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Inside the First MBA/MSDS Cohort at UVA Darden

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This summer, the UVA Darden School of Business welcomed the inaugural cohort of its MBA/Master of Data Science (MSDS) dual-degree program. The cohort, consisting of seven students, assembled before most other cohorts to begin taking courses in programming, systems, and statistical computing over the summer session. The courses were offered at the UVA Data Science Institute and considered part of the first term of the MSDS degree. In total, the MBA/MSDS degree is two years in length and will prepare students for a future career in business and cutting-edge technology.

The inaugural cohort is made up of students from a variety of backgrounds ranging from marketing research to computer software consulting. The program was designed to have wide appeal for anyone interested in pursuing a business career in a data-heavy industry or job function.

“It’s perfect for someone on the fence between some sort of engineering higher degree and an MBA,” Ab Boxley, one of the initial cohort members, explained in a recent blog post. “At business school, I was initially worried that I was not going to get all of the quantitative components I wanted, so when this program appeared, it was the perfect situation—it’s a unique value-add.”

The MBA/MSDS program is one of a flurry of recent offerings at leading business schools coming in response to increasing demand from both recruiters and students. UVA hopes that its addition to the field will give students a unique and valuable set of skills that will prepare them for a wide range of senior positions in technology and consulting. And while students in the cohort haven’t finalized their internships or long-term career plans yet, some say they have already seen beneficial returns.

As part of a recent webinar discussing the program, Karen Li, a consultant and app developer from Beijing also enrolled in the inaugural cohort, said that being able to include proficiency in programming languages such as R and Python on her resume has been valuable. Steve Mortensen, who worked as a consultant for a computer software company before beginning the program, said: “All of the major consulting firms, management consulting firms, strategy consulting firms, have been investing a tremendous amount of money in building out their data science capabilities in the last five years.”

Raj Venkatesan, director of the MBA/MSDS program, explained that the new dual-degree program was developed as an answer to a problem presented by various alumni and prospective employers. “Every aspect of business including strategic thinking, talent management, operations, finance, and marketing is being affected by data, and MBA graduates are expected to have knowledge of the functional aspects of business and be able to use data effectively to make strategic business decisions,” he said. “The dual-degree program with Data Science is designed to help students achieve this. It provides the breadth of a general management program and the depth of a data science degree.”

To learn more about the MBA/MSDS dual-degree program, visit the school website. Interested students must apply for admission to Darden first, submit a supplemental application to the DSI, and be admitted by both programs. The deadline to submit a Round 2 application for Darden is January 9, 2018. The supplemental DSI application is due by January 16, 2018. Admissions decisions for Round 2 for the MBA/MSDS program will be sent out by March 21, 2018.

Kelly Vo
Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and topics related to personal development. She has been working in the MBA space for the past four years in research, interview, and writing roles.