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How Top Business Schools Are Going AI

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We are once again answering society’s call,” said Nancy Rothbard, Deputy Dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in an announcement last month, “to address the needs of tomorrow.”

The “need” of which she speaks is the ever present question of AI; the “tomorrow,” a futuristic concept turned fast-approaching reality; and the “answer,” the school’s new collaboration with OpenAI.

The collaboration is the latest in a steady stream of business schools going AI. The move is no surprise – the statistics on how AI will shape (and, in some cases, is already shaping) the workforce are unavoidable. A recent study from the University of Pennsylvania predicted that 49% of workers may have half or more of their tasks exposed to LLMs such as ChatGPT, and Columbia Business School discovered that 76% of business owners are concerned and uncertain about the integration of AI in their operations. The question of AI is on the minds of anyone readying themselves to enter the workforce, and no more is this true for the potential leaders, managers and designers of that workforce: MBA students. There is no doubt that these students understand this – GMAC reported that 40% of prospective business school students now name AI as an essential and expected element of their curriculum. 

It seems that schools are listening to these expectations, and adapting their programs to better prepare students for the future of business. In 2023, the Graduate Business Curriculum Roundtable reported that 74% of business schools teach AI in some form on their curriculum and 19% report dedicated courses on the subject of generative AI. There’s very little doubt that business schools are going AI – the only question is, how? Here are three schools that demonstrate the workings of these changes. 

The Wharton School Partners Up With OpenAI

To begin, let’s take a look at The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and their somewhat trailblazing initiative. The school has partnered with OpenAI – famed creators of ChatGPT – the very first partnership of its kind. Through this collaboration, the business school hopes to facilitate tailored AI experiences for its students, empowering them to engage with and even to shape the future of generative AI.

What does this mean for students on the MBA program? On a material level, it means the provision of ChatGPT Enterprise licenses to all full-time students, allowing them to engage with and explore the chatbot and its uses. On a more theoretical level, it means the opportunity to work with and build on Wharton’s previous research into AI, allowing students to explore the impact of AI on – amongst other things – marketing, finance, investing, entrepreneurship and workforce productivity. The collaboration between the school and OpenAI furthers the pre-existing emphasis of the MBA on the communication between industry and academia, encouraging students to approach the topic of AI from the perspective of both. 

To facilitate its new initiatives, Wharton has established the “Wharton AI Research Fund” (for the pursuit of projects exploring the intersection of AI advancement with modern industries, business models, and economies) and the “Education Innovation Fund” (for the provision of resources with which to reimagine how AI is incorporated into classroom instruction and course materials).

Northwestern Kellogg’s New Courses and Programs

Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern Kellogg) has embraced the advent of AI through two actions. The first is the offering of multiple new AI-focused courses that explore the use of AI in business, its impact on marketing and customer analytics, and the ethics and challenges which arrive alongside its implementation. This approach is one that has proved popular amongst other leading business schools, such as Stanford University Graduate School of Business and their introduction of second-year “Business and AI” courses, or The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business’s new “Generative Thinking” course.

The second is to launch a brand new MBAi, an entire program dedicated to the intersection of business management and AI technology. At the core of the program a typical MBA program remains, but this is paired with opportunities to practice analytic technologies, learn programming languages, and get to grips with the interdependency of business and AI. Above anything else, this program is a chance for the school to showcase its creative spirit, preparing their students for careers at the intersection of business and technology and at the frontline of innovation.

Columbia Business School Explores Generative AI 

Columbia Business School, as quoted in an April Wall Street Journal report, has named “fluency with AI” as a key skill for all MBA graduates. The attitude appears to be echoed across the CBS professors – Sheena Lyengar, professor of business, mentions in the report her encouragement and training of students to use AI for the generation of business pitches and for the sourcing of different audience perspectives.

The business school has also launched a new program: “The Business of AI: Shaping the Future of Business with Generative AI,” one that aims to empower students and future business leaders to confidently tackle the challenges and embrace the opportunities of AI.

Far from a comprehensive look at the multitude of AI appearances in MBA curricula, these examples are but a select few of the many business schools going AI, adapting their curriculums and turning to technology.

Peggy Hughes
Peggy Hughes is a writer based in Berlin, Germany. She has worked in the education sector for her whole career, and loves nothing more than to help make sense of it to students, teachers and applicants.