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.
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.”
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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boston University School of Management’s full-time MBA program placed 45th on US News & World Report‘s list of “America’s Best Graduate Schools.” The part-time program ranked 34th on the list of the “Best Part-Time MBA Programs.”
US News & World Report republished its Healthcare Management rankings, where the School’s Health Sector MBA remained 11th overall. Additionally, the School’s recruiter assessment score improved, showing increased employer satisfaction.
The full-time ranking is based on peer school and recruiter surveys, placement success, and incoming student profiles. The part-time ranking is based on peer school surveys, average GMAT score and average GRE quantitative and verbal scores of entering part-time MBA students, work experience, the percentage of the school’s MBA enrollment that is part-time, and their average undergraduate GPA.
As the School celebrates its centennial, it continues to foster innovation across the MBA program, launching an enhanced curriculum in fall 2013. The new curriculum both prepares students for a rapidly changing global economy and offers deeper disciplinary learning opportunities.
Boston University School of Management’s MBA program placed 46th globally and 28th nationally on CNN Expansión‘s list of the “Best MBA in Mexico and the World.” The ranking represents a one-spot jump for the School among US MBA programs.
Expansión releases an annual ranking of Global MBA programs, which takes into account a variety of measures, including student quality, faculty research, and school positioning in the Mexican market.
An internationally focused ranking, the School’s placement on Expansión‘s list demonstrates its fervent mission and strategic vision to “Create Value for the World.” Drawing on positive support and recognition from a broad business community, the School continues to enhance its MBA program in order to provide a world-class educational experience and prepare its students for a shifting global economy.
View the full list of rankings here.
The School rose an impressive 20 spots internationally to 75th
Boston University School of Management’s full-time MBA program ranked 39th among US schools on the Financial Times‘ list of the top global MBA programs. The ranking represents a five-spot jump nationally for the School.
Internationally, the school experienced a 20-spot jump to 75th, an impressive shift that tied for the largest gain of any ranked school.
According to alumni responses, which account for nearly 60 percent of the ranking’s weight, BU SMG ranked 39th globally for the number of alumni who recommended the School. Not only is the School producing alumni who find the MBA program fulfilling, it is also attracting faculty who are greatly enhancing their experience. SMG’s research rank rose four spots to 51st in the world, demonstrating the outstanding work of the School’s firm base of scholars and teachers, including 12 new full-time faculty who began this fall.
“Boston University School of Management’s MBA program provides our exemplary students with a challenging, integrated experience that engages them in key forces transforming our global economy,” said Kenneth W. Freeman, Allen Questrom Professor and Dean. “As our School celebrates its centennial, we are thrilled to see this tremendous external recognition of the strength of the MBA program and faculty.”
At the turn of the School’s first century, it reflects on its first 100 years and looks toward the future, fostering innovation across the MBA program by launching an enhanced curriculum in fall 2013. The new curriculum both prepares students for a shifting global economy and allows for deeper disciplinary learning opportunities.
See the Financial Times‘ full list of rankings here.
Student work analyzed, celebrated
Senior editor of Fortune Ryan Bradley sat in on a recent case competition held by Boston University School of Management, which hosted teams of MBA students from around the world. The teams pitched ideas for a company that they believed would revolutionize health care—and earn them $22,500, plus the support of the event’s two hosts, Merck and Microsoft, to launch their startup. “Interested in seeing what bright MBAs-to-be were dreaming up as viable business solutions to different health care crises,” Bradley attended the competition, ultimately finding a theme within it: gamifying the system.
One of the many difficulties in treating chronic diseases is that one must adhere to a strict medical regimen and see it through to the end of its prescription. Chronic disease demands chronic medication. Taking medication is no fun, but the idea that it might be made a game is, at least, as old as Mary Poppins. The cost of not adhering to the full prescription of drugs is hundreds of billions of dollars in ongoing medical expenses, to say nothing of all the money lost by a drug manufacturer like Merck. At the BU case competition, the solution to patient recidivism wasn’t a spoonful of sugar but an app on your smartphone, an app that was, without fail, some kind of a game.
Bradley notes that the judges were not impressed by gamifying health care, as there is no guarantee that taking a pill can be fun, or that users can be trusted to enter accurate information, such as meals eaten or medication taken, into their smartphones. However, a clear winner finally emerged, touted by the Fortune editor as “startlingly different” and a “tangible solution to a real problem.”
A winner had to be announced by the end of day two, though I was growing weary and skeptical. How refreshing, then, when a team presented an idea startlingly different from all the others. It wasn’t a piece of software at all, but a backpack, filled with durable hardware (solar powered battery charger, lensless microscope, blood diagnostic tests, pulse oximeter) for collecting vital, and valuable, health data. The team was focused on collecting data from the developing world, where much of the population goes unrecorded, but the concept would work in the U.S., too, or anywhere else with people who have limited access to health services.
Read the full piece here.
The ranking represents a 17-spot jump for the School
Boston University School of Management’s MBA program rose 17 places to rank 44th among US schools on Forbes’ list of “The Best Business Schools.” This increase is the second largest gain of any ranked school.
This is Forbes’ eighth biennial ranking and is based on a formula that considers the return on investment for completing an MBA program. Using information from the class of 2008, Forbes compared alumni salaries upon entry to the MBA program, at graduation, and salary growth over the next five years. This information was then combined with the opportunity cost of pursing the MBA, including forgone salary and tuition, to determine a student’s return on their investment in an MBA education.
“Graduates of the class of 2008 were able to advance their careers upon completing the MBA program despite facing a harsh economic environment,” said Kenneth W. Freeman, Allen Questrom Professor and Dean. “Today’s leaders face disruption and transformation, and SMG develops graduates who are ready to tackle these issues, drive change, and lead.”
As the School celebrates its centennial, it continues to foster innovation across the MBA program, launching an enhanced curriculum in fall 2013. The new curriculum both exposes students to key forces transforming the global economy and provides for deeper disciplinary learning opportunities.
See Forbes‘ full story and list of rankings here.
“We want the students to get to know each other, hear new ideas, explore the city, and prepare for what lies ahead.” Those were the goals Assistant Dean Kathie Nolan of the Graduate Programs Office (GPO) set for the School’s full-time MBAs in Pre-Term, the two-week period before the full fall semester begins. From the looks of the student evaluations, the program was a sound success.
The full-time MBA class of 2014 and the International MBA class of 2013 arrived on campus Monday, August 13 and have been busy ever since. (In twelve weeks this summer, the IMBA students completed half of their core courses and will now be able to complete their MBA in just two more semesters.)
“It was probably our best-run program ever,” said Gail Justino-Miller, director of the GPO. “We put a lot of effort into it because it’s more than an orientation; it sets a tone for their whole two years. Emily Libby, assistant director of the GPO, led the effort and did a tremendous job.”
Team building was the first assignment of the program. Following lunch on their first full day, the faculty divided students into approximately 25 teams of six or seven students each for the GPS Urban Adventure. Each team was given an older generation GPS with several prefixed coordinates, a few pages of notes (with cryptic hints), and then assigned to go find locations in Boston and be back at 4 p.m. GPS Urban Adventure coordinator Paul Hutchinson, lecturer of organizational behavior, said, “The aim of the event is to help students begin recognizing the broad range of different strengths individuals can bring to a team. Along the way, when they get to each site, they also have to complete a small exercise. They start off as introductory assignments but build to become more reflective.”
Hutchinson emphasized that it wasn’t a scavenger hunt. It was about students observing each other in a non-competitive but goal-driven task. The team members were designed by faculty to maximize diversity. On Team B2 for example, were Ziad Abdelhafez of Egypt, Naid Alsedais of Saudi Arabia, Jonah Heilman of Israel, Jayanthi Selvaraj of India, and Americans Beth Haber, Cory Peterson, and Chris Tolles (all MBA’14). When the teams reported back in, the students and faculty discussed who took what roles and shared insights about what worked and what didn’t. “Who would hurry to volunteer to hold the GPS—to be in control?” said Hutchinson. “Who displayed better spatial abilities? Who was good at solving the language puzzles? This knowledge will come in handy later when they have team assignments in actual classes.”
The day ended with a cookout on BU Beach, where students shared origins, longer-term goals, Boston tips, and why they chose the BU MBA. Selvaraj was impressed with the MS•MBA dual-degree option. “The School has such a good reputation—I was accepted at several schools, but the MS•MBA plus Boston’s position as a high-tech business center made this the right choice for me.” Diego De La Mora (MBA’14) of Mexico chose BU partly because of Boston. He had visited the city before and loved it. “My wife and I wanted to attend an MBA program in the same city but different schools. I chose BU for its strong program; she chose Babson. We’re living in Chestnut Hill to split the travel difference.” He’s considering a concentration in operations management.
Pre-Term also includes an introductory event for spouses, partners, and significant others.
During the two weeks of Pre-Term, students learn about the curriculum, set up their IT requirements, meet advisors and financial aid personnel, and experience several team-building exercises. They also have a full briefing on the Academic Conduct Code, and meetings with Feld Career Center staff concerning interviews, elevator pitches, joining a career community, and more. During 16 hours of the second week, students take their first class, Ethics, Values, and Social Responsibility.
“Ethics does not equal morality,” says Rachel Spooner, lawyer and lecturer in the markets, public policy & law department, addressing the first-year MBA students in the first class. “An individual or organization can be ethical if it makes his or its decisions in alignment with his or its values.”
That may be a new definition for many, who feel no moral person can make an unethical decision, or that an immoral decision might simultaneously be an ethical one. Working through several case studies, the students wrestle with ethical dilemmas. “The point of the course,” says Spooner, “is to teach the skill of determining when decisions are ethical.”
Spooner began developing the course in December with Associate Professor Jack McCarthy of the organizational behavior department, who added, “What we wanted was to start everyone off with a certain mindset. It’s the first course for a reason: to help students lay a foundation for the rest of their lives.”
Nina Desai (MBA’14, HSM) of UCLA (neuroscience undergrad from Santa Monica, Calif.) says, “This material is really important—and necessary—to address. There are multiple aspects to address in many ethical situations. This gave us a way to ask if we are consciously acting in an unethical manner. Of course, as we discussed cases, we were not as definitive as you might think.”
One event was a discussion on cross-cultural relations, led by consultant and SMG lecturer Beth Rogers of Point Taken. Students from the International MBA cohort helped lead discussion sections, having already gone through a similar experience themselves. In 90 percent of the student evaluations, students wished there were more time spent on the topic, so it will likely be expanded next year.
Organizational Behavior Lecturer Jim French, who taught one of the Ethics sections, commented, “These students are very bright, and issues such as ethics and cultural sensitivity are top of mind for them, perhaps more so than in years past. I felt there was a sincere desire to be different in their career, to make better choices than the corrupt and criminal examples we discussed in some of the ethics cases.”
All the incoming full-time students participated in the community service project, spread over a dozen venues in the city. Students volunteered at Boston Food Bank, Cradles to Crayons, and Learning Ally, helped clean up the Charles River shoreline, and more.
The two-week program concluded with a day at the Warren Conference Center in Ashland, Massachusetts, where students engaged in a friendly competition and team-building experience in an outdoor setting. At the Warren Center, students were paired with others from different cohorts, to further expand acquaintances.
Marwan Kanafani (MBA/MPH’14) said, “The Grad Programs Office did a great job first getting us comfortable with each other, and then organizing events, which allowed us to build relationships before we dive into the intensive group projects coming this semester.” He added that the day at the Warren Conference Center perfectly capped off the experience. “After two weeks of cerebral work, they knew we must have been physically restless. So that day we were able to illustrate behaviors we learned in classrooms. And we let it all out.”
Other student-written evaluations of the day included comments such as, “It was a challenge, but it was appropriate.” And perhaps more tellingly, “I’m tired! Looking forward to regular classes.”
Justino-Miller described the events at the Warren Center as “fantastic.” She said, “It was possibly our best trip there in years in terms of student enthusiasm and satisfaction. The level of camaraderie and community building was just great.” Assistant Director of Academic Advising Betsy Dick added, “I loved that they took it upon themselves to synchronize just jumping off the dock together like little kids. At the end of an intense week, they were just so comfortable with each other. That’s what you hope for.”
As Professor Tim Hall, Morton H. and Charlotte Friedman Professor in Management, said, “It takes a lot of work to make something look effortless. Kathie Nolan and Emily Libby (and their committee) deserve a huge amount of credit for the success of the Pre-Term.” Diane Reamer of the Feld Career Center, Hall, Patti Cudney, assistant dean of Graduate Admissions, Spooner, and second-year MBA student Lili Emad (MBA’13) were all essential to the program’s success.
Following Pre-Term, during the week of August 27-30, the students completed a summer intensive in organizational behavior. Hall teaches one of the sections of the OB Intensive, and said the previous week’s introduction to ethics was evident in his class. “In areas where I used to point out to students (such as organizational values) that there was an ethical area, now students are bringing it up first. This is a new phenomenon. This will make it easier for faculty to keep these themes prominent in classes going forward.”
The full schedule began September 4.
BU Again Hosts 16 MBA Teams in Seventh Annual Event
Seven years ago, Associate Dean John Chalykoff initiated a unique business case competition at Boston University based on the strategic application of IT principles. It has grown to be a signature School of Management event.
The International Tech Strategy Business Case Competition invites 15 teams representing top business schools from all over the world to join host BU. (This year that list includes Harvard, Oxford, and Duke, as well as schools from Hong Kong, Spain, Mexico, and South Korea.) It allows students to not only compete for a $25,000 first prize, but also put their knowledge on display in front of several major players in the fields of IT and telecommunications.
The seventh annual competition is scheduled for March 29-31, 2012.
“It’s an opportunity to showcase the best students in the world around IT strategy,” Chalykoff said. “The stature of the competition has grown to the point where we now have several universities on the waiting list wanting to get in.”
In order to select its own team for the big event, BU holds an internal tournament consisting of at least 12 teams every January. Alumni, faculty, and a venture capitalist serve as judges. The 2012 BU team is John Bry, Mikhail Gurevich, Kevin Harder, and Mike Rabinovich.
This year, the 16 teams will be presented with a case on the morning of Friday, March 30. They will then have 24 sleepless hours to compile their data, construct their argument, and prepare their most effective presentation for the judges. Last year’s case was centered on the question, “How should Ericsson shape the future of the health care and energy sectors?” It was won by the University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business.
Todd Valentine (MS•MBA’12), an SMG student with a strategy and innovation concentration, is serving as committee chair for this year’s event. He believes one of the main benefits of the competition has been its fostering of a healthy relationship between BU and Ericsson—this will be the company’s fifth straight year as the event’s presenting sponsor.
“Without Ericsson the competition wouldn’t be possible,” Valentine said. “Last year the company’s CEO, Hans Vestberg, attended and will be attending again this year. This event really gives interested students a lot of exposure to Ericsson and the other way around. It allows the company to cherry-pick the best and the brightest.”
For last year’s contest, several executives from Ericsson traveled to Boston to immerse themselves in an intensive executive education course at BU. They then participated in a collaborative mini-case where the student teams were broken up and randomly reconstructed to include Ericsson’s executives. “People made some strong connections during that collaboration,” Valentine said. “The networking part of it is a pretty large draw.”
“The competition leads to school spirit, students working with executives, and a chance to interact with students from different schools. It brings together the world’s most respected IT-oriented MBA programs and creates an enthusiastic experience while advancing innovative ideas about real-world business issues,” says Chalykoff.
by Michael Pina
Health Sector MBAs Solve Digital Marketing Case
By Lauren Dezenski
The team representing Boston University’s Health Care Management MBA program won it all on February 24 at the MIT Sloan 2012 Healthcare Case Competition. The theme was Digital Marketing for Healthcare.
Michael Barrett, Timothy Chanoux, Anshuman Mirani, and Matthew Scott (all MBA’13) shared the $4,000 first-place check.
The BU MBA Health Sector students faced teams from Harvard, MIT, Babson, and Cornell. “It was really an honor to represent BU in this competition against so many good schools. It was an honor and exciting to come out on top,” said Chanoux.
“Plus, we had a great time. It was great to meet a number of teams that all had great ideas,” Mirani added.
First, the teams had to submit a qualifying application. Of the eighteen submissions, ten teams, including BU, were chosen for the competition. “We were given the case one week in advance of the presentation day,” Mirani said. “We used the first days for brainstorming to be sure to cover all of our bases. That process really helped, and it’s something that is a product of our education here at BU. At the competition, the Q&A’s went really well, specifically because we debated all of these things among ourselves beforehand.”
After making it through one round of presenting followed by a Q&A session, BU and one of three MIT teams were named the two finalists. Following the two presentations, “it took the judges 30 to 45 minutes to deliberate. We were expecting it to be ten minutes, but it shows how tough the competition was,” said Chanoux.
The case was about developing a strategy for the launch of a kidney cancer drug by AVEO Pharmaceuticals (the sponsoring firm), which has just passed Phase III trials. Given the relatively small size and constrained marketing budget for AVEO, the teams had to design a digital media strategy. “We especially liked that all of the information in the case was actual market research done by AVEO, and it was a real business problem that they are currently facing,” Mirani continued. “The judging panel included senior members of the management team of the company and other senior leaders from consulting as well as other health care organizations such as Veritas Health Systems.”
“General feedback from the judges, and the reason we probably won,” said Scott, “was that we had three very different concepts. We were the only group to talk about accountable care; we were the only team to come up with a name for the drug; and we were the only team to brand the research effort. Our BU preparation absolutely helped, especially with the accountable care. The education helped us have a good sense of these things. When we got to finals, we really won with our Q&A.”
Boston University’s Executive MBA Program has been ranked 20th globally and #1 in New England according to The Wall Street Journal’s 2010 survey of top EMBA Programs.
The 2010 Wall Street Journal ranking of Executive MBA programs was compiled by surveying thousands of students and hundreds of companies about the quality of EMBA programs and how well they deliver on improving management and leadership skills.
” The ‘real world’ experience of the professors was evident. Their advice and guidance is consistent with the current business world.”
–Recent EMBA Alumnus
The Wall Street Journal’s Executive MBA rankings are based on three components: a survey of recent EMBA graduates (BU placed 14th), a survey of companies familiar with EMBA programs (BU placed 27th), and surveys of recent graduates and companies to determine how well schools impart crucial management and leadership skills (BU placed 18th). The BU EMBA program placed in the top third of reported survey elements, including Program Quality, Faculty Quality, Classmate Quality, and Immediately Applicable Coursework. The BU EMBA program also had the sixth lowest total program cost overall and the lowest tuition of all U.S. private universities listed.
“We are proud to offer a very high quality, economical Executive MBA Program for our students, and heartened by the satisfaction of our EMBA alumni,” said Kenneth W. Freeman, Allen Questrom Professor and Dean of Boston University School of Management.
“Students are able to provide immediate value to their organizations by being exposed to a rich management curriculum specifically designed for executives, while gaining perspective from classmates in diverse industries,” said Janice Dolnick, Director of BU’s Executive MBA Program.
For additional information about the BU Executive MBA Program, please visit www.discoverBUEMBA.com.
Full coverage of The Wall Street Journal’s EMBA Rankings can be found here.
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