What’s New at NYU Stern’s Online Masters of Science in Quantitative Management [Episode 447]

What’s New at NYU Stern’s Online Masters of Science in Quantitative Management [Episode 447]

NYU MSQM - Kim Corfman

Thinking of applying to NYU Stern’s Online MSQM program? [Show summary]

Launched right before the pandemic, NYU Stern’s online MSQM program offers a unique blend of business management foundations, leadership and analytics to (mostly) young professionals. NYU Stern’s Vice Dean for online learning, Dr. Kim Corfman, joins us to share details about the program.

Interview with NYU Stern’s Vice Dean for Online Learning Dr. Kim Corfman [Show notes]

Welcome to the 447th episode of Admissions Straight Talk, thanks for joining me. Before we dive into today’s interview, I want to mention an Accepted resource that can help you prepare your statement of purpose to the MSQM, to a data analytics program, or a master’s in management, as well as to other graduate programs. Download Five Fatal Flaws To Avoid In Your Grad School Statement of Purpose to learn how to avoid the five most common mistakes we see in grad school statements of purpose. You’ll also learn how to write an SOP that makes your story memorable and highlights your qualifications for your target program. Download this valuable, free resource at accepted.com/447download

Our guest today is Dr. Kim Corfman. She is a professor of Marketing at NYU Stern and Vice Dean for online learning. She has served as Vice Dean for MBA programs, Academic Director of the Langone Part-time MBA program, and Coordinator of the Doctoral Program in Marketing. Needless to say, she knows a ton about management education and NYU Stern specifically. As I mentioned today, we’re going to talk about Stern’s fairly new MS in Quantitative Management program. 

What is the Master’s in Quantitative Management at NYU Stern? Can you provide an overview? [2:22]

The MSQM provides business basics, essentially, the MBA core plus analytics courses. The combination is designed to help students become data-literate managers and leaders. That’s the really short headline about it. 

It’s 20 months from start to finish and it’s lock-step, so there are no electives. Students take one course at a time for three to three and a half weeks per course. They come one right on top of the next and are pretty intense, but we’ve calibrated them so they are manageable for motivated students.

What kind of academic background are you looking for? [3:16]

We welcome applicants with any undergraduate major and we have a wide variety. We do have some undergraduate business students. We even have some people who got MBAs already. Lawyers. A couple of doctors. It’s quite diverse, which is really fun. 

The other part of that is submitting a standardized test score is optional. Something we want to make very sure applicants understand that if they choose not to send us a test score, we do need to see strong evidence of the quantitative, verbal, and reasoning abilities that are necessary to be successful in this kind of program. They do need some math and reasoning ability. They need to be able to write and we need to be able to see that.

What would be the minimum level of math that you would like to see? [4:12]

Some calculus and a lot of the basic maths that leads up to that. On our website, we very clearly lay out exactly what prerequisites they should have.

What type of students are you attracting to the program in terms of experience? Is there a maximum amount of work experience that you consider? Do you require full-time work experience? I recall, we spoke two and a half years ago, you were really aiming it at early-experience or even pre-experience students. [4:29]

We originally thought that would be the population that found it most appealing, but we’ve ended up seeing that even though we get a fair number of applicants right out of undergrad, most of them are in the typical MBA applicant age-range, and we have a whole bunch that are considerably more senior – they’ve already had very successful careers and they’re looking to refresh. Or they never got an MBA and this looks like something that they could fit into their lives and would suit their needs.

Is there a preference in terms of experience level? [5:19]

Not really. It’s just important that applicants understand that there will be this big diversity in the kinds and amounts of experience. That has to be something that they consider a plus, which we certainly do. It creates a great environment in the classroom.

What else are you looking for in the admissions process? [5:44]

Two that come to mind right now, because I’ve just been looking at some applications, are applicants who do their homework and understand what the program is really about and can tell us how it fits into their vision for their career. We’re looking for people who are committed to the challenge of making it work with their professional life and their personal lives. It’s a demanding academic program. We need people who are realistic about that.

Are you really looking for people who outlined in the application how they’re going to handle work and whatever the responsibilities they have, as well as the MSQM? [6:14]

We’ve never gotten that but that would be really interesting. It’s mostly a commitment to doing the program. If they exhibit that they understand what the program is about and say, “Yes, this is really for me” and explain why in terms of it fitting with their career, that will suffice.

Can you describe the application process for the MSQM? [6:42]

There are a lot of the things you would normally expect, like an essay. We have one required essay, which is where we detect whether people know what the program’s about and why it’s a fit for them. It’s also a way of seeing whether someone can put together a case that is persuasive.

We request two recommendations, we prefer that one be professional and the other one can be academic, but we want at least one professional reference. There is a second essay that is required if you are not going to submit a test score. That’s where you make your case, that you have the prerequisite knowledge and abilities. 

Are you looking for teamwork? Leadership? All of the above? [7:31]

All of the above along with diversity. Not everybody is going to be the supreme leader. Everybody has to be able to work on a team though, I do have to say that.

It struck me as you’re talking that in both essay questions, you’re asking applicants to make a case. I would think that a lot of that, certainly, the data analytics portion of the program would be about using data to make a case, is that correct? Is the parallel there? [7:45]

Before I launch into this, I should point out for your listeners that this is not a specialized Masters in Business Analytics. It’s absolutely not that. You’re not going to come out of it being highly technical, but you will come out of it being able to use data to make decisions, to ask people for the kinds of data that will help you make decisions, and help you make cases for the things that you want to do. In the application, we’re not expecting them to analyze data sets but the logic is exactly the same here. You’re absolutely right.

If you’re not taking the test, what’s the case for your qualifications? Is an interview required? If so, what can the interviewee expect? [9:18]

Interviews are not required. We do interviews when your application leaves us with some questions and we want to talk more about it. Sometimes, if it’s someone who’s very senior, for example, we want to make sure that the applicant understands that they’re going to have a broad range of students. Sometimes, we’re not entirely clear on the background knowledge or experience.

We will invite you to interview if we feel a need, but we love to talk to you. Our admissions counselors love to talk to applicants. I encourage everybody to have a conversation with an admissions counselor because that can really help you understand the fit between what you want and where you’re going and ultimately decide whether you should be applying at all and then make your application more effective.

I assume any interviews would be virtual, right? [10:16]


I’m going to also guess that as an online program, the MSQM basically sailed through the last year and a half of COVID restrictions. How would you respond to that? [10:23]

Well, in many ways we did sail through but the pandemic did have an impact, especially on the in-person component, which I think you were going to ask me about at some point because it’s one of our greater parts.

We have these two residencies. One is right at the beginning of the program and the other is a year in. They are four days during a long weekend in August. The first one has lots of orientation-type activities, alumni panels, welcomes, career workshops, those kinds of things. Plenty of opportunities for students to get to know each other, network with the class before because they’re there at the same time. They also take parts of their classes. During the program, there are three courses that have in-person components that take place during the residencies.

A year ago, during summer 2020, we couldn’t hold our residency in-person. We tried to delay until January and still couldn’t do it in person so we did it virtually. Fortunately, we’ve gotten pretty good at doing lots of things virtually. The students found it reasonably satisfying, but they were so happy that they could come back in person this last August. We had an in-person residency, I’d say about a quarter of the students, international students couldn’t get visas to come. It had to be blended, which is challenging as the whole education industry has been discussing for a couple of years now. But students tell us that they found it rewarding and satisfying. They wish they could have been here and hope they can come next year. 

Do you plan to continue this component in person? [12:32]

Yes. In addition, we usually have panels of speakers of alumni who have gone on with the knowledge they gained in MSQM and used their ability to be data-savvy in their careers and career workshops. We tell students about the resources we have available to them to help them progress with their current employer or switch if that’s what they want to do. It’s a very, very full four days.

Is there any hope or intention to expand the in person component at all? [13:18]

It’s tough for students to come from all over the world for longer than a long weekend. It is interesting though, we found that students who live near each other discover that very quickly and they get together in person.

You indicated a minute ago that the MSQM is not the same as an MS in Business Analytics. How does it differ from an MBA with the focus on data analytics, other than the fact that it’s online? [13:43]

Well, it’s half the length. You don’t get an MBA, that’s the obvious one. It’s basically the MBA core plus a few courses. It’s like if you did your MBA core and then took three or four electives in analytics, that’s what it would look like. It’s really more like a Master’s in Management with a focus on analytics and being intelligent users of data.

One option offered at NYU Stern is to start with the MSQM and then transfer into the Langone Part-time MBA program. Can you discuss that option? [14:43]

Absolutely. It’s a very interesting week for us to be having this conversation because some of your listeners may have seen the articles in Fortune and Poets&Quants about the online modular option within the Langone Part-time MBA that was just announced a couple of days ago.

First, I’ll talk about sort of the current situation. Currently, students who are in good standing can apply to transfer to the Langone Part-time MBA program which is in-person. They don’t get their MSQM, but the MSQM courses they have taken count as their core and then they go on and take roughly the second half of the MBA program in Langone in Washington Square.

This new announcement means that not immediately but soon, students who don’t live in the area can now participate. The transfer option has really only been for people who can get here during the week. This means that students, who live further away or don’t want to move, will have the option to finish their MBA by taking week-long modules and combination with online electives.

The week-long modules are in-person at Stern? [16:08]

They are. There will be a reasonably large assortment of online electives that can be taken in combination. A student who is finishing the MSQM, because they’re more than halfway through the MBA program, would probably have to come to campus a couple of times to finish the whole degree. 

Then they would end up with an MBA and the MSQM? [16:37]

No, just the MBA because we can’t double-count.

When we last spoke, you were admitting the inaugural class and planning for about 50 students. How many students are you planning for the class that will matriculate in 2022? How many applications did you receive this year? [16:54]

We have pretty much determined that our sweet spot is 100 students. We had about 80 last year. This year, we had closer to 100. One of the things we like a lot about the program is how strong the cohort experience is. We know how to do it at that size. We’re not sure what would happen if we made the program bigger.

Right now, we’re thinking that the 100 is about right. It’s two blocks and they elect block leaders, they arrange social events for themselves and study groups. They advocate for the class with us. It’s a very nice atmosphere.

There’s no thought at the moment of having another cohort of 100 start in January? [17:56]

Not at this point. Part of the reason is we really like doing the first residency at the beginning of the program and asking people to come to New York City in January for a week – I can’t imagine all the flights that wouldn’t make it through. So, that’s one of the reasons we start the program in August because the weather is hot, but at least you can travel. Right now, we’re sticking at a hundred. 

The other thing is we’ve introduced with this new Langone option, we didn’t talk about the asynchronous nature of the courses in the MSQM, but there is now a synchronous meeting with professors and classmates every week, which is great because students get to interact live. That’s very different from the way the Langone online modular one will be. It will be, at least at the beginning every week, your class will meet 7:00 to 9:00. If you can’t be in class 7:00 to 9:00 that is not an option for you.

From the feedback that you get from students, what do they like best about the program? [19:52]

They love being together so they love the residencies. They think those are just great.

Are you adding more to the residencies? [20:01]

One possibility is to add optional additional time, but we require the residencies. To ask students in Singapore or Portugal to come to New York City, more than twice over a year and a half is kind of a tough ask.

Other things our students like are the live online meetups, the weekly class meetings because they get to interact with their professors and their classmates. They also like the flexibility of the asynchronous content and the fact that it’s designed well. It’s not just you go home, watch interminable videos and read lots of books. It is very carefully designed video snippets with enlists and questions and maybe a small reading and then a problem set and check questions with immediate answers. You can go back and check it. It’s much more interactive and dynamic. They like that as well.

What percentage of the students are outside of North America? [23:18]

About a quarter of our students are international. Some of them are here and some of our U.S. citizens are elsewhere, but it’s roughly the same proportion. They move around a lot too. One of our big challenges is keeping track of where they are. These are very mobile people. One of the reasons why they choose the program is it doesn’t matter where they live or work.

What jobs are graduates getting after they complete the program? How does NYU Stern help them find those jobs? Is there career support? [23:49]

We have an institution called the Career Center for Working Professionals, which serves all of our working professional students while they’re here and then all of Stern’s alumni after they graduate and for the rest of their lives. They have career services forever. The way we roll it out to MSQM students is, because enough of them are very early career, we start them out with a full array of online resources and some career workshops. Then, in their last semester in the program, they get the rest of the suite of services, like career coaching, access to job boards, and things like that. We’re a new program, as you know, we just graduated our first class in May. We don’t have a lot of information on our alumni because there was a small class but we have heard anecdotally from students who have gotten promotions based on the things that they were learning and able to do, or because their employers were saying, “Oh, you’re getting a business degree from Stern. You look like you’ve got more potential.” So, they’re aiding promotion. Some of them have changed jobs. We’d like to take all the credit, probably we can’t take all of it, but it’s working for them.

What advice would you have for those planning to apply? How could they prepare? [25:41]

Well, first they need to make sure this is the program they should be in. It’s a little surprising the number of applicants who haven’t really done their homework, and it wouldn’t be good for them to be in the program without knowing what it was or if it wasn’t a good fit. Make sure it really is, and then make sure you’re comfortable with the evidence you can provide that you’re prepared for it. That could mean if you were a liberal arts undergrad and never took any math, you probably need to take a math course.

You can show us, unless you’re going to take the GMAT or the GRE or the Executive Assessment, any of those are fine because we can tell that way, but you would actually have to learn math first before you took those courses. Math is the toughest one. There are easier ways of showing evidence of your reasoning ability and ability to communicate, at least in writing. 

We always recommend applying earlier rather than later, because even though it’s an online program, we’ve limited the number of seats we want to fill, but don’t apply until you’re ready, much better to have a stronger application later in the process.

In terms of the math and taking coursework for your liberal arts graduate or somebody who just hasn’t had much math recently or perhaps didn’t do so well in it, do you care if they take accredited courses from a university or Coursera courses or HBS Online? [27:24]

Not really, as long as the argument can be made that it was high-enough quality and there’s evidence that you learned something. Just because you don’t have transcripts, because some of these courses don’t provide them, doesn’t mean we won’t believe you, but we also have conditional admissions for people who can’t make the case, but it sounds like maybe they’re prepared.

Any thoughts about having your own test to see if applicants are ready? [28:22]

That’s come up periodically. It might be time for us to think of it again. We used to have a sample test like a self-test people could take which we had for the MBA program. It might be time to resurrect that just so people can do a check to see whether they need to take a course.

What question would you have liked me to answer that I didn’t ask? [28:58]

You are pretty thorough. I guess the only thing I would say is that something that people find surprising to hear about the program is how bonded the students are with each other. Part of it is because they travel through as a cohort, they’re taking every course together in lock-step and they communicate so much both in class and outside of class. They feel really committed to the program, to each other, and to the school, which is not what comes to mind when you think of online programs. That’s something I like to mention since we’ve heard that so much from students.

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What’s New at NYU Stern’s Online Masters of Science in Quantitative Management [Episode 447]

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