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Students Approve Sloan MBA Program

By Sarah Y. Keightley
Executive Editor

Master's degree students at the Sloan School of Management are pleased with the recent approval of the Master of Business Administration degree with an optional thesis. Students like the fact that they have a choice, though several said they still plan to write a thesis.

The faculty approved the degree at their Feb. 16 meeting, and the Executive Committee of the Corporation approved it yesterday. For the decision to be final, it needs to be confirmed by the Corporation.

The current first-year Sloan master's students make up the first class given the option to pursue the MBA. Sloan will continue to offer the Master of Science degree with a 24-unit thesis, and those who write a thesis will have the option to receive either degree, according to Deputy Dean of the Sloan School Paul M. Healy.

First-year students generally like the idea of a thesis, but are glad that they have the choice to pursue either degree.

"What matters is the choice," said Daniel A. DiSano G, a first-year master's student. DiSano, who is a Sloan Senator, said that students wanted Sloan to offer the MBA degree. Still, it is too early to predict how many students will choose the MBA over the SM, he said.

DiSano said he will still do a thesis, and the chance of the new degree was not a factor in his decision to come to MIT. This year's class was admitted with the understanding that the MBA program was under consideration.

John C. Townsend G agreed that it is nice that people have a choice, but he still plans to do a thesis. The SM "sets Sloan apart from other schools" because it is a more rigorous program, he said.

Another first-year master's student Scott F. Rockart G said he likes the idea of the thesis, but the MBA is not a bad idea. "The thesis probably doesn't make sense for everyone," he said. There is a "fair bit of interest in the MBA," he added.

Although George P. Maxe G said he definitely plans to write a thesis, he has not decided which degree he will choose. He is interested in whether or not the degrees are transferable. "The MBA means a lot more," but the SM could be more useful for someone who chooses to go further in academia, he said.

Administrators believe that students will probably favor the MBA over the SM. Having research-focused classes instead of the one thesis better meets students' future careers needs, Healy said. Also, the MBA is better-known than the SM.

Matana Sutivong G, a first-year master's student, said she will pursue an MBA. As an international student, Sutivong said it would be difficult to write something as long as a thesis.

The Sloan School has considered revamping the curriculum and making the thesis optional for some time. With an optional thesis, "it made more sense to call [the degree] an MBA," Healy said. The new classes use research tools to solve management problems. Sloan has already implemented these courses this year.

The change in curriculum is a move in the right direction, DiSano said. Other business schools, such as Harvard, are following Sloan's shift in focus, he added. Unfortunately, there are scheduling problems due to the high number of students in the new classes, he said.

The MBA is one of two graduate degrees at MIT without a major thesis requirement. The other one is the Practice School option in the Department of Chemical Engineering.