MS&E celebrates 10-year anniversary, reflects on progress

Oct. 27, 2010, 2:01 a.m.

Stanford’s Management Science and Engineering (MS&E) department will continue expanding and adapting its undergraduate and graduate programs after celebrating its 10-year anniversary on Oct. 15.

The department was created in an effort to combine three smaller areas of study — operations research, engineering-economic systems and industrial engineering and engineering management — into a comprehensive major, according to MS&E department Chair Elisabeth Paté-Cornell.

“The goal of the merger between the three departments was to explore the synergy among these departments and to make it much more substantial, interdisciplinary and vibrant,” Paté-Cornell said. “I think we have done just that.”

According to department student services officer Lori Cottle, the number of applicants to the program has been stable overall, as the department generally receives about 800 applicants to its master’s program and 250 applicants to its doctoral program each year.

This year, the department admitted 37 percent of applicants to its master’s program and 15 percent of applicants to doctoral program, respectively. In total, 130 undergraduate students, 356 masters students and 121 doctoral students are currently enrolled.

The department also receives a large number of coterminal degree applications from Stanford undergraduates, which Cottle attributes to the department’s technical focus.

“We’re a good next step for a student who has done something very technical and is sure that’s where they want their career to go,” Cottle said.

While reflecting on the department’s progress since its inception, Paté-Cornell said that although quantitative factors such as the number of applicants, standardized test scores and the acceptance rates from each year are important, the department primarily measures its success by the merits of its applicants.

“There is not one single [quantitative] measure that would give an indication of success,” Paté-Cornell said. Instead, “we look at the quality of the students that we attract.”

Moving forward, the department will adapt its courses and other programs as needed to ensure that it continues to provide students with fundamental technical skills to handle a variety of fields.

“Now we are trying to adapt the areas that we have to the big problems and changes in the world, whether in energy, health environment, communication, information systems or national security,” Paté-Cornell said.

Many graduates from the MS&E department have gone on to become analysts in a variety of business fields, including consulting, banking, finance, product management and marketing. Several graduates have pursued careers in engineering and technology as well, according to the Career Development Center’s report on destination employment from 2006 to 2009.

Ioana Ioanovici ’12, who declared her MS&E major earlier this year, said the department provides a comprehensive foundation for her plans to work in operations management after graduation.

“I wanted to have a broader range of career opportunities after I graduate,” Ioanovici said. “MS&E allows you to be well-rounded as an individual, and it gives you more freedom, because I know I’m not confined to anything.”

Ioanovici also appreciates the major for its efforts to provide students with more applied than theoretical knowledge and skills.

“I felt that MS&E was a special opportunity because it prepares you for the real world,” Ioanovici said. “The classes teach you very important skills and are very applicable. When you finish a class, you learn how to do something new — for example, how to optimize costs, or how a supply chain works.”

Paté-Cornell said she is proud of MS&E’s innovation and creativity, which lends the department its staying power.

“Ten years later, the department has blossomed, which is not to say that there are never any problems,” Paté-Cornell said. “But we have certainly managed to create programs that involve the spectrum of topics and disciplines from social sciences to operations research.”

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