Babson’s Inaugural MSAEL Cohort Makes Its Mark

Student with laptop

Less than a year ago, Babson announced its plan to debut a brand new online master in leadership degree, the Master of Science in Advanced Entrepreneurial Leadership (MSAEL). A team of faculty and staff collaborated to design a curriculum, recruit an inaugural cohort of students,  and lay the groundwork for Babson’s first 100% online program.

And then a global health pandemic gripped the world, upending normal operations everywhere, including at Babson. In the blink of an eye, entrepreneurial leadership became more important than ever. It’s a critically in-demand skillset, characterized by knowing how to decisively take action, navigate uncertainty, embrace ambiguity, and effectively problem-solve.

Against this backdrop, 13 students are now beginning to blaze a trail as Babson’s first MSAEL cohort. They are the most experienced of any Babson graduate students, bringing an average of 12.5 years in the workforce. At a time when COVID-19 heightens the need for entrepreneurial leadership skills, this cohort from around the U.S. and the world is already making its mark at Babson.

Not only is this group the first in the MSAEL program, they are paving the way as the first students to undertake a program under the Arthur M. Blank School for Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson College. Founded with a mission to offer a transformative education for entrepreneurial leaders and through a historic $50 million gift from alumnus Arthur M. Blank ‘63 and his foundation, the Blank School is accessible to all Babson students.

As the MSAEL journey begins, we learned a few things about this groundbreaking class.

1. A Cohort United by Common Goals

Professor Andrew Corbett is teaching entrepreneurship in the MSAEL program this fall. “Many have a history of innovation work, interest, and insight,” he says. “They have the foundations, but they are looking to bring it to the next level. While the students bring diverse intellectual perspectives, they share a core concern for the environment and helping others.”

Professor Nan Langowitz, who is teaching entrepreneurial leadership this semester, sees a common desire to make a difference that cuts across cultural backgrounds. “We recently had a terrific discussion about how country culture could impact the way an entrepreneurial leader encourages clear communication on a team,” she added.

2. A Curriculum That Pushes The Envelope

Thanks to their years on the job, MSAEL students have already mastered many of the business basics you would expect from an MBA in leadership or other fundamental business school degree. Consequently, the MSAEL curriculum dives right into special topics – an entire course on strategic problem formulation, for example, or another titled “Project Management Under Uncertainty.” During the 2-year program, students take 12 courses divided across 3 modules: Catalyst, Activation, and Application.

Describing his entrepreneurship course, Corbett explains that he and the students are moving quickly. “The students did a great job prototyping,” he shared. “We brainstormed using a variety of tools: Miro, Mural, Jamboards, and more. They dove right in, experimented, and developed some really cool ideas that they then prototyped and tested.”

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3. Designed to be Real-World Ready

The curriculum culminates with an unusual capstone course, where students truly blend their professional and academic lives. A manager or other stakeholder from their organization gets involved alongside the student and faculty, with the three acting as a trio working on a real-world transformation project.

The goal? To make an immediate impact within the organization.

Even before that final capstone, students apply what they’re learning to their everyday lives, whether in their careers, in their communities, or in side-hustle entrepreneurial projects.

Langowitz compares it to yoga. “These are experienced working professionals and they already know a lot about themselves and how to work with others. But there are always more advanced poses, greater muscle strength, and deeper discipline that can be learned.”

4. An Intentionally 100% Online Degree

She points out that with so much professional experience under their belt, many MSAEL students have been out of the classroom for quite some time. “Adjusting to technology-mediated learning, let alone a 100% online program is completely new,” says Langowitz. Corbett adds that you can do just about anything online that you would do face-to-face, and that he’s witnessed partnerships beginning to form among the cohort.

“In an odd way, the pandemic has made it feel a bit more normal,” adds Langowitz, as so much of business is being done 100% virtually right now.

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