Penn launches the hands-on, interdisciplinary and impactful Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Penn’s Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences program—which equips students to understand how individuals and groups make decisions, and how to affect those decisions—welcomed its first class of students to campus this August.

Program Director Dr. Cristina Bicchieri shares, “From changing harmful collective behaviors at a local or global level to finding and implementing new solutions for public policy interventions, or adopting better organizational practices, this degree helps students understand behavior and the factors that motivate it. Furthermore, it teaches how to measure those factors and acquire effective tools for change and improvement.”

Among the eager scholars are consultants with economics experience, recent psychology and business undergraduates and sociologists interested in data science. All of those backgrounds combined with the range of courses offered emphasize the integrative nature of the program.

Sakshi Ghai joined the Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences program after helping to manage an all-women MBA program with the Vedica Scholars Programme for Women in New Delhi. She shares, “I met Dr. Bicchieri at the Bill and Melinda Gates Conference where she was presenting her research. When she told me about the degree, it seemed like the perfect confluence of economics, neuroscience and psychology. I am interested in women’s empowerment, leadership and organizational behavior so I thought this would be an excellent stepping stone for a future PhD.”

Zhao Zhong, a graduate from Penn’s Philosophy, Politics and Economics Program with a concentration in choice and behavior, sub-matriculated into the Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences. He notes, “I’m very excited about the resources this program is going to offer. It will allow me to take classes in schools across Penn, which is very exciting.” Alys Ferragamo, who was a cognitive science major at Penn adds, “I am most looking forward to getting more exposure to the professors and working with students from so many academic and professional backgrounds.”

The first class of Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences students also includes Garrett Meccariello and Chaio Luo, both of whom come from business and economics. “Consulting is where I want to take my career, so I came to this program to add neuroscience to my skill set,” Garrett notes. “I was looking to gain more quantitative skills. I also wanted a program with a strong professional angle, and this one was the right fit,” Chaio adds. 

Along with hands-on classroom learning experiences, Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences students have the opportunity to use the capstone experience to connect with faculty for research projects or complete an industry internship. Dr. Christopher Nave, the program’s Associate Director, adds, “In this program, you are exposed to some of the very best faculty and researchers who are leading the conversation about questions related to behavioral and decision science. This field seeks to understand the process of how we make decisions, what kind of information we need to make good decisions and how to evaluate those decisions. This program is an introduction to how we can tackle issues that go beyond any one domain—and that can change lives.”

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