Higher education hasn’t been immune to digital disruption. But Susan Fournier, dean of Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, hopes her school can benefit from it.
Questrom will launch an online MBA program, starting in the fall of 2020. The business school will work with edX, the Cambridge nonprofit, and use its online platform to distribute class materials and interact with students.
Questrom has worked with edX before, on a certificate program called “MicroMasters.” Fournier says edX officials approached BU about the possibility of a deeper partnership, one that would involve a full-fledged MBA degree-granting program. The discussions, she says, began in earnest at the start of the year.
“They were looking for an MBA partner and they were looking for a globally recognized brand,” Fournier says. “We know there’s a group out there that wants this degree, and we know there’s a pent up demand for it. We also know that there’s a segment that can’t necessarily come to the US, to come to Boston University.”
Questrom’s 160 or so faculty members will play an integral role in the course design and implementation. The goal is to offer a degree with the same quality and reputation as the on-campus program. But they won’t be the same price. The new online MBA will cost $24,000 and can be completed in as few as 21 months. The traditional two-year program costs about $120,000.
Fournier, who is wrapping up her first year as dean, says she expects to accommodate 200 to 300 online students in the first year and potentially grow that number in future years. That would still be a significant increase to Questrom’s student base, which numbers more than 300 full-time MBA students and more than 600 part-timers.
If this succeeds, Fournier expects BU would use the edX partnership to develop online courses in other parts of the university.
“These capabilities will be foundational . . . for us to offer other degrees,” Fournier says. “We’re building these capabilities for the entire university.” — JON CHESTO
Dunkin’ Brands to launch a plant-based sausage
Dunkin’ Brands scored some media buzz when the company unveiled plans to offer a plant-based sausage on its menus, starting at Dunkin’ shops in Manhattan and eventually expanding nationwide.
But behind all the headlines is a college student at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Lana Weidgenant started a change.org petition to persuade Dunkin’ to adopt a plant-based sausage, specifically the “Beyond Sausage” from Beyond Meat, the hot public company of the moment. At last count, more than 19,500 people had endorsed the petition.
Someone was certainly listening at Dunkin’ headquarters in Canton. Weidgenant woke up last Wednesday to a direct tweet and a direct Instagram message from Dunkin’ chief marketing officer Tony Weisman, touting the company’s decision and essentially giving her props.
Dunkin’ officials say the company’s partnership with Beyond Meat had been in the works for a while before the petition. (Canadian rival Tim Hortons already has a similar partnership.) But the petition, a spokeswoman said, reinforced the consumer demand for the product.
“It was just about this little push, showing that we’re here and we will support it,” Weidgenant said.
Weidgenant stopped eating animal products about two years ago, out of concern for animal welfare and the environment and dropped Dunkin’ from her routine. She is an adviser with a new nonprofit called Plant Dining Partnerships that aims to encourage more plant-based options at restaurants.
“Dunkin’ was one of my favorite locations growing up, but my dining habits have changed,” Weidgenant said of her vegan diet. “I would love to be a customer again.”
And she’s just getting started with her campaigning. Watch out, Starbucks. She’s coming for you next. — JON CHESTO
Former GE CEO’s keeping their area connections
Former chief executives of General Electric like to hang around town after they’ve left the corner office.
John Flannery , who ran the Boston industrial conglomerate from 2017 to 2018, has landed at Charlesbank Capital Partners as an advisory director. He evaluates new opportunities as well as help existing investments grow at the middle-market private equity firm that manages more than $5 billion of capital.
Flannery joins the Portfolio Resources group, which boasts another high-profile former chief executive: Shira Goodman who ran Staples from 2016 to 2018. She is also advisory director.
Flannery is working out of Charlesbank’s Boston office, and his focus areas include industrial, consumer, and health care sectors.
At GE, Flannery succeeded Jeff Immelt who was in charge from 2001 to 2017, and pushed for relocating its headquarters from Fairfield, Conn. to Boston. The company moved into the Fort Point Channel neighborhood in 2016.
After GE, Immelt became the chairman of athenahealth, the Watertown health care IT company cofounded by Jonathan Bush. Immelt helped broker its sale in late 2018 to two New York financial firms and combining it with a health technology company spun out from GE.
Immelt has since departed from his athenahealth post. He still has a gig with global venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates, where he is a venture partner on both the technology and health care investing teams. — SHIRLEY LEUNG
Leadership changes afoot at Santander
Some big changes are coming to Scott Powell’s leadership team at Santander, the Spanish banking giant. Powell’s top lieutenant, Duke Dayal, is headed to the United Kingdom to be chief financial officer of the bank’s operations there. He currently holds dual roles with Santander’s US business: chief executive of Santander Bank NA (the US retail bank) and chief financial officer of all US operations.
Santander recruited Tim Wennes from MUFG Union Bank in California to be president and chief executive of Santander Bank, one of Dayal’s jobs. He will move to the Boston area and start on Sept. 16. The company also will move JC Alvarez from Dallas back to Boston in September to be the US chief financial officer. He had been the US treasurer in Boston until 2017, when he moved to Dallas to be chief financial officer of Santander’s auto lending arm, known as Santander Consumer. Both will report to Powell, who runs all of Santander’s US operations out of Boston.
Dayal, by the way, works with a charity called Pratham USA, which helps kids growing up in the Mumbai slums. Powell has a cricket bat on display in his office that he bought at a fund-raising event for the charity. The two have joked about playing cricket in the halls of their downtown offices, but it looks like Dayal might end up going to England before they get the chance. — JON CHESTO
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