The Business School

I had the privilege of offering the invocation at the Worcester State of the City Address, which has inspired me to offer the Business School’s State of the School. And having watched numerous State of the Union addresses on television, I feel compelled to say that the State of our School is strong.

Our programs are strong. We remain on a high from the launch of the nation’s first PhD in Financial Technology (Fintech) and the fact that we are the first university in the world to offer PhD, Master’s, and Bachelor’s degrees in Fintech. This degree program is truly in the sweet spot of who we are as a STEM-based Business School.  

We are also celebrating recent changes to our programs that will strengthen our offerings. We launched a STEM based MBA, which provides a distinctive edge to the popular credential. Then both the MBA and MS in Business Analytics degrees have been enhanced with a new specialization in Artificial Intelligence. AI is changing the way organizations deliver value to their customers and stakeholders. Through this new specialty, WBS students, part-time working professionals and full-time students, will learn tools and techniques to formulate AI strategy and policy, design and implement AI-based business solutions and applications, and use AI applications ethically and responsibly. Students may alternatively opt for a nine-credit certificate called AI in Business. Additionally, AI has been infused into our MS in Information Technology degree.

At the undergraduate level, we have updated our BS in Management Information Systems degree, which is now the STEM designated BS in Information Systems and Technologies (ISTech). This enhanced degree, which is focused on the design of technological information and computing systems, features an ISTech core, technical, analytics, and AI curriculum coupled with foundational management courses. Through this program, our students will be introduced to more contemporary subjects such as analytics, machine learning, and AI, ensuring that graduates are equipped with the skills most relevant to today's technology landscape.

Our growth is strong as evidenced by post pandemic recovery at the graduate level. The Business School experienced a 55% decline in international graduate students between the years 2015-2016 and 2021-2022.  We attributed the decline to a number of factors including increased competition in the MBA program, geopolitical issues especially impacting Chinese students studying in the US, and the Covid-19 pandemic. However, from 2022, we are experiencing a rebound with a 44% increase in students. Even more impressive is the fact that we are seeing 68% new student growth with nearly 1000 applications submitted for fall 2024. We credit this robust growth to our successful international recruitment efforts, and we look forward to further gains as we continue to expand into new areas.

And our opportunities are myriad. The recent restructuring of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship function at WPI means that the Business School will focus on preparing our students with the entrepreneurial mindset needed to succeed in their academic and vocational careers. Through new courses and programming, students will have the opportunity to learn foundational skills that will help them leverage innovative and entrepreneurial ways of thinking and doing. Additionally, we continue to expand global partnerships to ensure students gain real world experiences through project opportunities. Our recruiting efforts have expanded to the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Central America. And, through our Small Business Digitization Initiative, students are working with real clients, developing websites and applications, and conducting research while ensuring impact for those businesses and the communities in which they serve.

This is not to say that we do not have our challenges. For example, undergraduate enrollment has declined 14% from 2019 to 2023. But this is why we have launched a task force to focus on growth, especially at the undergraduate level. We will look critically at our offerings to ensure that we are aligned with market needs, have targeted marketing messages that emphasize our value proposition as a premier STEM-based business school, and are providing the kinds of programs that students want. Our goal is to develop a growth path and plan by the end of the fall semester so that we are prepared for execution at the beginning of CY 2025. This plan will be critical as 2025 marks the enrollment cliff, the anticipated drop of students aged 18-22 pursuing four-year college degrees. Yet, we are confident that our distinctive degree programs, exceptional faculty, and caring staff will continue to attract students who see the value of business and STEM.

During my invocation at the Worcester State of the City Address, I prayed that those gathered would not simply be hearers of the address, but would also actively engage, finding areas of interest in which they could participate. I have that same hope for you as you read. Were there initiatives noted that particularly resonated with you? Were there areas in which you could see yourself participating in support of the Business School? If so, would you contact me? Through this community of alumni, partners, and friends, we are poised to grow the Business School, extend our reach, and increase our impact. Join us and we will be stronger together.


Dean Debora Jackson