Undergraduate Business Education

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on Friday, April 17, 2015 at 4:24 PM PDT

A recent Gallup study looked at what the keys to professional success are for those earning an undergraduate degree.  Six experiences as an undergraduate student were identified.  The six were:

1. A professor who made them excited to learn;

2. A professor who cared about them as individuals;

3. A mentor who pushed students to reach their goals;

4. Working on a long-term project;

5. Completing a job or internship related to classroom lessons;

6. Being engaged in extracurricular activities and groups.


The findings are based on a national survey of nearly 30,000 respondents, which measured engagement with the workplace and community as well as social well-being.

Another Gallup study, based on the same data, found that business graduates are less likely to find a sense of purpose in their careers.  According to this study, those who majored in business significantly lagged behind their peers in career engagement and other measures of well-being.  It suggests the reasons are (1) lack of emotional support while a student (which seems related to items 1-3 above!) and (2) never having obtained a graduate degree. 

Naturally, these studies make one want to reflect on the undergraduate experience in Albers.  I'm confident we do very well with the six experiences identified.  Here are some considerations:

  1. We have great teachers in Albers.   Our faculty average 4.2-4.3 on our 5.0 teaching scale.  That is a pretty healthy average.  Our faculty members have won a disproportionate share of campus wide teaching awards, such as the SU Alumni Teaching Award.  When students vote for a school wide teaching award, such as the Beta Gamma Sigma Teaching Award, lots of faculty members get votes, suggesting good teaching is found across a number of faculty.
  2. Professors who care about students.   Whenever I ask students who are about to graduate what was the best part of their experience at Albers, they always talk about the strong ties they developed with faculty members and the support they received.  They say the same about our staff members who work with them on academic advising or career planning.
  3. Mentors who push.   If it is not the faculty pushing our students to be the best they can be, then it might be a staff member, or might be a mentor in the Albers Mentor Program!  Our students have mentors at multiple levels!
  4. Working on a long term project.   We have group projects that frequently take up the whole quarter, including consulting projects for area businesses.  It could also be the more traditional academic research project as part of a class, such as in the History of Economic Thought class and others like it.  It is not always in the classroom.  It could be a service project being pursued by ENACTUS or students participating in the business plan competition. 
  5. Finding a job or internship.   With our own career center in the business school, finding students internships and jobs is a key priority for us.  The Albers Career Center does a terrific job of assisting students to pursue these opportunities, as our 95% placement rate would suggest.
  6. Extra-curricular activities.   We have a very large number of clubs in the business school.  By my count, we have at least a dozen specifically for business students, with some of the more active being ENACTUS, Beta Alpha Psi, Alpha Kappa Psi, and the Marketing Club.  There are lots of opportunities and we do everything we can to encourage students to take advantage of these opportunities to enrich their learning experience!


So, in terms of the issue of business students not receiving sufficient emotional support, I think we have that covered in terms of the care they receive from our faculty and staff while they are with us.  Maybe some slip through the cracks, but I do not think there are many.  As for students going on to attend graduate school, outside of our accounting students going on to pursue our Master of Professional Accounting degree in a 4+1 program, and our relatively new 3-3 program with the law school, where students earn an undergraduate business degree and a JD in six years instead of the normal seven, it is hard to say how we do here. 

We are in the process of redesigning our MS in Finance degree so that some of our undergraduates can continue on to earn the MS degree, a 4+1 similar to the MPAC program.  In the past, we essentially made that impossible with our work experience requirement, which we are now relaxing.  Historically, we have strongly encouraged our undergraduate students to go out and get a few years of professional experience before pursuing a graduate degree.  The challenge for us is to know whether they ever did that, because we have limited information on the subsequent degrees our undergraduate alumni pursue.  Some of our recent initiatives may result in some improvement here, but no doubt there is more that can be done to assure that Albers undergrads go on to pursue graduate degrees with greater frequency.