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The Cornell Business Journal

Johnson Changes its Core Curriculum

Academics, Johnson | | 2 Comments »

Jeffrey Gordon, MBA ’15

Johnson (JGSM) 2-Year MBA (2MBA) Class of 2015 students.

After ten years in its current form, Johnson’s core curriculum will undergo a major change this coming year. The new core will place a stronger emphasis on leadership, modeling and analytics, and the timing of the courses will be adjusted to take into consideration today’s more intense recruiting environment.

Courses are constantly adjusted based on student, alumni and recruiter feedback. However this change will be the first time in ten years that the administration has undertaken a systematic reevaluation of the entire core curriculum. Associate Dean Stayman chaired the review committee, which was comprised of faculty and staff. The three year long process began with focus groups of alumni and students before progressing to a survey sent to over a thousand recruiters, students and alumni. The survey sought to gauge the effectiveness of Johnson’s curriculum in meeting the needs of each of these constituencies. Respondents were asked to benchmark Johnson students and alumni against graduates from other business schools on a range of skills, such as modeling and communication. It then asked each respondent how important those skills were in today’s workplace. “The remarkable thing was how consistent the feedback was across all three groups,” said Dean Stayman. The results defined several key areas of improvement for Johnson, with the most important being leadership and communication, modeling, analytical skills and better preparation for internship interviews.

The new core curriculum seeks to address each of these issues. The most important change is to the way Johnson teaches leadership, which the new core will address in a more systematic fashion. There is now a consistent “two year picture” to leadership development, with Leading Teams in August prior to the first year, Critical and Strategic Thinking in the second half of Fall semester, and Principled Leadership in the first half of Fall in each student’s second year at Johnson. The combination of these three courses will replace Managing and Leading Organizations, which is now taught in the second half of the Spring semester in the first year.

Modeling was addressed by revamping Statistics to become Data Analytics and Modeling (though the name of this course may change). This course will be led by Professor Bill Schmidt, and will emphasize the modeling skills that alumni and recruiters have consistently said is in high demand.


Recruiting at business school has changed quite extensively over the last ten years. According to Amanda Shaw, Executive Director of Student Services, recruiting for internships now happens much closer to the beginning of the year. The administration “acknowledges that the core has to work alongside recruiting,” says Shaw. Many students and alumni complained about the course load during the heavy internship recruiting season, and many recruiters commentated that Johnson students were underprepared for their interviews. Critical and Strategic Thinking is now scheduled for the Fall semester in order to provide students the qualitative thinking skills that help in interviews, while the total number of credit hours in the second half of the Fall semester will be reduced from 7.5 to 6.5. Likewise, the length of the core courses during the Spring semester will be changed. Data Analytics and Modeling will now run concurrent with Operations over the course of the entire Spring semester, but each course will only be 10 weeks long. Core classes will not be held the first two or last two weeks of the semester to provide more time for recruiting and end of semester projects.


The changes to the core curriculum were intended to make sure the skills taught at Johnson were those that were valued by students and employers. An ongoing review process called Learning Outcomes will evaluate whether the changes that were made are actually producing the changes the school wants to see.


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