Northeastern University is launching a one-year graduate program focused on business innovation that will cater to working professionals by holding classes on Saturdays and help students develop actual products and services for their companies.
The university’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business is accepting applications for the first class of about 30 students. The program will cost about $45,000 and courses will begin in September; graduates will receive a master of science in innovation degree next summer.
School officials already have been drumming up interest at companies that participate in Northeastern’s cooperative education program, and anticipate applications from employees of large firms seeking to stand out in corporate settings where innovation often occurs more slowly than at startups.
The new program is an edited version of Northeastern’s MBA track, plus a few additions. Missing are the courses devoted to optimizing a business’s existing operations, a major component of MBA education. Instead, the entire curriculum is geared to developing the mindset and skills that will lead to the next great idea, often with new technology at the core.
The broad goal is to create a new model for graduate business education, said Hugh Courtney, the D’Amore-McKim dean. In designing the M.S. in innovation curriculum, the school’s faculty cherry picked the most relevant elements from Northeastern’s MBA program. So among the classes are marketing innovation and financing innovation.
The innovation degree can also be used as a downpayment toward the school’s traditional two-year graduate program. For example, if those innovation graduates find that later in their careers that they would benefit from additional education, they can return to Northeastern for another year and earn an MBA.
“The mindset is ‘Get me what I need, when I need it,’ as opposed to having to take it all at once,” Courtney said. “Instead of saying, ‘This is what we offer, and you have to take it all in one helping,’ we’re saying, ‘You can break it up, and it’ll work better into your career.’ ”
‘In traditional graduate classes, you develop a plan, but that’s just step one.’
Other business schools also offer innovation-centered programs. The Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has a one-year MBA program devoted to the subject, and Harvard Business School includes an innovation concentration among its executive education certificates.
But those are full-time commitments with lots of classroom time. After beginning their studies with three days of instruction, Northeastern’s innovation graduate students will attend full-day classes on the school’s Boston campus every other Saturday, while keeping their day jobs.
The program will be divided into quarters, with two courses in each semester. Between weekend sessions, student must also participate in live online lectures by guest speakers — primarily Northeastern alumni whom the school considers models of innovation.
The centerpiece of their studies, however, will be real-world projects that their employers could actually take to market. Students must pitch project ideas as part of their applications and secure executive sponsors at their companies who will help them execute in the workplace what they learn in class.
“In traditional graduate classes, you develop a plan, but that’s just step one,” said program director Tucker Marion. “Step two is what we’re focusing on — moving the plan forward within the company to add value to not only the student but also the company. We think that’s a key differentiator.”