Course 15 splits into three new majors

MIT’s Sloan School of Management is turning Course 15 into three separate majors, motivated in part by “confusion regarding the meaning of ‘management science,’” James B. Orlin SE ’88 said in a faculty meeting.

Orlin, the Sloan Professor who spearheaded the effort, also cited concerns about “declining enrollment” and described “a general perception that the major was too restrictive.”

Rather than a general management science major, students will now be able to select from three options: 15-1, Management; 15-2, Business Analytics; and 15-3, Finance.

“I think that students understand the terms Management and Finance,” Orlin wrote in an email to The Tech.

Previously, Course 15 offered just a single major. Students were expected to select a concentration in finance, business analytics, marketing, or information technology, and complete three to four classes on the topic.

The new program will instead offer three separate B.S. degrees, with minors available in each. Students who complete a business analytics degree study operations research and data science; the B.S. in finance focuses on investment and corporate finance.

The revised flex-degree in management, 15-1, will offer a broad review of management that is similar to the current degree in management science. Students in this degree must choose a concentration to focus on. In addition to the traditionally offered concentrations, Sloan will also offer concentrations in entrepreneurship, marketing, and project management. Students may also propose their own concentration.

The structure of the overhauled Sloan undergraduate program parallels its master’s degree programs (Sloan offers the standard Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) and a Master’s in Finance; a Master’s in Business Analytics is currently making its way through the proposal process).

Chantal Acacio ’18, who is a Course 15 major, explained, “You can now take more classes related to a concentration rather than trying to touch broadly on everything business-related. It gives Course 15ers more freedom to spend time on a specific field.”

The registrar’s office says 52 undergraduates currently major in Course 15, down from 126 in the 2010-2011 academic year and 172 from 1988-1989; Course 15 has seen this decrease in its majors concurrent with increasing enrollment in its classes.

The decline in majors “caused us to think long and hard about our undergraduate program,” Orlin said. To address this, Sloan gathered survey data, interviewed students and alumni, and then explored the possibility of developing three new majors.

“There has been a large demand from finance recruiters for decades. The demand from recruiters for business analytics is more recent,” Orlin said. “McKinsey Global Institute estimates a shortfall of 140,000 to 190,000 professionals in business analytics and data science by 2018, a 50-60% gap relative to projected 2018 supply.”

The revised 15-1 flex-major, on the other hand, was designed specifically for students who wish to double major in both Sloan and the School of Engineering.

“We also believe that 15-1 will be well-suited for students who want to focus on an area of management not represented by the other majors, such as project management or marketing or entrepreneurship,” Orlin said.

Current Course 15 upperclassmen will complete their degrees in management science; Sloan plans to phase out this degree over the next few years. Freshmen and sophomores, though, may choose to enroll in one of the new Course 15 majors or the traditional management science program.

Course 15 undergraduates were alerted to the change last October, Acacio said. Graduate students gleaned this information over the summer, so many people were aware of the new system going into the school year.

As for the popularity of each of the new programs, Orlin predicts that “the number of Sloan majors will increase substantially,” potentially to between 75 and 150 per class year.

“Among the minors, I think that the finance minor will be very popular,” Orlin said. “Personally, I think that the biggest increase in majors will be in business analytics. I base this on the positive reactions I have heard from many students as well as the great success that business analytics has had in other universities to which it was introduced.”

In addition to the new major designations, Sloan has also identified many graduate-level subjects that are suited for undergraduates as well. These brand-new courses are numbered in the form 15.xxx1.

“I have heard from lots of faculty at Sloan,” Orlin added. “My personal assessment is that Sloan faculty are now more enthusiastic about MIT undergraduate education than at any other time in my 35 years at Sloan … if you’ll forgive me for using some very old Boston slang about these new programs, I think that they are wicked awesome.”