Boston University’s business school students have had many causes for celebration over the last three years. The school, located in the historic Back Bay of Boston, celebrated its centennial as the School of Management in 2013, and then two years later began a new chapter as the Questrom School of Business in March of 2015, following a $50 million naming gift from Allen and Kelli Questrom. These events have ushered in a period of exciting change for the business school, from enhancing its innovative curriculum to beefing up career services offerings for students.
“We’ve been undergoing a period over the last three years of a lot of innovation,” says Rachel Reiser, the school’s assistant dean for the undergraduate program. “Our focus has been not just how do we educate our students but how can we equip them with the skills they need.”
With that in mind, one of the areas the Questrom School, ranked No. 26 in P&Q’s ranking, has put renewed emphasis on in the last two to three years is in enhancing its career services offerings for students.
For example, students at the school now are required to take an integrated three-year career sequence that provides students with career support, guidance and concrete skills on how to work on things like cover letters and resumes. In addition, there is a professional career advisor who teaches some of those classes, as well as professional advisors who conduct group career advising sessions.
“They work with students in a more individualized way in developing these skills,“ Reiser says. “We want to prepare our students and educate them for life-long career management.”
NEW EMPHASIS PLACED ON CAREER ADVISING
Indeed, career advising was one of three areas in P&Q’s alumni survey that received the lowest scores from 2014 Questrom alums, and the efforts the school is undertaking in this area should improve student satisfaction, Reiser says.
One mechanism the school recently put in place to ensure that academic and career advising are not in separate silos at the school is the establishment of the Undergraduate, Academic & Career Development Center. Academic advisors and career services officers will work closely together to make sure that career education activities can build upon what students are learning day-to-day in the classroom.
“It’s an enhanced service model for students. We have a much more synergized approach to academic and career advising,” Reiser said. “There’s increased communication, increased collaboration and many more points of interconnection between career and academic advising that ever existed before.”
NEW REQUIRED BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS COURSE FOR SOPHOMORES
Another area the school has put renewed emphasis on recently is in the area of business communication, recently adding a required class for sophomores. The new Business Communications class is about far more than how to write a stronger memo or create an effective PowerPoint presentation, and teaches students how to communicate based on thoughtful, informed decision making, Reiser explains.
“It’s about information literacy and being able to discern what information is critical and not,” Reiser notes. “It’s a high-level thoughtful soup-to-nuts look at communicating in a business environment.”
This new class synergizes well with the Business, Society & Ethics course that Questrom students take their first year, a class that provides students with a framework for ethical decision making and thinking, Reiser says.
CORE NEW PRODUCT CHALLENGE IS A ‘CORNERSTONE’ TO THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE
By the time students get to their junior year, they are well prepared to take what is one of the distinctive experiences at the Questrom School, commonly known as the Cross-Functional Core curriculum. During this experience, students take a suite of four courses — marketing, operations, business analytics and finance — and work together in teams from the first day of class throughout the entire year. The teams work on designing a new product or service from concept through development, come up with a marketing plan, a supply chain analysis and design prototype. The top teams eventually get to present their plans at a CORE New Product Challenge showcase.
The class, which Reiser calls a “cornerstone” of a Questrom student’s learning experience, essentially teaches them how to operate a full-fledged business in an academic setting, Reiser says. Recent examples of business ideas to come out of this class include the CHAIR-iot, a walker-like structure with a motorized seat that slowly transports the user to the ground and then back up to a normal sitting position, and the Nuttery Café, an artisanal nut butter sandwich cafe.
Ryan Touger, a class of 2014 alum who took the CORE class, says the class was a “formative” experience for him that he looks back on two years later as having given him invaluable skills that he uses today in his current job. During his time in the Core class, he and his team came up with a 100-page business plan for a product called Shoeflex, a hand-held device that heats up and breaks in new or uncomfortable shoes.
“Two years later, I can still remember the nights we spent together and the really intense work the team put into the project,” he says. “It helped me with teamwork, public speaking, thinking creatively and just producing something that you can really take pride in.”
QUESTROM STUDENTS CLAIM TO HAVE A ‘SIGNATURE EXPERIENCE’ MORE THAN ANY OTHER SCHOOL
Largely as a result of this class, 76% of BU alums from 2014 said in the alumni survey that they’d participated in a “signature experience” during their time at school, among the highest percentage of the schools participating in the ranking.
In the fall of 2015, the school added three new cross-functional concentrations in strategy and innovation, health and life sciences and real estate, and there’s another new concentration in the pipeline, Reiser said. Students taking those concentrations take classes at the School of Business, the College of Arts and Sciences or the Sargent School of Health.
About 35% of the Questrom class participates in a global immersion, trip or project, ranging from classes with a global focus and curriculum to ones where students get to travel with professors. For example, students can now take classes like the new Global Management Experience course, a selective class that requires students to apply and write an essay on why they are interested in learning about doing business in Asia, Reiser says. The 25 students selected for that class take the first half of the course at the Charles River campus and then travel to Shanghai and Hong Kong later on in the course.
Alums gave the school its highest marks in the alumni survey for the availability of professors for informal discussions and mentoring outside of the classroom. That didn’t surprise Reiser, who said that faculty at the school make it a priority to be hands-on and engaged with students, mentoring them inside and outside the classroom. Faculty can frequently be seen having one-on-one meetings with students at the Starbucks on the second floor of the business school building, and many make appearances during late night pizza study breaks for students organized by the school, Reiser says.
STUDENTS AVERAGE 2.5 INTERNSHIPS DURING THEIR TIME AT QUESTROM
On the career front, Questrom students fare well when it comes to obtaining internships, with 92% of the class of 2016 reporting that they’d done an internship, and 94% of the class of 2015. That’s not surprising given that students participate in an average of two-and-a-half internships over their time at the school, Reiser notes.
Students can expect strong career prospects when they graduate from Questrom. In 2016, 90 percent of the class reported having obtained a job within three months after graduation, with an average salary of $56,975. Those numbers are in line with the job data from the class of 2015, in which 94% of students landed jobs within three months of graduation, earning an average salary of $55,702.
Alums from the class of 2014 were less pleased with how effective the school was in connecting students with alumni and practicing professional, giving the school its lowest marks in this area in the alumni survey.
ALUMNI OUTREACH INCREASED
The school is working to improve its alumni outreach by creating more opportunities for current students to connect with alums. One thing the school recently put in place is Questrom Connect, essentially an in-house LinkedIn service that connects students with a database of alums who want to engage with students and answer questions.
Touger, the 2014 alum, said he thought the career services office was effective, but lacking in opportunities for students who wanted to work outside of the Boston area. “I ended up wanting a job in the NYC area, but the office didn’t do enough in my opinion to help me succeed in getting a job before I graduated that wasn’t in Boston,” he says. Touger eventually landed his current job in NYC as a real estate valuation senior associate through the help of a BU alum, he says.
Another way students connect with alums is through the many student groups on campus, and opportunities to connect with alums will only grow in the next few years given that the number of student organizations on campus have grown by about 30% in the last two years, Reiser says.
The school is also taking the initiative to organize new types of events that draw alumni to campus. For example, this fall the school held its first Woman’s Leadership Summit for the school’s female alums, an event for which Reiser says she personally called every single female graduate from the last three years to encourage them to attend the weekend. As part of the event, current undergraduate students got to participate in a speed networking session with the 75 alums in attendance. “It was a very exciting event and it’s something that we are eager to do annually,” says Reiser.
WHAT ALUMNI SAY
“As a part of the undergraduate experience at Questrom, students partake in the cross-functional ‘CORE’ curriculum for a semester during their 3rd year of the business program. The semester-long curriculum centers around a group project in which teams of students create a product and develop the infrastructure of a company to ultimately push their product to market. Students are fully engaged in courses in marketing, operations, management information systems, and finance during the project, and the classes are tailored toward teaching students concepts to apply in the context of their semester project.” – Class of 2014 alum
“I interned at Dow Jones in London, UK through BU’s study abroad program. It was very insightful to work for an international company, and understand European business culture — as I coordinated with colleagues in Germany and Spain while there. It’s helped me understand European customers in my current role.” – Class of 2014 alum
“One-week cultural immersion in Prague, Czech Republic as a part of the Honors Program. Prior to the trip had a semester long seminar on the Czech economy, globalization, and cultural business practices. Had multiple site visits at prominent corporations in Prague and was exposed to how international businesses operate.” – Class of 2014 alum
Where the Class of 2016 went to work:
Ernst & Young: 22
Liberty Mutual: 8
State Street: 8
JP Morgan Chase: 5
Search Fund Accelerator: 5