Grad School Problem -- Please Help!

I have a problem with my grad school – a big one.

I’m enrolled in an MBA program in a well-known New York University (no, not NYU). My major is Information Systems and I’m currently finishing up my first semester.

I had been considering taking a second major since before I even enrolled (an option the college allows). However, I wasn’t certain which secondary major I wanted to take, so I didn’t declare it right away. This isn’t a problem at the school – you can change your major after enrollment.

Having taken some time during the semester to look through the school catalog and speak to some people, I figured that a major in Operations Management would be just the thing. The courses look interesting, it’s something I can see myself being involved in for the next twenty years or so, and it is a good fit/compliment for the IS courses.

However, when I went to register for the courses for the Fall Semester, I found that none of them were being offered. A check of the (current) Spring semester and the summer semesters shows that the Management Science courses necessary for this major weren’t being offered either.

I spoke to someone in Acedemic Advisement, and they informed me that due to a lack of demand the courses were discontinued quite a while ago. Needless to say, this came as a big surprise to me – it’s still in the school’s catalog, and the school’s website still shows the major and courses. I emailed the Chairman of the Operations Deptartment. Here was his response:

To be honest, I’m more than a bit annoyed. Had I known that the Management courses weren’t going to be available, I might have selected a different school. True, I didn’t ask at the time of enrollment if the program was available, but you’d think that if it’s on the school’s website and in the catalog, then it should be available!

But now I’m kind of stuck. I’ve already taken out student loans for this college. I can’t start over at another school – that would just be throwing away the time and money already invested (please don’t bring up “sunk costs”). Does anyone have any suggestions? I’d love to find out if there is any interest in the Operations Management courses so that I could go back to the Chairman and have the courses reinstated, but I have neither the time nor money to start a public relations campaign. Do I have any recourse against the school to force them to offer the classes?

Any advice/suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Zev Steinhardt

Would it be possible to talk to the profs in the dept who would have taught the classes and set up a few independent-study or directed-study courses? I don’t know how different an MBA program is from an MA program, but people in my department regularly set up directed study courses for projects/areas they were interested in that didn’t have a regular course…

Why shouldn’t I bring up sunk costs? No matter what you do from here on out, the time and money you’ve already spent is gone. The view to take is that you can spend three semesters at a school that doesn’t offer exactly what you want to study, or you can spend four semesters at a school that does (and go through applications again).

Big question: are there faculty still there who are interested in OR? What about in other departments, in Statistics for example? From the email it sounds like they canceled the major because no one was taking the classes, not because there wasn’t anyone to teach them. If that’s correct, then I would recommend setting up an independent study with someone whose work interests you. Another options would following leads and seeing if you can be supervised by someone outside the university. I know the email basically says there is nothing to be done, but I’m assuming the question you were asking was “What happened to this major?”, and not “How can I pursue my interest in Operations Management?”. If that’s correct, maybe write the guy back and frame it that way.

To be honest I think having self-motivated experience with a professional can be just as valuable as taking the classes. Anyone can just go buy the book. Seriously, if you can into an interview and talk about how you got up off your ass to do such and such and work with so-and-so, that’s gonna carry a lot of weight. You can even put on your resume, “Not-NYU. MBA. Academic interests: Operations Research and Informations Systems. Major project: Routing and Distribution of Widgets in Narnia”.

No good reason really. What annoys me the most is that I wasted the money and it’s not even my fault. I’m out thousands of dollars because the school advertised a product they don’t have. If it was my fault, I could I could just accept it and move on, but this is a different story. I guess it’s just an emotional reaction on my part.

Ugh. I really don’t want to go through applications again.

Zev Steinhardt

My husband plans to major in Operations Management for his MBA. He’s taken one semester so far, just like you have. I don’t know if this helps you at all, but I can tell you that it is offered at other schools. Good thing–he’s not especially interested in finance. He’s an engineer, and has spent his entire career in factories. The world needs more people who are interested in us “people who make things”!

It sounds like the professor you e-mailed is tired of fighting the fight. I’m a little surprised he didn’t mention some sort of independent study option. If you are dead-set against switching schools, I’d pursue that if it is possible.

You may be able to work something out where you get 2 MBAs from 2 different schools without having to do it all twice. A friend has gotten them from Wharton and Hopkins/Woodrow Wilson simultaneously.

I would immediately drop the “whose fault is it” thing and get this figured out fast. 2 schools, a new school, no school, it doesn’t matter. A MBA candidate should be able to burn up some phone lines, use his contacts (including the Chairman), and put in the hours to get this resolved before September.

Otherwise go back to work.