Category: Academic Programs

Financial Times Ranks BU EMBA 1st In New England, 27th In US

October 20th, 2014 in EMBA, News, Press Release, Rankings

The 2014 Financial Times ranking of executive MBA programs around the world has placed Boston University School of Management 1st in New England, and 27th among US-based EMBA programs.

Globally, BU’s Executive MBA program was ranked 69th, up 12 places from the 2013 ranking. In addition, the BU EMBA continues to select a remarkably experienced class, ranking 3rd in work experience among US-based programs and 23rd overall.

Data from alumni questionnaires (including areas such as “salary today” and “aims achieved”) accounts for 55 percent of the ranking’s weight. These criteria include data collated by Financial Times over the past three years, where available. Data supplied by the school accounts for 35 percent, and faculty research published in particular leading journals accounts for the final 10 percent.

“The BU Executive MBA draws exceptional mid-career leaders from throughout New England and beyond,” said Jonathan Lehrich, associate dean for executive education. “The result, as these rankings indicate, is an ongoing community of highly satisfied alumni. They’re proud of what they’d accomplished as they joined the BU EMBA, and of what they and their classmates have achieved—because of each other.”

See the full 2014 Financial Times executive MBA ranking here.

Digital Field Experiments

October 9th, 2014 in PhD

Designing and analyzing large-scale randomized experiments in digital, platform and online social network environments to understanding economic and behavioral processes, such as measuring social influence and estimating the dynamics of contagious phenomena.

Contact – Dylan Walker

Retail Analytics

September 22nd, 2014 in PhD

What are the factors that are responsible for a purchase being returned? How do we uncover different paths the customers take to a purchase? These are some of the questions we are seeking to answer in this project using large customer activity datasets. The insights and methods developed in this research could allow a retailer to better plan reverse logistics, improve targeted advertising, and intervene at the best time during a customer’s path-to-purchase. Learn more.
By: Nachiketa Sahoo

Understanding Consumption in the New Sharing Economy

September 22nd, 2014 in PhD

For much of its existence, humanity operated with a shared economy model. The lack of resources and the daily fight for survival required that early hunter gathers and agricultural communities pool resources in a manner that reduced waste and extracted the maximum value from a limited pool of resources. With the industrial revolution and the rise of the consumer society consumption became much more individualized.

Along with the immense increase in individual wealth arose a socio-economic system in which most of our personal resources became less efficiently utilized, while at the same time, the efficiency of manufacturing and commercial resources rose. The last two decades has brought to the fore various factors that have put this socio-economic system under strain: the growing threat of climate change, limitations on the use of energy-based resources, geo-economic imbalances that have brought into the system billions of emerging market consumers. One reaction to these changes has been a shift in values and a felt pressure to be more individually efficient in the use of resources via what is now termed “the sharing economy”.

The sharing economy encompasses a host of activities, technologies and organizations and is a modern advance on the early ideas of Felson and Spaeth (1978) around “collaborative consumption”. While still nascent, the sharing economy has some clear iconic success stories – AirBnB, Zipcar, RentTheRunway—and is estimated by Forbes to amount to approximately $3.5B with growth in excess of 25% per annum. Despite the growing importance of the sharing economy, little structured academic research has examined the shared economy, from basic motivations of consumers to be involved or not involved in accessing rather than owning goods to the essential differences in meaning and experience that sharing versus owning creates. This collaborative research project with Royal Holloway University of London seeks to understand the cultural underpinnings of an understanding of what the sharing economy is and how it is and can be enacted in people’s everyday lives.
By: Susan Fournier

What Does Reputation Buy in the Options Market? The Effect of Reporting Consistency on Ex Ante Uncertainty.

September 22nd, 2014 in PhD

We show that firms, which deliver continuous strings of meeting or beating earnings expectations, experience reduced uncertainty in the marketplace. This suggests that managerial reputation for repeatedly hitting such earnings targets is priced by the options markets. This paper is targeted for publication in a top accounting research journal by clarifying our understanding of both the role of managerial reporting reputation in the pricing of equity shares, as well as the drivers of volatility in the marketplace.
By: Thaddeus Neururer, George Papadakis, Eddie Riedel

Do Boards Exercise Discretion to Reduce Costly Ex Post Settling Up?

September 22nd, 2014 in PhD

We show that boards of directors use their discretion to minimize compensation given to senior executives for unrealized gains – that is, gains reported by the firm but not yet realized in cash. This is important, as boards wish to avoid paying executives for gains that fail to materialize, and then having to engage in costly actions to recoup this compensation. This paper is targeted for publication in a top accounting research journal by adding to the extensive literature on senior executive compensation, a high profile topic of public interest.
By:Ana Albuquerque; Bingyi Chen; Flora Dong; Eddie Riedl

Platform Economics & Strategy

August 21st, 2014 in PhD

This research stream examines the rising development of platform firms and business ecosystems such as Android, Airbnb, Kickstarter, and Pinterest. How is innovation different in this context? Should crowds displace experts? Can we measure the health of an ecosystem and determine where to intervene?  Should governments adopt platform strategies to grow their economies? How can new firms launch and overcome critical mass problems.  Can we change the structure of an entire industry by placing strategic bets? This research will involve both econometric analysis of big data and analytic theory development.

Contact – Marshall Van Alstyne

Information Economics & Intellectual Property

August 21st, 2014 in PhD

In a Remix economy, how should we allocate credit and $$ to the people who create a composite good? How can we rethink intellectual property to permit more “permissionless innovation” and allow more great software, music, art, and writing to be produced?  This project explores several analytic models of credit attribution and also visualization for reused works.  We will also run live experiments on remix projects in an effort to develop broad policy implications.

Contact – Marshall Van Alstyne

Improved Healthcare Through Machine Learning

August 21st, 2014 in PhD

We are focused on leveraging recent advances in Machine Learning to improve both the administration and delivery of healthcare. Examples of ongoing projects include:

  • The inference of physician social networks from administrative data, and its use in understanding the impact of insurance structure and coverage restrictions
  • The prediction of patient re-admissions from administrative, demographic, and chart-level data as well as potential interventions to prevent such readmission
  • The analysis of the raw data in new HIV blood-testing machines which will be deployed to the developing world, attempting to make them as accurate as contemporary western machines without the need for grid power, refrigerated chemicals, or highly trained technicians.

Through the development and refinement of machine learning methods, there are many significant gains to be made in these and related areas.

Contact – Ben Lubin

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A Date with Data

May 12th, 2014 in Academic Programs, Graduate Students, MBA, News, Students, Uncategorized

Trip to Watson Research Center demonstrates blossoming partnership between SMG and IBM

By Tom Vellner (COM’13)

It’s 6 a.m. on a Friday morning and Associate Professor of Information Systems Paul Carlile is handing out brown bags to a group of MBA students on a coach bus. Inside each is a bottle of orange juice, a granola bar, and a tangerine. As the business-casual group digs into these homemade breakfast kits, the scene resembles an elementary school field trip gone professional. The students are headed to the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center to meet Watson, the Jeopardy!-winning supercomputer, and present their big ideas to IBM executives.

The 20 MBA students traveling to the Watson Research Center, located in Yorktown Heights, NY, weren’t selected at random. On March 6, they and their fellow first-year MBAs competed in the IBM Business Challenge at Boston University School of Management as part of the Module 3 portion of the newly launched MBA curriculum. The challenge called on student teams to present solutions to issues that IBM faces in a variety of areas, such as life science, big data, and social business, in front of a panel of IBM executives. After firing questions at the students, the panel analyzed all nine presentations and announced the top three.

Much like the golden ticket in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the three winning teams received an IBM-blue ticket to meet Watson and dine with IBM CIO and SMG alumna Jeanette Horan (GSM’93). One month later, on April 4, the teams found themselves wide-eyed and inspired during a tour of the research facilities, where there are no chocolate streams or Oompa Loompas, but equally enthralling technology that’s on track to change the world.


The winners of the IBM Business Challenge each received a “golden ticket” to meet Watson.

Inside the secret lair-like research center, which sits on a grassy hill surrounded by acres of woods, is a room buzzing with the sound of a cluster of 90 IBM Power 750 servers. The cluster’s name is Watson, and it glows a mesmerizing indigo. IBM scientists began developing this cognitive technology in 2007, which processes information more like a human than a computer. Watson reads and understands natural language, producing hypotheses from disparate data.

Generating 15 trillion bytes of data (roughly the size of the material in the Library of Congress), as well as fascination from the MBA visitors, the supercomputer not only won Jeopardy! in 2011 against the beloved game show’s two greatest champions, but also, by analyzing large amounts of unstructured text and developing hypotheses grounded in that analysis, helps fight cancer with evidence-based diagnoses and treatment. And it’s only getting smarter. Through repeated use, Watson is constantly presented with new information and learns from prior interactions, both successes and failures. What makes Watson special, and critical for the future, is its ability to analyze the inordinate amount of growing and unstructured data today.

“After learning about IBM’s business and current projects, it was amazing to see the actual research in process,” says Liz Nerad (MBA’15). “The multitude of projects that IBM is doing is really a testament to the evolving landscape of information technology, where there are constantly new applications for IBM’s innovative thinking.”


Watson may be the key to structuring today’s overwhelming amount of growing data. Photos by Tom Vellner

The MBA students hear about Watson’s potential to revolutionize healthcare, and even online shopping, during their tour, which concludes with an opportunity to meet and eat with Horan. The CIO speaks about her path from SMG student to IBM leader, addressing students that may one day fill her shoes. After all, the collaboration between SMG and IBM, introduced into the curriculum for the first time this year, was designed to do just that: arm MBA students with skills that extend far beyond the classroom, skills that prepare them to tackle complex issues that companies are facing as technology rapidly transforms.

“IBM can gain value from this relationship in a number of ways,” says Carol Sormilic, IBM vice president and executive liaison to SMG during the spring semester. “There is the obvious goal of the program, which is giving students that real-world experience they can take with them and use in any new position, but there’s also the ability for us to look at what we do from the fresh perspective that the students bring. Seeing our challenges through their eyes has been one of my favorite parts of the process.”

Displaying their skills, the three winning teams present their solutions once again to a new panel of IBM judges that includes Horan. The first, focused on life science, offers a solution for mitigating the risk of a “patent cliff” for biopharmaceutical companies; the second lays out a strategy to combat homelessness in Boston by utilizing big data and the cloud; and the third illustrates a new model for IBM’s social business platform. Horan notes the depth and detail of each presentation, stating how impressed she is with the students’ work—but not before asking tough questions that the teams handle with poise. Whether their solutions will be implemented at IBM is unclear, but, judging by the panel’s intrigued expressions and questions, it’s obvious that a seed has been planted.

“Presenting to the IBM executives was a great experience to get feedback outside of the academic setting,” says Nerad. “The best part was that the IBM executives interjected with questions or comments along the way, which probably more accurately reflects how real-world proposals go. The instant feedback forced us to be quick on our feet to answer accordingly in that exact moment.”


A former MBA herself, Horan addresses the students during lunch.

The benefit of integrating the world’s top technology provider into the MBA curriculum is twofold. The students are given the chance to interact with leading executives and demonstrate their ability to produce thorough research, think critically, and solve real industry issues—what one might consider the ultimate job interview.

“The concepts from the classroom are reinforced this way,” says Carlile. “The students know they have to take a concept, grow it, and bring it to life in front of executives. It’s an immediate relevancy.”

On the flip side, by prompting them with actual situations that arise in the company, IBM has the chance to tap into the viewpoints of rising MBA students, and possibly meet their next employees.

“By bringing in a live business partner, we can shrink the gap between knowledge and application even faster,” says Carlile. “We’re creating a new engagement model of business education between companies, faculty, and students. It’s challenging to do, but this kind of engagement creates more value for everyone involved.”

After smiles, sighs of relief, and photos with Horan, the students board the bus and return to Boston with more than gift shop souvenirs. They now have a direct connection to IBM, as well as an understanding of what’s needed to thrive in a workforce that’s quickly evolving—important, considering their future coworker could be a computer that processes 500 gigabytes, the equivalent of a million books, per second.

Tom Vellner can be reached at