In May 2020, the MS/MBA: Engineering Sciences program graduated its first cohort of students, growing the program’s alumni base from 0 to 28. These alumni joined the program’s existing 32 Alumni Advisors - a group of entrepreneurs, VCs, and business leaders - in forming the program’s Alumni Network. In effect, the Alumni Network nearly doubled overnight.

Students have always been able to interact with the Alumni Advisors within the core MS/MBA curriculum. Advisors present to students on technology topics through the Engineering, Design & Innovation Management Seminar and via “fireside chats” during courses like Technology Ventures Immersion and Launch Lab. Given the engineering backgrounds of the cohort, the questions and discussion center around the deeper technical problems characteristic of ambitious technology or "tough tech" businesses. The answers are candid; the advisors have been in the students’ shoes before, and many are former engineers who became business and technology leaders.

As is program “tradition” (as much as a two-year old program can have tradition!), a resume book is sent out to the alumni network early in the semester. The book features student bios with information on their backgrounds and their career aspirations in addition to their resumes. The resume book sparks conversations between students and alumni of similar backgrounds or interest areas and can act as a supplement to more structured student-advisor interaction through the core curriculum.

2020 introduced the opportunity to expand and innovate upon these existing alumni relationships and to build upon the groundwork laid by the Class of 2020 MS/MBA student leaders. Current cohorts now have access to not only seasoned, experienced advisors, but also recent graduates working in influential technology firms like Google, Microsoft, and Waymo, or starting their own technology-based companies. This broad support network enables students to liaise with both executive-level alumni advisors on high-level strategy or business model advice and with recent alumni on advice for getting a dream job at Google, acceptance into Y Combinator, or raising VC funds.

Class of 2020 Alumni Chair Tapley Stephenson helped send the first ever MS/MBA Alumni Newsletter this semester, too. The newsletter included updates from campus, an introduction to the Class of 2022, and student and recent alumni “Startup Spotlights.” Sent to both recent graduates and the alumni advisors, the newsletter invited alumni to host office hours and content sessions to bolster alumni-current student engagement in this year’s remote environment. The response was overwhelming, with both alumni advisors and recent graduates offering immense support for the program and its current students.

In the weeks following release of the newsletter and leading up to Thanksgiving, the alumni hosted one event every week, with topics ranging from a discussion on the difference between VC and entrepreneurship, to a case study on the importance of speed in a startup, to “lightning talks” with recent alumni on relevant topics related to MS/MBA life after HBS. A number of alumni advisors who are investors or entrepreneurs offered to host office hours where students could ask questions on topics ranging from aerospace to B2B business models. The remote nature of the current school year allowed attendees to “meet” and engage with alumni outside of the Boston area. The events and their follow-up discussions offered both practical advice and inspiration for current students. They fostered strong connections between students and alumni as well as between the two cohorts of current students.

The enthusiasm of the alumni advisors and the program graduates speaks to the uniqueness and strength of this new dual degree program at Harvard.

While the alumni network won’t technically double again with the graduation of the Class of 2021 in May, we expect the value of the alumni network will continue to grow exponentially.