In 2018, Carnegie Mellon made a game-changing move. It opened the doors to its Tepper Quad. Towering five stories and covering 315,000 square feet, the Tepper Quad sits at the crossroads of the campus, right in the middle of everything. The symbolism hasn’t been lost on anyone. That’s because commerce is considered central to Carnegie Mellon’s mission to create, integrate, and expand.
The Tepper Quad is the largest building on campus for a reason. It is meant to foster collaborations, to bring the larger university together in one shared space. As a result, 40% of the building is allocated to departments like engineering, information technology, and life sciences. That’s not because these disciplines have outgrown their own space. True to Carnegie Mellon’s interdisciplinary nature, the Tepper Quad is meant to be an innovation hub – one where different backgrounds mix to explore and commercialize their ideas.
“The new Tepper Quad building has been remarkable in bolstering the student experience,” writes
Jennifer Wegner, Executive Director of Undergraduate Business Administration at the Tepper School in a statement to P&Q. “Since the doors opened, 100% of the undergraduate courses are held in the building – allowing for creative collisions with faculty and staff in the hallways and open spaces to continue with class discussions, attend office hours, and collaborate on course-related projects and co-curricular activities. Quite simply, the Tepper Quad has changed the game and made the Tepper School of Business a destination not just for business students but for students and faculty from across campus.”
The Tepper Quad is just one feature that makes the business school one to watch for 2020. This year, the Tepper School soared from 22nd to 10th in P&Q’s latest Undergraduate Business School Ranking (along with ranking 5th in U.S. News’ ranking). One reason: the school is very selective in who it admits, accepting just 11.6% of applicants who bring an average SAT score of 1494. On top of that, 100% of their business students have graduated in the top 10% of their high school classes. Not surprisingly, Tepper business majors are highly coveted by employers. This year, graduates scored average pay of $89,930, second only to the Wharton School.
For many companies, those large packages stem from the intensive training that business majors receive in management science, particularly data analytics. In a 2019 interview, Sevin Yeltekin, Senior Associate Dean of Education, equated the school to a “technology university” – one where the business school can leverage the larger university’s strengths in areas like engineering and machine learning. That way, she notes, business students can stay current as new technologies and data tools rapidly dissolve old business models. In the process, Yeltekin adds, business students are able to become what she calls “bi-lingual.”
“Our entire goal is to educate business students whom I would call bilingual in the following sense: they know technology. They can do computing. They understand data. And they understand the business side,” Yeltekin explains. “They can sit down and write a simple use case. They can do a proof of concept. They can code a little bit. They might not be the ones who are going to spend all of their time optimizing a piece of code but they understand what it can and can’t do. They can talk to the technologist. They can talk to the data scientist and they can understand the business side of things and make strategic decisions based on that data and technology.”
These types of experiences are continuously and purposely infused across the curriculum by faculty, Jennifer Wegner notes. “The data-driven, analytics approach serves as the educational and research backbone of the school. In the last few years, data is being used to inform student success measures, including using data to inform academic engagement for early interventions. Data has informed new professional treks, where students visit companies to learn more about specific industries and work environments. The Tepper undergraduate orientation was overhauled in 2019 using feedback and data to make orientation even more student-centric and responsive to the global generation of students who are now entering their undergraduate careers.”
Management science isn’t the only distinctive feature of Tepper programming and culture. Daniel Levine, a 2019 P&Q Best & Brightest Business Major, trumpets the smaller class sizes, which enabled him to “get to know my professors and classmates a little better than at schools with bigger class sizes could.” How does Tepper balance more intimate sizes with a more technically-driven and team-oriented approach? It starts with a commitment – from orientation through graduation – that “every student matters in our community,” says Wegner.
“Because we are a smaller program…students begin connecting with classmates at Tepper and at CMU early and often, building trust and allowing them to connect as academic peers and friends. The spirit of collaboration is part of the culture at the Tepper School and at CMU in general. Tepper business students quickly learn that the interdisciplinary approach represents what they will find when they enter industry. Students recognize that the grade they earn in business classes reflects their individual work and that they aren’t competing against other students for grades. The small class size represents a commitment made intentionally by the Tepper School leadership to create a learning environment that allows each student to succeed and be recognized for the unique contributions they bring.”
So what can future Tepper undergrads expect from the Tepper School? For the most part, it will be more of the same – as in an expanded portfolio of courses, concentrations, activities, and opportunities.
“In the last two years, the program has enhanced our commitment to student success and instituted new advising practices to provide individual student support to each Tepper student,” Wegner concludes. “Tepper is committed to using data to inform and improve the ways we work with students. Tepper School faculty are currently reviewing the business curriculum to ensure that a Tepper business education is forward-thinking and brings business, analytics, and leadership together in new courses that will debut in the next couple of years. Further, as part of the curriculum review, we plan to develop new business concentrations to create new pathways for students to gain intellectual depth in emerging business areas. As a result of moving into the new Tepper Quad building, our student programming continues to increase and promotes student interaction with classmates and faculty, and with the overall CMU community.”