Collaboration Leads to New Programs for Business and Education

Two new programs developed and led by HBS faculty in collaboration with colleagues from across Harvard University — one in business analytics and another in school leadership — are demonstrating the real-world potential of interdisciplinary academic ventures.

Debuting this spring, the Harvard Business Analytics Program (HBAP) was designed and will be taught by faculty from HBS, the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. It will give experienced executives — including those who already possess an MBA or advanced business degree — a foundational understanding of quantitative analysis and data science. “Data and data analytics are transforming industries across the board,” says HBAP cofounder Karim Lakhani, the Charles E. Wilson Professor of Business Admin istration at HBS. “This program will help established leaders work more effectively with data science teams and understand how to use new data capabilities to drive strategic advantage.”

Participants in HBAP take part in six new online courses, two seminars, and two on-campus immersions at HBS. The curriculum cov ers topics ranging from programming and data science systems to digital strategy and innovation to data-driven marketing. The course content includes both asynchronous learning sessions and sessions taught by Harvard faculty in live, face-to-face online classes.

By the end of the self-paced program, which can be completed in as little as nine months, Lakhani says participants “will be able to bring data analytics from the periphery to the heart of their respective organizations.”

Another new program, the Certificate in School Management and Leadership, was developed by HBS and the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) to address the increasingly complex issues faced by school principals on the front lines of K–12 public education, offering them strategies and actionable practices to improve outcomes for students and teachers as well as communities. The program is led by Mary Grassa O’Neill, HGSE senior lecturer and faculty director of the School Leadership Program, and HBS senior fellow Allen Grossman, cofounder of the Public Education Leadership Project, a long-standing HBS-HGSE partnership.

“In addition to providing academic leadership, today’s principals have to manage personnel, budget, facilities, and a diverse range of community stakeholders,” Grossman notes. “It’s not a stretch to think of them as CEOs, yet many have not been trained for that job.”

To enhance their capacity to build and lead high-performing schools, participants in the online certificate program will take in lessons from Harvard experts on business, education, nonprofits, and government, engaging with the curriculum and each other several hours a week at times of their choosing on the HBX digital learning platform. “A key feature of the program is that it is completed during the school year, and participants can immediately apply what they learn,” says Grassa O’Neill.

“Programs such as these demonstrate Harvard’s growing ability to integrate and deliver multidisciplinary knowledge to help leaders meet their organizations’ evolving challenges,” says Srikant Datar, the Arthur Lowes Dickinson Professor of Business Administration and senior associate dean for University affairs at HBS. He adds:

“This is Harvard coming together to innovate in ways that none of us could do in isolation.”

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PRIMO: Fostering a New Generation of Researchers

PRIMO Fellow Alan Castro, HBS Assistant Professors Susanna Gallani and Christopher Stanton, and PRIMO Fellow Obinna Igbokwe (photo by Evgenia Eliseeva)

Harvard senior Alan Castro and Tami Kim (DBA 2017), a new assistant professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, have a special connection: They have both been fellows in Harvard Business School’s Program for Research in Markets and Organizations (PRIMO), a 10-week summer program for Harvard undergraduates that matches students with HBS faculty members to work on pre-defined research projects. It represents one of many collaborative efforts across Harvard to integrate learning and leverage the University’s impact.

Summer 2017 marked the seventh year for PRIMO, which was designed to develop research and writing skills, creativity, and a sense of community among a small group of motivated undergraduates who may be considering a PhD program and a career in research or academia. The program also exposes the fellows to in-class case discussions to give them a sense of participant- centered learning and how research leads to preparing cases and other course materials. To date, a total of 119 students have completed the program.

A PRIMO fellow last summer, Castro, a psychology major at Harvard College, was born in Dallas and raised in Central Mexico. Paired with Assistant Professor Susanna Gallani, a member of the Accounting and Management Unit at HBS, Castro worked with her on a study on risk and compensation design for executive pay. “I felt valued by the research team,” Castro says. He speaks highly about Gallani as a mentor: “I love doing research, and Professor Gallani saw the potential in me to continue down this road.” For Castro, PRIMO has the potential to be life changing, since he would eventually like to pursue a PhD in business.

Kim, who was one of Castro’s mentors, followed a similar path. She was a rising Harvard College senior when she par ticipated in PRIMO in 2011 and is now a member of the Darden marketing faculty after earning her doctorate from HBS last May.

PRIMO is integral to HBS, notes Kim:

“In order to fulfill its mission of educating leaders who make a difference in the world, the School needs to produce educators who can disseminate relevant and rigorous research.”

PRIMO administrator Marais Young, associate director of the School’s Doctoral Programs, describes what she thinks makes the program distinctive. When the program was first envisioned by HBS finance professor Mihir Desai, she says, it was modeled on Harvard College’s Program for Research in Science and Engineering (PRISE). But Desai wanted to ensure that PRIMO also had what he referred to as HBS’s “special sauce,” which includes giving fellows an opportunity to hear from researchers at various stages in their careers — from first-year doctoral students to junior faculty to the Dean.

“The program has really gathered momentum, and a great sense of partnership with Harvard College to introduce aspiring Harvard undergraduates to the concept of business research,” says Young. “We are thrilled with the success so far and are looking forward to building on that success in the future.”

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