Abhi Nangia shoots video to help Nicaraguan women sell jewelry. (Courtesy photo)

As a Northeastern University undergraduate, Abhi Nangia learned marketing by helping women in Nicaragua sell jewelry made from recycled trash. He studied finance by advising a tiny catering company in South Africa. He gained leadership experience by organizing struggling artists in Indonesia.

Upon graduation from the Boston university, Nangia took the skills he learned at its Social Enterprise Institute to launch Reweave, a network that “creates market access for people making beautiful things.”

This may not sound like the traditional undergraduate business-school experience, but it’s typical of the innovative ways business students are educated in the United States today. It combines features that a growing number of programs offer: Instruction and learning are hands-on, entrepreneurial and global.

“The Social Enterprise Institute is probably the coolest thing ever,” said Nangia, whose parents are from New Delhi but who grew up in Buffalo, New York. Northeastern is a leader among U.S. universities in alternating classroom studies with internships and real jobs. The experience convinced Nangia that international business is about a lot more than making money; it can actually improve people’s lives in other countries. Undergraduate business students who historically concentrated in accounting, finance or marketing can also acquire skills in such fields as health care and sustainable development.

For students looking to work for cutting-edge companies such as tech giant Google Inc. or online retailer Amazon.com Inc., some U.S. business schools offer technology-focused degrees. Students at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business can study topics like big data — data sets so complex that they’re hard to manage with traditional software.

Ronny Ho studied at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute. (Courtesy photo)

Ronny Ho, a 23-year-old Chinese American who grew up in New York and whose parents are from Shanghai and Taiwan, graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. She interned at the financial company Citigroup Inc. in New York. She felt she brought more to the job than just an ability to crunch numbers because of all the time she spent at Carnegie Mellon working on team projects with scientists and engineers. The collaborative projects included making futuristic videos at the university’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute, where students create make-believe worlds and games to better understand how computers can help people go about their daily lives. “It’s such a new field,” she said. “It’s fun to take it and run with it and see what you can do.”

“In recent years, business schools have focused on the expansion of internships and courses that give students hands-on knowledge, similar to what Ho and Nangia experienced,” said Tom Robinson, president of AACSB International (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business). “Businesses now expect students to hit the ground running, and in response, business schools are reconfiguring how students can gain the necessary real-life expertise.”

Express lane to an MBA

A dorm at Pinchot University (Courtesy photo)

At Pinchot University, formerly Bainbridge Graduate Institute, nature lovers can pursue master’s degrees in business administration on an island campus off the coast of Seattle. In classrooms nestled amid 100 hectares of forest, they learn how to make money in environmentally sustainable ways.

If studying in one of the world’s most exciting business centers is more your style, New York University’s Stern School of Business is blocks from Wall Street. As members of the Stern Consulting Corps, students tackle real business challenges by advising shop owners in a low-income neighborhood or by creating business plans for upstart fashion designers.

Most full-time MBA programs in the United States take two years to complete, but several now offer intensified, one-year options. While top MBA programs usually require several years of work experience to enroll, someone fresh out of college or with just a few years on the job might want to look into a one-year specialized master’s degree.

Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management offers a one-year MBA popular with students who want to double up and earn a professional degree in medicine, engineering or law as well. Dual degrees are increasingly popular in the U.S. because they give graduates an edge in a tough job market.

Since 2009, enrollments in MBA or MBA-equivalent programs have decreased by 9.7 percent in North America while specialized master’s enrollments have increased by 37.2 percent, according to the AACSB. Popular specialties include finance, accounting, marketing and newer fields such as data analytics and information-technology management.

“There has been a recalibration in enrollment,” Robinson said. “For younger grads, many are pursuing a specialized degree to get a strong foothold in the market. Later, as they gain more managerial experience and move up in the ranks, an MBA will become more and more relevant to furthering their careers.”

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This article was written by freelance writer Katherine Mangan.