In business environments today, vast amounts of data determine how companies operate and invest in resources. Successful firms base hiring on talent with a deep understanding of data analytics and knowledge of the newest technologies. “All of our students need to be not just literate, but I would say, data fluent,” says Jonah Rockoff, senior vice dean for curriculum and programs at CBS.

The School offers courses that help students not only achieve that fluency, but also gain understanding of the fundamental tools businesses use today, and exposure to the cutting-edge breakthroughs that will change business in the future.

Courses prepare students to successfully lead engineers and data experts in creating new products, moving into emerging markets, and improving business functionality. “You can’t lead tech experts if you don’t understand the essentials of how technology works,” says Rockoff, who also is the Paul Garrett Professor of Public Policy and Business Responsibility.

Rockoff and other curriculum developers, including faculty, determine which courses fulfill the school’s curricular priorities. They watch the business landscape, monitor emerging tech, and address any gaps with opportunities for both traditional and experiential learning. Students have embraced these opportunities, flocking to courses such as Technology Breakthroughs, taught by CBS Dean Costis Maglaras and Columbia Engineering Dean Shih-Fu Chang. In it, guest lecturers discuss current trends in digital tech, including AI, robotics, photonics, deep learning and neural networks, blockchain, and digital cities.

Technical in a different sense, CBS Professor Chris LaSala’s hands-on learning opportunity in digital product management requires students to work with companies to apply the best practices and frameworks they’ve learned in the classroom to various real-world issues related to new digital products.

At this point, CBS supports a full digital curriculum, with new courses and opportunities added in response to the business landscape and the CBS community. Highlights of this year’s program include courses in Crypto, Python, and Real Estate.

Using big data in the real estate industry takes risk assessment to micro-levels

As large data sets become available within the real estate industry, leaders are starting to leverage those for better predictive power when assessing investment risks and potential valuations.

Big data analysis in the real estate industry allows for micro-level risk assessments, according to the Bright Data blog post “How Big Data Is Transforming Real Estate.”

“Previously, real estate companies would profile entire neighborhoods homogeneously,” the writer notes. “Big data has exposed the key differentiators between city blocks, for example, crime rates to price appreciation, zoning codes, and future infrastructure projects.”

At CBS, Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh, the Earle W. Kazis and Benjamin Schore Professor of Real Estate, uses Python to teach students how more variables offer stronger foundations for property investments. The course, Real Estate Analytics, was designed for both students with strong programming credentials who want to learn about real estate and students of real estate who want to augment their data analytics skills. It requires Python fluency, so students can successfully manipulate new, large real estate data sets to explore important questions in residential and commercial real estate.

Python remains top programming language to learn

CBS Professor Daniel Guetta and Adjunct Professor Mattan Griffel literally wrote the book for the course they teach, Python for MBAs. In the course, students learn the rewards of understanding Python, which business and technology publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Technology Insights have ranked in the top three programming languages for 2023.

Python’s many business use cases include machine learning and AI; blockchain smart contracts; entertainment applications such as Spotify and Netflix, which use algorithms to suggest music and movies to consumers; and fintech platforms such as Stripe and Affirm, which were partially developed using Python.

The course teaches students how Python code is written and how it automates repetitive tasks, parses and analyzes large data sets, interacts with APIs, and scrapes websites. While engaged in the business uses of Python, students sharpen their analytical skills and become more competitive for leadership positions.

In Climate Tech, students evaluate potential for tech solutions with financial backing

Columbia MBA and Columbia Engineering students are joining forces on the climate-change front in the new course, Climate Tech. The course aligns with CBS’s goal to lead in teaching about the threat of climate change in a business context and preparing students to address it.

In the course, CBS and Columbia Engineering students are grouped in small, interdisciplinary teams to assess climate technologies that venture capitalists have committed to financing. They determine the technologies’ viability, commercial opportunity, and impact on mitigating or adapting to climate change.

Climate Tech is co-taught by Bruce Usher, CBS professor of professional practice; David Kirkpatrick, adjunct associate professor of business at CBS; and Alan West, the Samuel Rube-Peter G. Viele Professor of Electrochemistry and professor of earth and environmental engineering at Columbia Engineering. Together they demonstrate how to combine business and engineering expertise in the search of tech solutions that address climate change.

Exploring the structure of blockchain markets and how they interact

“Predictions are tough to make, especially about the future.”—Yogi Berra

Adjunct Professor Jesse Austin Campbell, a veteran crypto industry leader and former head of portfolio management at Paxos, quotes the beloved baseball icon when referring to potential shake-ups in the crypto markets. “Crypto moves fast—a year ago, most people would not have predicted the collapse of FTX,” he says. “One of the beautiful things about being in a rapidly evolving space is you are confronted with novel situations.” Campbell says he chooses not to predict but rather just say that he expects something will occur.

Campbell and Professor Gur Huberman, the Robert G. Kirby Professor of Behavioral Finance, start each class in their advanced B Term course, Blockchain Markets Infrastructure and Uses, with a review of the day’s headlines to stay on top of current events in the blockchain and crypto ecosystem. The two will adapt the material for whatever events may occur in real time.

Guest speakers and live demos also are part of the course, which builds upon the Introduction to Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies class, taught in the A Term by Huberman and Omid Malekan, associate professor in business in CBS’s Finance Division. In that course, students see how to “use a decentralized exchange to buy Ether for USD, then use a different decentralized finance exchange to deposit that ETH as collateral and take out a loan against it,” says Malekan, an eightyear veteran of the crypto industry and author of two books on the subject.

As the cryptocurrency ecosystem grows, questions abound on legalities, regulations

The fast and loose nature of crypto has been likened to the Wild West of finance, where answers to legal questions regarding bankruptcy, regulation, and norms are up for grabs.

That’s why CBS is offering Regulatory and Legal Matters on Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies, and Digital Assets, a new course taught by Donna Redel ’78, JD, an adjunct professor, a former managing director of the World Economic Forum, and an angel investor.

Redel teaches with a frontline perspective, blending her background in law, business, and finance to inform discussions on issues such as the ICO craze of 2015-2018. Initial coin offerings, or ICOs, were once used to raise funds for cryptocurrency startups, securing billions for projects. In 2017, the SEC warned that if ICOs shared the characteristics of securities, then these digital assets had to abide by securities laws. Today, a group of US regulatory bodies, including the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the US Securities and Exchange Commission, and the US Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, are scrutinizing crypto activity as new legal cases emerge.

Students in Redel’s class explore these cases, confront broad questions, and inquire into the complexities and rapid developments surrounding the blockchain and crypto ecosystem. They examine multiple cryptocurrencies, digital tokens, stablecoins, and Central Bank Digital Coins, from legal, regulatory, policy, business, economic, and privacy perspectives.

“We have a nice-sized blockchain crypto curriculum, which includes two different versions of an intro class and two different advanced classes,” says Rockoff. In the program, students choose between two introductions to blockchain and then move on to the second-level courses. “Our faculty recognized the need to provide real-time instruction in the fast-paced fintech world, so we responded by creating a new curriculum.”

Rockoff makes it a point to respond to the needs of faculty and students. In the digital space, this means constantly adding, reinventing, and expanding foundational courses that tackle some of the most popular digital- and data-focused ideas and applications in the business world. Taught by faculty at the forefront of their fields, these courses position CBS graduates to, in turn, lead in their fields.