addition, modeling has been worked into a number of other courses to help students develop analytical skills across business disciplines.

The second priority area identified for development was personal and leadership skills. As part of the redesign, every Johnson student will complete a targeted curriculum focused specifically on leadership. This personalized program begins before classes even start, with individual assessment and feedback. Over the course of the first year, students will complete a range of coursework, case exercises, and hands-on leadership training as part of the Leading Teams Practicum. In the second year, they will take a course called Principled Leadership, in which instructors will teach intensives on leadership topics. Throughout the two-year MBA program, students will also participate in Leadership Skills workshops and Leadership Expeditions.

The third priority area identified was integrative and critical thinking skills. Based on the findings of the review, Johnson has placed a new emphasis on helping students in their first semester of MBA study to learn and practice critical thinking skills. Specific assignments and exercises will force students to analyze, integrate and synthesize information in an attempt to make optimal decisions even in the face of challenges, like incomplete, inaccurate or ambiguous information.

“We are committed to being one of the top business schools in the world, and that means refining our curriculum to speak to a complex business environment,” Vishal Gaur, associate dean for MBA programs, said in a statement. “Our new curriculum reflects the findings of the curriculum review, as well as industry and research trends in leadership, collaborative teamwork and data analytics.”

Learn more about Johnson’s curriculum overhaul, as well as the new elective courses it now offers.