February 13, 2014

Cornell Launches New Program in Behavioral Economics

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By ANNA JOHNSON

Last week, Cornell announced a new Master of Professional Studies program in Applied Behavioral Economics and Individual Choice, which according to Prof. Brian Wansink, applied economics and management, is unlike any other graduate program in the nation.

Offered by the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, the multi-disciplinary program provides a degree in the study of interplay between economics and psychology in decision-making, according to the program’s website. It will focus on behavioral science and synthesize the strengths of social sciences fields to create effective business solutions. There’s a tremendous need out there for people who can invent solutions for problems using psychology and economics,” Wansink said. “There are MBA programs, but they don’t teach people solutions. They teach people very well to manage. We want to make change-makers.” — Prof. Brian Wansink

Geared towards students with a variety of interests and undergraduate degrees, ranging from marketing to nutrition, the program is open to those who are still exploring multiple disciplines, according to Prof. David Just, applied economics and management.

“We can envision several different types of students who would be interested. Think about a student coming out of a psychology program or a policy program who really wants to orient more towards business; this might provide an entry for them,” Just said.

The degree has concentration options of behavioral marketing, sustainability and behavior and behavioral finance, according to the program’s website. The concentrations will also offer a foundation which may lead to career opportunities in research, news, journalism, consulting and marketing, the website added.

After six years of development, the new program is currently accepting applications and will begin in Fall 2014, according to Just and Wansink.

Drawing on past research and faculty expertise, Just and Wansink said they developed the one-of-a-kind program because they saw a need for it.

“Several of us saw real opportunities to make a connection with the business world and behavioral economics,” Just said. “It’s a hot topic and it’s something of value, but there’s a real lack of training out there.”

He added that firms recognize the need for this type of experience and the program thus has the potential to supply qualified applicants.

Wansink said he believes the new program offered by Cornell differs from a traditional MBA and will fill these gaps in a unique and applicable way.

“There’s a tremendous need out there for people who can invent solutions for problems using psychology and economics,” Wansink said. “There are MBA programs, but they don’t teach people solutions. They teach people very well to manage. We want to make change-makers.”

Wansink said he thinks the business world needs people who will take action. with the support of seasoned faculty, access to innovative research and a degree unlike any other, the new MPS might be able to get graduates to be that change, he added.

“Our goal for this program is to develop 12 to 20 Steve Jobs who, in every area, are able to go into [them and] develop great ideas,” Wansink said.

According to Just and Wansink, the development of the program has not been without its challenges, which include the building of the curriculum, securing of support courses and a year-and-a-half delay. However, they said experienced faculty were instrumental in getting the program off the ground.

“We finally got all the pieces together and decided to move ahead,” Just said. “For years, we’ve been running an internship program oriented towards behavioral marketing [with] research experience and [students] raved about the experience. We realized this is something we could do more formally and potentially of more value for them.”

The new MPS provides the training needed to use these skills well, according to Just and Wansink.

“It’s the only program like this in the nation,” Wansink said. “This is meant for people who want to change the world, not just someone who wants to hang around. This is for people who want to be leaders in the profession, change the world and lead their profession, whatever it is.”

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