Syracuse University iSchool Commencement May 14, 2016 (I am somewhere in the far bottom right)
I wanted to share an assessment of the Syracuse University Executive Master of Science in Information Management (MSIM) program as I recently graduated from the program in the summer of 2016. I will say that if you are considering a distance program, you must be self-disciplined and a self-starter. Typically there are no set class times, there are only set assignment due dates.
Just to give you a bit of background on my experiences, back in 2012 I was toiling full-time in the back-office of an Atlanta based bank in a data warehousing/requirements gathering capacity when I acquired (or I should say re-acquired) the Masters bug. I already held an MBA with a focus in IT management but I wanted additional exposure to areas that focused on current “sexier” technology based topics such as data science, R programming, visualization and information security.
In contrast, the IT management focus of my MBA studies focused on strategic planning, project management, justifying IT investments, business process analysis and on-site company practicums. Basically IT Management is the academic “CIO starter pack” for the so-inclined executive. I wanted to supplement the more strategic MBA IT focus I had already gained with a granular data focused learning opportunity. I was thinking ahead and trying to position myself to tackle more interesting information related work in visualization and data analysis.
Fortunately, my employer at that time offered a tuition reimbursement program that would help offset some of the costs of a new graduate degree. Thus, at the start of 2012 I decided to take the plunge and started looking at reputable graduate degree programs in IS/MIS/CIS or Information Management.
Just because I was looking at online degree programs didn’t mean I was willing to compromise on academic quality or university reputation, thus I started researching STEM programs at reputable schools: Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern, Brandeis, Boston University and Syracuse University.
Based upon my tenure, here are some pros and cons of the Syracuse Executive MSIM program as I will be as impartial as possible in my assessment. Please note that my experience does not include an assessment of the full time on campus program.
From the Syracuse iSchool website:
The 30-credit MS in Information Management for Executives requires students to have six or more years of full-time professional experience in the information management field with a record of continuingly increasing job responsibilities. This program track is also available, online, full time, or part time and can be completed in as little as 15 months.
- Syracuse University is a well-known respected institution with a solid name brand;
- According to USNews the iSchool at Syracuse is rated as having the #1 ranked program in Information Systems within an iSchool
- Syracuse edged out other respected schools such as Michigan, UNC, Washington, Maryland and UT-Austin
- All of the Big-4 professional services firms recruit from the full time program;
- I took this as an indication of program quality
- The degree is offered by the same school that houses the on campus program and not offered from a Professional Studies school
- This held sway with me as I was looking for schools that did not herd distance students into a program with separate faculty and lower admissions standards
- Any student in the Executive MSIM program can at anytime enroll in an on-campus class
- This was further proof of academic parity between all MSIM degree options as I enrolled in two on-campus classes during summer terms
- The majority of the classes were taught by PhD level faculty
- You can combine a graduate degree with a CAS (Certificate of Advanced Study) in multiple disciplines;
- Data Science
- Information Security Management
- Information Systems & Telecommunications Management
- School Media
- You can transfer in to the MSIM program up to 6 credit hours from another graduate level program;
- There are Syracuse University alumni chapters in most major cities that present networking opportunities
- If you’re a college basketball fan Syracuse gives you a new rooting interest in a quality program. College football fans however…
- If you complete the program, you WILL learn new concepts that can be put to work immediately in your current position and make you more confident in your abilities
- The program was much cheaper than Carnegie Mellon and slightly cheaper than Northwestern’s Continuing Studies offering but it was pricey nonetheless. Back in 2012 the classes were roughly $3800 for 1 class. By the time I finished in 2016 I was paying $4400 per class (a whopping 16% increase)
- The majority of classes I took were of high quality and I gained additional knowledge to fill in some gaps but there were some classes were I felt the material was on par with a MOOC (which is not necessarily bad) but at $4000 a class, students will have much higher standards
- The high cost of the program forced me to drag out the program over 3 and a half years
- Would have liked to see greater connectivity solely between Executive MSIM students. I listed parity and sameness of academic quality as a plus but I would have liked to know (for networking purposes) who else was in the executive program even if they weren’t in my particular class. Classes were comprised of executive online students, non-executive online students and full-time on-campus students who wanted to take an online option. This cross-blend of students enriched the overall class experience but I still wanted a means of connection with all students in the executive MSIM program
- Your student advisor can be unresponsive
- There were times when I received an email response from my advisor up to a week later. There were times when my emails and phones calls to my advisor were completely ignored. Slow and especially non-responses should not be a possibility when customers are paying the university roughly $4,000 a class
- Work. School. Social Life. Pick 2. This problem is not unique to Syracuse graduate programs
- In my first class I had to write a 25-page paper which meant taking a week of “vacation” to finish!
All in all, I was pleased with the program. I was able to combine the M.S. in Information Management degree with a Certificate in Data Science which included exposure to tools like R, Tableau and Qlikview.
I was able to travel to Syracuse during the summer on two different occasions and complete two classes which were both of high quality. If you enroll in the program you should absolutely attend a summer Maymester class to acquaint yourself with the city and the campus. On my first visit I stayed in Haven Hall and lived like a student. On my subsequent visit it was a week in the Marriott since I had hotel points to use from my consulting job.
I specifically enjoyed the capstone class I took on campus, IST-755 Strategic Management of Information Resources. The class involved lectures combined with readings, a mid-term test and an in-class group strategic presentation based on an assigned case problem. After the week of class, students needed to compose an individual strategic paper.
From a cost perspective, there are innovative graduate programs leveraging MOOC (i.e. Massive Open Online Course) components which are currently offered at prestigious public universities. The MOOC underpinnings of these offerings allow the degrees to be offered at a mere fraction of Syracuse’s cost.
Both Georgia Tech (full disclosure, my MBA was earned here) and the University of Illinois are offering M.S. programs in computer science and data science for roughly $7,000 and $19,000 respectively. I would love to see more reputable universities with quality STEM programs follow suit in this regard (looking at you NYU, Cal-Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon and Syracuse).
However, if you can take advantage of your employer’s tuition reimbursement plan to subsidize the cost, I recommend the Syracuse Executive Master’s of Science in Information Management program for the quality academics taught by PhDs and the flexible curriculum. The program will be especially useful for talented individuals mired in back-office banking looking to transition to consulting!!
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