NYU Stern’s New Dean Talks Big Data, Machine Learning, And The Tech MBA

Rangarajan Sundaram assumed the deanship at NYU Stern in January 2018. He’s looking to cutting-edge technology to take the finance-focused business school forward

Speaking to Rangarajan Sundaram, who began his tenure as dean of NYU Stern School of Business in January this year, you don’t get any sense of the weight that sits on his shoulders.

And why would you? After all, “it’s a wonderful time to be leading the most exciting business school in the world,” he says.

Leading such a revered institution requires constant innovation, as the world around us is challenged to adapt to the rapid way machine learning, big data, and the future of tech are changing the way we learn.

The transformation of the NYU Stern MBA reflects this. For Rangarajan, his school, and business schools like it, have a responsibility to ensure the next generation of business leaders aren’t just part of the change, but lead it.

Over the last two years, NYU Stern has introduced a Fintech specialization into its MBA program. It offers electives on FinTech Analytics, Digital Currencies, Blockchains and the Financial Services Industry, and Risk Management for FinTech.

New York’s startup community is also flourishing. It’s no surprise then, that NYU Stern created the first Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) in the US, announced at the end of last year.

The lab runs a nine-month program for science and technology startups that show strong upscaling potential. It offers them mentorship and access to investors. The first cohort will begin in the fall of this year—the application process kicks-off this month.

“We are in one of the world’s greatest technology and entrepreneurship hubs,” asserts Rangarajan, “and we want to bring that to the school.

“It’s a work in progress, but because of our location we can dive deeply into businesses on many levels, allowing students to engage with them as part of their MBA.”

The next step, Rangarajan adds, is to focus on the school’s new one-year Tech MBA, which will launch its inaugural class in May 2018. It was created for candidates with a strong tech background who want to augment their skills in order to strive in a tech-focused career.

The course has been molded and refined by NYU Stern with the newly formed Tech MBA Advisory Board. It has drawn on the expertise of industry experts in and around New York, to ensure content is kept relevant and fresh. President of Buzzfeed, Greg Coleman, chairman and CEO of Deloitte Consulting, Janet Foutty, and co-head of the tech division of Goldman Sachs, Umesh Subramanian, are just three of the sitting members.

Rangarajan’s has walked into the dean position at NYU Stern at a time where the school isn’t just jumping on the tech bandwagon; it’s holding the reins.

Sat in the front carriage are a group of students who will be guided through the world of business by industry experts—Greg Coleman, Rangarajan informs, has been teaching media and technology at the school for eight years.

Students will also have the chance to immerse themselves in one of the largest venture capital firms in the New York Area, Union Square Ventures. The MBA’s Tech and the City elective is led by one of the firm’s managing partners, Albert Wenger. He leads candidates through the startup journey, from idea inception to growth.

“Next year there will also be a bunch of courses introduced around machine learning and big data,” adds Rangarajan. “Over the last several years our curriculum has been driven by the needs of industry.”

While these developments come to the fore, Rangarajan will be keeping one eye on the business school rankings. Currently, NYU Stern is ranked among the top-25 MBA programs in the world by the Financial Times.

“They [rankings] are hugely important because they are a one-point summary to the world of how Stern is viewed,” he explains.

“We are trying to make our education more relevant, more current for students and employers, and that strategy will naturally result in a move [up] the rankings.”

NYU Stern is seen as a “finance powerhouse”. But, the latest developments in tech and entrepreneurship at the school are an attempt to position the school as an all-rounder—according to Rangarajan, NYU Stern boasts one of the largest collections of data scientists out of any business school in the world.

Opportunities at the school are ripe for the picking then. You get the sense, from Rangarajan, that this is the natural result of forming close bonds with the corporate community in New York and harnessing lasting relationships with alumni.

“We learn from our alumni, and that engagement continues to be incredibly important to us,” Rangarajan concludes. “Students are the focus of what we do. They don’t stop being out students after that graduate, they are our students for life.”

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FinTech

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