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MBAi, MSAI Students Thankful for Memorable Capstone Experience

Students share their capstone projects

Students in Northwestern's MBAi Program — a joint-degree program offered between Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management and the McCormick School of Engineering — and Northwestern Engineering's Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence (MSAI) program spent the last quarter of their programs collaborating to solve business problems using artificial intelligence (AI).  

Seventeen teams made up of MBAi and MSAI students worked on projects posed by 15 companies ranging from Fortune 100 companies to startups.  In each case teams worked directly with company sponsors to address a variety of top-of-mind topics, from brand-aligned generative AI content to driving sales effectiveness with AI. 

The experience allowed students to take the knowledge learned in their respective programs and apply it to a real business challenge. 

"Learning subjects in a classroom is a different experience than while you're working for a client solving real-life problems," Trisha Ghosh (MBAi '23) said. "It's very enriching when you're actually working with a client and doing a project like this." 

The teams came together to share their solutions at the MBAi + MSAI Capstone Showcase. The event was open to current MBAi and MSAI students, faculty, capstone sponsors, and industry representatives. Attendees were asked to vote for their favorite project, and two teams finished tied for first place. 

The co-winners worked on challenges presented by Vanguard, one of the largest asset management firms in the world, and CDW, an information technology solutions and services company. The Vanguard team worked on an open-ended topic modeling project, while the students working with CDW focused on brand-agnostic image generation for e-commerce product categories. 

The hybrid structure of bringing the programs together is designed to reflect the cross-functional realities students will face professionally.  

"Coming from the MSAI side, I learned how my MBAi counterparts were able to build a business case around the data that they found," Theresa (Andrea) Corrales (MSAI '23) said. "That was really cool. They were able to give us a problem to solve."  

The MBAi program is designed to produce leaders who possess a strong technical grounding in AI combined with the strategic insight to deploy the technology practically and effectively within an organization. The MSAI program is a professional master's program that prepares students to create new AI systems while also understanding the environments in which the systems will be deployed.  

"We bring in strengths from the business school and we understand how to manage teams and how to build a business case, and the other teammates from MSAI, those guys bring in all the technical expertise," Ameen Shaik (MBAi '23) said. "Those guys are the brains behind what we built." 

Laura Machlab (MSAI '23) agreed. 

"It provided us the opportunity to work on an interdisciplinary team and learn what it's like to communicate technical approaches with people who aren't as familiar with them," Machlab said. "It's provided a different perspective and broadened the view of our project, rather than zeroing in on the technical aspect and goals that we've been focusing on."

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