What is a STEM-certified grad school? An explainer

How do you bridge the gap between technical skills and business acumen? Alex Markle, Associate Professor and Director of the Full-Time MBA Program at the Gabelli School of Business explains how being a STEM-certified grad school gives students a serious leg up.

In short

What is STEM in academics?

STEM refers to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – subjects that have been a driving force behind educational policy since 2001. The acronym is usually reserved for the high-school level as a strategy for giving entire populations access to skilled jobs. However, STEM-certified grad schools, such as Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, have recently entered the conversation.

Alex contextualizes its applications at Gabelli. “In the case of a business school, what this means for us is that we offer many elective courses in areas like fintech, in marketing analytics, using big data in artificial intelligence and machine learning for business strategy, data mining, among many others,” he says. (00:19)

What does it mean to be STEM-certified?

STEM certification is a US Department of Homeland Security recognition for modules or even entire programs. It guarantees the quality of teaching in science, technology, engineering, and math. As such, it is highly sought after by institutions. 

Hiring companies know that graduates from programs specializing in science, technology, engineering, and math will be well-versed in the crossover between business and technical skills. Students don’t just learn how to become more efficient and increase profits – they can come up with radical new approaches to problems with a focus on sustainability. 

Alex elaborates, “There are many business schools that offer a specific STEM-certified track, say a concentration in fintech. Ours is one of the few schools that offer an MBA program that is entirely STEM-certified.” (02:25)

How does STEM certification benefit students?

STEM-certified grad schools show the importance of being flexible and reacting to real-world business. Nobody has ever written an MBA curriculum that will remain relevant for eternity, or even five years into the future. Being adaptable by focusing on STEM learning is therefore an innovative way forward. 

Alex describes Gabelli’s motivation for choosing this pathway: “Over time, we’ve expanded this data and tech-focused portfolio of courses both in response to student demand as well as to the demand of employers for graduates with tech-relevant skills.” (00:37)

Ultimately, MBA programs need to prepare students for the realities of business now and in the future. By focusing on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, Gabelli prepares its graduates to become business leaders in the STEM field. 

However, STEM MBA programs don’t just make students more tech-savvy. Alex says, “We have also revamped our core curriculum to be more focused on the skills required to use data to make better business decisions. This is going to give our graduates an advantage in the job search and give them the skills to bring more value to the firms that hire them.” (00:49)

How can STEM degrees benefit international students?

It’s no secret that STEM graduates are highly valued in the USA. The government welcomes sharp scientific minds from all over the world to bolster their aerospace engineering efforts, Silicon Valley tech companies, and much more. 

To this end, they offer special visa conditions for those working in STEM in business. Alex explains, “Graduating from a STEM-designated program gives international students who land a job at a STEM position a 24-month extension of their ability to work in the US post-graduation. This is a huge advantage for those who want to remain in the US after they finish their degree.” (01:10)

Based in New York, international students at Gabelli School of Business are in one of the world’s innovation hotspots. Through internships, company visits, and a leading curriculum, graduates have a great advantage when applying to post-MBA placements. To take a few examples, Gabelli students have recently gone on to roles in companies including Citigroup, EY, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, Seeds of Peace, and Unilever.

What sectors are open to business students with a scientific background?

We’ve already alluded to big hitters such as NASA and the tech giants of the San Francisco Bay Area. But, in reality, STEM graduates can make an impact in almost any industry. Alex tells MBAGRADSCHOOLS, “Big data has totally disrupted the business landscape. From finance to operations to marketing, skills and analytics in AI and machine learning have become increasingly valuable, and indeed necessary.” (01:37)

These skills are already essential, but areas such as data analytics will continue to transform as businesses evolve. “Tomorrow’s managers will need to apply data and analytical skills in ways we cannot yet predict,” he states. “We want our students to be future proof.” (02:04) By becoming tech-literate from the beginning of their careers, Gabelli MBA graduates can stay agile and flexible through these unpredictable changes.

Does STEM certification have an impact on enrollment?

Due to the popularity of Gabelli School of Business’ approach, applications have been getting increasingly competitive, giving the admissions team a talented pool of students to choose from. The result is an improved profile of the school and a real melting pot of talented, driven minds in the classroom. 

Applicants are well aware of the opportunities that a STEM-certified grad school can offer them in the future. Alex explains, “All of our students will graduate with that designation. This will be attractive to a broad range of students regardless of the industry they intend to enter into.” (02:39)

While the competitive admissions process is no easy ride, the subsequent benefits are well worth the effort. If you’d like to speak directly to students who have studied Gabelli’s Full-Time MBA, head to our Ambassador’s Page.

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