Management Science and Engineering (MS&E) at Stanford University
Many of my friends and prospective applicants for next year's graduate term have been quizzing me about my graduate major at Stanford University. My classes start in autumn this year so I don't have any first hand experience yet. I am summarizing here all that I know from the long hours of research I did before applying. I have also included information handed down by seniors already in the program. If anyone has anything to add about the program or feels that I have misrepresented any aspect of the program, please leave a comment.
It’s a tough job trying to summarize the Management Science and Engineering (MS&E) Program in a few words. I can boldly say that it is not perfectly equivalent to any of the programs found at other Universities. It must, therefore, be understood in terms of its constituent courses and the ultimate goal that Stanford wishes to achieve with this eclectic combination of Management and Engineering courses.
The variety of courses on offer makes the MS&E program highly customizable to suit the student’s preferred specialization in wide array of technical, management and techno-management fields. Each of these chosen specializations can be thought of in terms of the more traditional specializations such as Industrial Engineering and MBA programs. I will point out the similarities wherever applicable.
A high level view of the constituent courses taught can be captured through the seven concentrations of the program.
Decision and Risk Analysis
Economics and Finance
Information Science and Technology
Organizations, Technology and Entrepreneurship
Policy and Strategy
Production and Operations Management
A quick glance will tell you that it covers almost all of the Management streams taught in your traditional MBA program. Organization Management, Operations Management, Strategy, Economics and Finance – this list would lead you to ask why you need a separate department to teach you what is taught at the Graduate School of business’ MBA program in the same campus. The answer lies in the fact that they are taught very differently and with a very different focus at MS&E.
The MS&E program focuses on understanding the problems involved in the engineering aspects of managing systems. It aims to be at the vital interface between management and engineering, to enable engineers with their technical background and strong quantitative skills to be effective in management positions. The emergence of the field of Financial Engineering wherein finance problems are being solved using models related to engineering systems is an example of just how vital this merger of engineering and management is.
Some of the core management courses do have many similarities with MBA subjects and are meant to give the students a clear understanding of the management concepts. So it can be argued that MS&E is more than half way through to an MBA covering at least the core management courses in fair depth. In fact I am duly informed by a senior that if you consciously and carefully choose your electives you could get pretty close to covering all core MBA subjects. But it’s probably not the best idea and may result in you missing some of the strong points of the program.
Moving on, a further look at the other specializations reveals a wider variety of fields that are covered. The MS&E department was created by merging the departments – Industrial Engineering and Engineering management and the Department of Engineering – Economic Systems and Operations research. The specializations in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering related subjects are thus comprehensively covered. In fact if you are interested in doing a Masters in Operations research or Industrial Engineering at Stanford, you would be applying to the MS&E department. The program is thus highly inclusive and maps to more than one major that would be offered under traditional nomenclature at other Universities. As long as I’m at it, it’s relevant to point out that the Financial Engineering offered at other Universities is also covered by MS&E at Stanford. The Financial and Decision Engineering specialization is another of the many core strengths of this program and is very well known and recognized in the industry. If you’re looking for a career in hardcore computational finance, MS&E has the relevant courses on offer.
The concentrations that excite me the most are Organizations, Technology and Entrepreneurship, Policy and Strategy and Information Science and Technology. I would be surprised if the Tech-Entrepreneurship education can bettered anywhere else. Courses such as Technology Venture Formation cover the entire life-cycle of a start-up from idea to enterprise. The business plans developed by students are evaluated by the great entrepreneurs and venture capitalists of the Silicon Valley. What more can prospective entrepreneurs ask for! Also covered in these concentrations are the unconventional but immensely important courses for the business world such as Creativity and Innovation and Negotiation. Reading about these courses on the website really aroused my interest in them. The skills gained in these classes could prove to be the decisive difference between you and the crowd.
If some of the first hand reviews on the actual classes are to go by, the quality of execution of the courses is among, if not the best in the world. After all Stanford does have a reputation to live up to. The professors are supposed to be simply amazing, each one a legend in her/his field of teaching and research.
By now it’s probably clear why I started by saying it would be tough to summarize MS&E in a few words. I’ve used more than a few but am still not convinced I’ve conveyed enough. I hope this has at least given the reader a glimpse of the variety of great courses on offer in this program. More than anything I hope I haven’t misrepresented anything about the department. I only have a few resources to go by before I get to Stanford this autumn. Rest assured I will keep this blog updated on my own impressions after I start attending classes.
Links for further reading: