Gordon Institute’s new master’s program provides new opportunity for business, innovation

For engineering and science students, Tufts is providing a new way to bridge business and innovation. The addition comes as those in STEM fields are asked more and more for the ability to play hard and fast in project and research teams. Beginning this fall, students will be able to enroll in classes for the Gordon Institute’s newly launched Master’s of Science in Innovation and Management (M.S.I.M.) degree program, which offers courses in engineering management, leadership and innovation as part of the Tufts School of Engineering.

Tufts alumnus Kevin Oye (E ’79), the director of the new M.S.I.M. program, explained that the program is aimed at recent engineering and science graduates who want to acquire skills that will allow them to make an impact in the world.

“This is highly targeted on people who want to innovate,” he said. “And it’s a deep course, in the sense that it’s intensive, because we’re cramming a lot in in one year, and we’re focusing then on those skills that you need to be able to independently stand up at the end of that year and be able to make a pitch, basically.”

There is an existing Master’s of Science in Engineering Management program offered through the Gordon Institute, but Oye explained that it is mostly intended for current professionals who are pursuing the degree part-time or alongside a career.

“It was from that group of people that we saw the opportunity to go after people who are in that zero-to-two year band, because they’re in a special place,” Oye said. “They have that solid technical foundation and if they have this extra boost, it will give them an opportunity to have an impact.”

The M.S.I.M. offers a one-year program of study through which students acquire skills like communication, negotiation and leadership, according to Oye.

“In the course of the year, I want to give you multiple opportunities to experience the whole process of innovating,” Oye said. “That whole process of identifying a customer, creating a compelling value proposition, and based off that, creating a legitimate business case financial model that you can then use to raise funding.”

Gordon Institute Executive Director and Associate Dean Mark Ranalli described the degree as “a career bootcamp to get more done in whatever career choice they make” in a Nov. 11, 2015 Daily article.

“A lot of young graduates today are entering the workforce without some of the critical leadership and management skills they learn later in life,” Ranalli said. “As a result they’re not given as much leadership or responsibility as they’d like. [The degree] will allow them to hit the ground running early in the career and I believe that it will give them countless dividends as their career progresses.”

Oye explained that the program is not just for those seeking corporate or entrepreneurial careers, but also for those interested in starting non-profit organizations.

“I think people often think of…entrepreneurism as only being for start-ups, but the same approach works in town governments or even international policy-making,” he said.

The program is open to students from Tufts and other universities, but the Gordon Institute offers a number of incentives for Tufts students to apply.

Nancy Buczko, an associate director at the Gordon Institute, helps oversee admissions for the new program. She explained that Tufts students applying to the program do not have to pay an application fee or provide GRE or GMAT standardized test scores and can receive merit-based scholarships from the Gordon Institute.

“Because we’re really trying to build a high-quality class and we know that Tufts students are high-performing and achieving students, we would like to see some students move from their undergraduate program directly to our program,” she said. “We’re offering generous tuition scholarships for qualified Tufts students based on merit, with a minimum scholarship. Every Tufts student is eligible to receive 20 percent off of tuition.”

The Gordon Institute is a tuition-driven organization and its operations are financed by tuition income. Buczko explained that the new program’s launch is helped by the fact that there are already 150 students enrolled in the Master’s of Science in Engineering Management program who contribute tuition.

She also explained that although the application deadline is coming up on March 15, the program will be accepting applications on a rolling basis after the deadline. The size of next year’s class isn’t yet defined, but Oye said he hopes to start with a “small cohort” of students and expand in the future.

“Hopefully we’ll continue to grow it and build its reputation over the years,” Buczko said.

Oye, who was originally part of the Board of Advisors for the School of Engineering before becoming director of the master’s degree program, said he could not pass up the opportunity to be involved with the program.

“When this opportunity came up, I said, ‘How could I miss it?’,” he said.

Oye said he is excited about the opportunity to bring people together from different disciplines, which he believes will encourage innovation.

“We basically want to put together a very strong class that includes both Tufts students and students from other universities with a mixture of backgrounds,” he said. “So some from engineering, some from science, math.”

He believes that this cross-disciplinary approach is critical in addressing contemporary problems, and that this sentiment is reflected in the entire Tufts environment.

“There’s so much more information being collected, and yet to understand how to get meaningful patterns out of it, meaningful conclusions from it is really critical,” Oye said. “And so part of what we’re also incorporating is, how do you really think abut these kinds of issues where there is a lot of data being collected and how do you make sure you avoid the famous mistake of ‘correlation is not causation’ … And that’s Tufts’ ethos.”

The Gordon Institute will benefit from Boston’s numerous start-ups and companies, and it provides a conducive and innovative environment, Oye said.

“It’s wonderful. It’s a draw card,” he said. “Tufts is a draw card, but then Boston and the fact that we’re plugging into this ecosystem around here of rich companies both small and large, there’s a mixture here.”

The program hopes to build off of the Tufts community’s enthusiasm for and awareness of the impact they can make in the world, Oye explained.

First year Thomas Coons, a student in the School of Engineering, expressed this awareness of the impact students can make after graduation.

“It’s really cool that the Gordon Institute offers programs like this for engineers,” he said. “Given all the course requirements and our busy schedule, it’s not always easy to get the important skills needed.”

Oye hopes that the new program will continue to grow in the future, and that it will help to address some of the new and complex issues in our world.

“Most of the complex issues of today don’t fit within the nice academic silos of the past,” he said. “They’re in the white space in between, and so the best way to address them is by getting people together.”