To say that the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University has experienced exponential growth in the last several years would be a huge understatement. The school’s undergraduate population grew from about 1,600 in 2009 to more than 2,200 this fall, even as TCU as a whole only expanded moderately.
A big problem with all those warm bodies: finding room for them, says Ray Pfeiffer, associate dean for undergraduate programs. It’s a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless — which is why the most talked-about development at Neeley these days is the planned new business school building, on which construction is expected to begin in May and which is slated to open in fall 2019.
“The business school has been growing very aggressively, so demand for getting into the business school gets higher every year,” says Pfeiffer, citing Neeley’s 46.6% acceptance rate. “We’ve run out of space, so we have put together plans for a new building, and contingent on the last piece of the funding we’re supposed to start construction in May.”
STRONG IN OUTCOMES, STRONGER AMONG ALUMS
Heather Martin, Class of 2014 graduate, has an idea why Neeley is on the rise in the B-school world. The former finance major and current pricing analyst with Texas-based Overhead Door Corporation says it’s about the “wonderful professors” — more than a third of Neeley’s undergraduate classes are taught by tenure-track faculty — and sterling reputation.
“Neeley is a very prestigious business school, and it is very reputable,” Martin tells Poets&Quants. “I was drawn to Neeley because of the professors, the tremendous opportunities that were presented in Neeley, and the coursework in finance. Neeley exceeded my expectations.”
Recruiters seem to agree: 97% of students in the Class of 2016 had internships before their senior year, and the exact same percentage scored jobs within 90 days of graduating, according to university statistics. And good jobs, too, with top employers Deloitte, JP Morgan Chase, American Airlines, and Bell Helicopter leading the way in providing Neeley grads with an average total compensation of $65,588, up from $63,548 in 2015.
Those numbers landed Neeley at 14th in outcomes in Poets&Quants’ inaugural in-house rankings, helping the school place 21st overall. And that was no surprise to Martin.
“Neeley develops professional and well-rounded business people,” she says, adding her voice to the majority view that resulted in a No. 6 spot in the P&Q alumni survey portion of the ranking. “Neeley graduates are able to think outside of the box, and they do not settle for the status quo. Graduates of Neeley become leaders in our society. I would definitely recommend Neeley to anyone who is looking for a business degree, and I heap nothing but praise for the school. Riff Ram!”
FEWER GLOBAL OPTIONS
Neeley is not cheap. The estimated total cost to attend for four years is $196,360, which explains why so many — 47% — get an average of $15,258 in annual aid.
But for their money, Neeley students enjoy small classes and individualized attention, says Janice Elliott, director of the school’s assessment and accreditation services, as well as a dedicated career services office that seems to be doing things right. The school also boasts popular honors, leadership development, and supply chain executive programs, as well as an Educational Investment Fund with a $1.3 million portfolio that allows select Neeley TCU students to work with real market forces as they invest.
Neeley also is in the process of developing new courses in social entrepreneurship, digital marketing, design thinking, business and society, and global business perspectives, Elliott says.
Neeley offers seven majors and, in a recent change, now allows students to add an international emphasis to any of them — an attractive option even though the school has only nine study-abroad offerings, none of which is semester length, and just a dozen courses with global components. Among the few international opportunities are in-country sessions in Cuba, Peru, China, and London. Heather Martin was among the students who graduated without a global experience — though she did minor in Spanish.
MORE EXPERIENTIAL OPTIONS
Students are more likely to attend Neeley for the experiential opportunities: The school boasts 41 courses with significant experiential components, of which 18 are required. They include Accounting and Business Information Systems, which all students must take.
Meanwhile, as much as the school promotes a balanced education by requiring students to take 21 liberal arts courses — TCU’s Core Curriculum includes three courses in humanities, three courses in social science, and two courses in natural science, among many others — quants can get their quant on, too. Martin remembers the benefits of Investments II and Advanced Financial Management, which were key to her foundation in planning for an MS in quantitative finance.
“Dr. (Barbara) Wood is by far my favorite professor,” Martin says of the associate professor of professional practice, “and she is my role model. She is one of the reasons why I love Neeley so much.”
As much as Neeley students and alumni rave about the curriculum, Pfeiffer says, changes are on the way. How big? “Substantial,” he says.
“We’re in the middle of trying to make progress on a substantial revision of core curriculum,” Pfeiffer says. “What we’ve got is pretty strong now but we’re trying to be responsive to some of the changes that are happening in the workplace. There’s a lot of conversation that you can find everywhere about the changing needs of the business world for what students are getting out of undergraduate and graduate business education. So we’re trying to be responsive to that.”
Pfeiffer says he expects the core revision to be complete in the next year or two. Majors won’t be affected, he says, but the experience of first- and second-year students is under scrutiny. Neeley currently requires first-year students admitted as “pre-business” to complete additional requirements to be considered for advancement to one of the seven majors and upper-division courses.
Changes under consideration include “increasing focus on things like ethics, critical thinking, project-based learning,” Pfeiffer says. “Some of the things that are also on the table are minors or emphases in things like global business perspectives and analytics.”
WHAT ALUMNI SAY
“We had one class where we developed marketing campaigns for various brands and presented them to a current director at J. Walter Thompson, who would judge our work and pick it apart very candidly. Our goal was to compete against other teams where each team was a different ‘agency’ pitching for the brand’s business. There was no real homework besides reading — only deliverables for the multiple projects we were working on. Some projects had a quick turnaround and required late hours, some had defined guidelines, and others were completely up to our own imagination/interpretation.
“This was the class that really showed me I wanted to work at an agency and the project work was a lot more ‘real.’ Looking back, the experiences I had are very similar to the way I currently pitch for new business at my current agency.” — Class of 2014 Grad
“For a Project Management class, we were ‘real-life’ project managers for Bell Helicopter for putting their SAP training in a cloud service. We shepherded/led the project through start to implementation.” — Class of 2014 Grad
“BNSF Next Generation Leadership Program was an incredible experience that included specialized classes with professors specializing in leadership where we learned Crucial Conversations, leadership methods and techniques, did case studies, traveled both nationally and internationally, and conducted a senior-year impact project where students teamed up to create and execute a plan to make an impact on their community. I traveled to London and Scotland through the program and it was an incredible learning experience, especially during our time at Columba 1400 on the Isle of Skye.” — Class of 2014 Grad
Where the Class of 2016 went to work:
JP Morgan Chase & Company: 6
American Airlines: 5
Bell Helicopter – Textron: 4
Texas Instruments: 4
Lockheed Martin: 3