from the dean

Curricular Innovation


Published: Spring 2012

Dean KumarSpring is an exciting time at Chicago Booth, when our eyes are set on bringing in new talent. We complete recruiting new faculty and put together the incoming classes in our various programs. In keeping with the theme of newness, I'd like to share with you some highlights in curricular innovation at the school.

Without a doubt, our Full-Time MBA, Evening MBA, and Weekend MBA programs stand out among our peers' in their flexibility. While some of our competitors follow a relatively rigid core curriculum, we continue to use a light touch when it comes to requirements, providing great flexibility to the faculty in what they teach and how, and considerable choice to students in what and how they learn. This flexibility is very conducive to experimentation and adaptation.

There are several drivers for curricular innovation at Chicago Booth. As the frontiers of their research advance, many faculty members incorporate the new ideas into their courses. Changes in the world of management practice and public policy also drive curricular changes; this is true particularly of the tumultuous events of the past few years. Since 2008 we have offered the course Analytics of Financial Crises, taught by Anil Kashyap. The Firm and the Non-Market Environment, taught by Marianne Bertrand, is only a couple of years old.

Management or public policy roles that our instructors fill while on leave from Booth influence courses they teach after they return. The current version of Money and Banking, taught by Randall Kroszner, is a case in point. The course was transformed by the Great Recession and influenced by Randy's time at the Fed. Many issues normally discussed in theory or with historical examples - the potential for deflation, monetary policy under the zero lower bound on interest rates, "too big to fail," for example - now come alive in the classroom.

We also try to attract visiting faculty whose academic expertise or practical experience lead to timely and valuable courses. A salient example is the course Central Banking taught by Axel Weber, who became a visiting professor at Booth after stepping down as the president of the Deutsche Bundesbank in 2011.

The career aspirations of our students today are more diverse than they were a decade ago. The curriculum also has broadened beyond traditional areas of study. For example, Adair Morse's Global Entrepreneurial Finance course teaches students how to identify and understand global investment opportunities in entrepreneurial activities.

Chicago Booth has always stressed the rigorous study of the fundamentals and continues to do so. It is important to complement this study with learning how to apply these fundamentals. The standard lecture is not always the best way to instill application skills in our students; learning needs to be more hands-on in many cases. To this end, the number of courses with significant experiential and application project components has increased considerably over the past few years.

These range from Data Mining with Matt Taddy to the Strategy Lab with Harry Davis (see "Strategy Lab Created by Alumnus Stresses Experiential Learning," page 6). The New Venture Challenge, led by Steven Kaplan and Ellen Rudnick, an intense, competitive course aimed toward actual venture creation by student teams, has been extraordinarily successful. We now offer a variant called New Social Ventures, taught by Robert Gertner, that is aimed at the creation of ventures with social missions. In many of these courses, alumni are essential partners, serving as project mentors and competition judges, and in other important cocurricular roles.

You remember the challenging and rigorous curriculum as well as the intense, exhilarating environment of honest inquiry and open debate that prevailed throughout the school when you were students. Nothing has changed on those dimensions. We will adapt and evolve what we study and teach - this is essential to maintaining our position of preeminence. But you will always recognize a Chicago Booth product by its depth and quality. As dean, I see it as my job to provide an environment that supports and encourages curricular innovation, and to see that we hold ourselves to our traditional values and standards as we innovate. 

Sunil Kumar
Dean and George Pratt Shultz Professor of Operations Management

Photo by Matthew Gilson

Last Updated 10/16/12