The MS-MBA Program

I do a lot of my teaching in the MS-MBA program at Boston University’s School of Management (SMG). The program offers students the chance to get an MBA and a Master’s Degree in Information Systems during the same two year time frame as a regular MBA program. This is accomplished by having students take a number of additional courses, many of which are offered as intensives. For example, students take 8 credits worth of technology courses at the start of the summer between their first and second year. I will probably say more in another post about these intensives which I have had a big hand in developing, but for now I want to say a word or two about why I think this is an interesting and useful program.

The MS-MBA program was championed by SMG former dean Lou Lataif and I always liked the way he described it. Rather than framing it as a “high tech” or “techno” MBA, aimed at students who need to understand technology in order to be in the technology space, Dean Lataif always made the argument that a deeper understanding of technology was part of an emerging skill set for 21st century managers. The idea is that you need to understand technology not to run a technology company or be an IT specialist but to be a better manager.

I will have more to say about this in future posts but in the meantime I can say that it is an interesting challenge to teach in this program in that students have a high expectation that the technology they teach will be managerially relevant. A ground rule I set in my classes is that students are welcome to challenge me to tie the technical material I am teaching to managerial concerns at any point in the discussion. Given that at various moments I am teaching binary arithmetic, virtual memory management, and basic programming this can lead to some interesting discussions, but ones that I actually relish since this challenge leads to making some useful connections.

For example, a discussion of binary arithmetic seems as far removed from a manager’s world as one can imagine, but it is part of a broader discussion about how information is represented and how a choice of representation has implications for what you can do with information and at what cost. This leads in turn to a reflection about the importance of managers having a shared language for describing and sharing the information they use in their work. While this latter information is at a much higher level than ones and zeros, some of the underlying principles we uncover in talking about bits show up at this higher level.

I look forward to exploring some of the content we explore in the MS-MBA program in future posts.

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