New MIT Sloan Majors Draw Students

MIT Sloan School of Management

MIT Sloan School of Management

Last year only nine MIT students declared a business major. This year, there were more than twice as many, likely thanks to a major department restructuring.

In January, MIT Sloan announced it would no longer have a single business major with specialized concentrations in finance, marketing, or information technology. Instead, Sloan students may now pick between three majors: finance, business analytics, and management.

“There had been less and less interest in our major over the past few years. But there was a lot of popularity in business analytics and finance, and we saw opportunities to create very attractive majors for the undergraduates,” says Professor Jim Orlin, who served on a committee investigating whether the new majors were a good idea. Orlin is also the chair of undergraduate education at MIT Sloan, and will head the new business analytics major.

The three new majors will replace the old one, and Orlin says they’ll be more in-depth and will have fewer breadth requirements. Ideally, they’ll be more fine-tuned to students’ interests, he says, and will better prepare students for specific careers.

“There are a lot of careers in finance and business analytics,” Orlin says. “And then we wanted the remaining major, management, to be as flexible as we could make it, for students with a different interest in business.”

INCOMING STUDENTS MORE THAN DOUBLED

In January, Jake Cohen, senior associate dean of MIT Sloan’s undergraduate and master’s programs, told Poets&Quants they hoped the new majors would draw more students to the business major.

MIT students declare majors at the end of their freshman year. This past spring, 25 students declared for one of the three new business majors. Four went to management, 10 to business analytics, and 11 to finance.

Up from nine total, it’s a notable increase. Orlin says he also expects to see more in coming years, because they only announced the majors in January. And he says a lot of MIT students have double majors, so more are likely to join as incoming juniors.

NEW CLASSES INTRODUCED FOR BUSINESS ANALYTICS

The increase in students is likely because the new majors will allow students to focus on specific topics, with fewer general requirements. In the business analytics major, which Orlin will be heading up, there will be eight required courses, six of which are technical.

The technical classes are computer programming, optimization, stochastic models in business analytics (decision-making under uncertainty), probability, statistics, and machine learning. The other two are organizational studies for business analysts and communicating with data, which Orlin says is highly important, as he expects students will frequently have to communicate quantitative information to people who aren’t very quantitative.

Several of these are new to Sloan. Communicating with data was taught for the first time last spring, and organizational students and stochastic models in business analytics will be introduced in the fall.

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