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Getting to Know the Mod System at Vanderbilt Business

Jan 16, 2018
Associate Dean Nancy Lea Hyer explains the advantages of a quarterly system and how MBA students can maximize their time at Vanderbilt Business

By Kara Sherrer

Vanderbilt Business runs on a Mod system — but what exactly does that mean, and how does it compare to an academic semester? We talked with Professor Nancy Lea Hyer, Associate Dean of the MBA Program, to answer current and prospective students’ questions about the Mod system.

What exactly is the Mod system?

Rather than using fall and spring semesters, Vanderbilt Business separates the academic year into four quarters, known as Mods. Each Mod involves 7 weeks of classes, followed by a week of exams (for a total of 8 weeks). There is a break in between each Mod of at least a week, to allow for short courses, immersion experiences, holidays, and other events. The timeline below tracks an MBA student’s first year in the mod system:

Do all Vanderbilt Business programs run on the Mod System?

The MBA and 1-year career launcher programs (MSF, MAcc, and Master of Marketing) run on the Mod system. The Executive MBA and Accelerator programs, as well as Executive Education, run on different schedules more consistent with their program offerings.

I’ve heard classes are only taught Monday-Thursday. Is this true?

Regularly scheduled classes, as well as exams, take place Monday through Thursday. Fridays are left open to accommodate a variety of other school activities, including job interviews, symposiums, case competitions, trips, and more. This allows students an opportunity to more effectively balance their academic, career, and outside activities.

What are the advantages of Mods over semesters?

MBA students complete a minimum of 32 classes before graduation (and often take more), which allows them to balance a general management education with their chosen concentrations. The opportunity to take so many classes also encourages students to explore their professional interests and branch out into new disciplines.

“The big advantage of the Mod system is the flexibility that it affords students. It permits them not only to dig deeply in a particular discipline but also to get breadth in the number of courses that they take,” Hyer said. “Students can take a lot of courses in a single area — for example, to take a deep dive in finance — but at the same time, they have space in their schedule to take HOP or operations classes.”

How many classes should I take per Mod?

Hyer recommends that students start by taking 4 classes during each of the first 2 Mods. After they’ve adjusted to business school, they can consider increasing their course load to 5 classes per Mod. Students must complete an average of 4 courses per Mod to meet the minimum of 62 credit hours in order to graduate.

When do I take core courses?

The core courses are taken throughout the first year of the MBA program, though they are concentrated during the first 2 Mods in the fall. Overall, students take 10 core classes, plus the Management Communication workshop and the Ethics in Business class. The timeline above shows the breakdown of core classes Mod-by-Mod throughout the first year.

“You are done with the vast majority of course classes by the end of the second Mod…the Mod system is what facilitates the compression of the core into a relatively short period of time,” Hyer said. “You have the opportunity to gain excellent skills to prepare you for an internship because you have so much flexibility in the spring in terms of the courses you can take.”

We’ve talked about Year 1 — what will my schedule look like during Year 2?

During their second year, MBA students only enroll in elective courses, with the exception of Ethics in Business, which can be taken in either Mod I or II. But students start taking electives much earlier than this: In Mod II of their first year (beginning in mid-October) they have the opportunity to take one elective course. The number of electives they can take per Mod increases from thereafter.

Are any classes available outside of the four Mods?

Short courses are offered during the fall, winter, and spring breaks, with the majority of short courses occurring during the fall break between Mods I and II. Depending on the class, short courses may be worth one or 2 hours of credit. These classes are usually hands-on, highly experiential, and lend themselves to a few back-to-back days of intensive learning.

What other immersion opportunities are available?

MBA students may participate in many other immersive experiences during their time at Vanderbilt Business. These experiences include Health Care Immersion, BrandWeek, Project Pyramid, Global Business Seminars, and various Career Treks (Finance, Consulting, and Tech).

To get a more visual perspective of the mod system, scroll through our timeline above to view key MBA-related milestones and see when various immersion opportunities are offered throughout the year.

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