With the backdrop of a dramatic Rocky Mountain skyline, Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver boasts one of the most colorful settings of any B-school in the nation. And as the biggest department in a small private school, Daniels can claim to be the campus bigwig while also offering an intimate learning experience.
Location, resources, personal touch. All of this appealed to Kevin Friedman, a Lake Forest, Illinois native who graduated from Daniels in 2014. For Friedman, DU’s location and the reputation of its B-school were enough to top the 10 other schools he applied to, including Boston University, Tulane University, the University of Miami, and the University of Georgia.
“The most important factor drawing me to DU was the prestigious reputation of the Daniels College of Business, in particular the Reiman School of Finance and Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate & Construction Management,” says Friedman, currently a financial analyst with Metro Storage LLC in Chicago.
“I knew early on in the college selection process that I wanted to study both real estate and finance. DU provided the unique opportunity to build a very strong foundation in each concentration. I was also drawn to the small class sizes because I felt this would create more thoughtful and engaging discussions while enabling much closer relationships with professors.”
LESS IS MORE
Smaller class size and classes taught by faculty, not assistants, is a big selling point at Daniels, which admitted nearly 400 students to its undergraduate program in fall 2016. That included 350 new students in one of eight business majors: accountancy, finance, business analytics, management, marketing, international business, real estate and the built environment, and hospitality management.
“We’re a private school, so small class size is something that we always sell,” says Lisa Victoravich, assistant dean of undergraduate programs. “People that come here, they come here for that reason, and if you want to be a business major we do have an eclectic variety of majors: we have hospitality management as a top-rated program, we have real estate in a built environment, we have a business information analytics major.
“Daniels is definitely the strongest unit on campus at DU,” she continues. “We have a strong culture, and strong faculty interaction. We hire tons of new tenure-track faculty who are experts in their field, so that’s something that students really like. And we have dedicated career services for undergrad, a separate unit that just serves undergraduate students. The support is there. You just really have to take advantage of it.”
Friedman cites Financial Modeling, Financial Accounting, Personal Finance, and Income Property Appraisal as the most influential business courses he took as an undergraduate. Financial Modeling, he says, “was a very challenging course which immersed the students in Excel and provided me with the most practical background available for Excel users.” Financial Accounting, he adds, “taught the students how to properly read a public company’s 10-K report and dissect an Income Statement with precision and meaning,” nurturing critical-thinking skills “as opposed to simply regurgitating content from a textbook like many other accounting courses tend to do.”
Personal Finance, Friedman says, “opened my eyes to understanding real-world concepts of managing my money as a senior about to graduate,” while Income Property Appraisal “taught me how to properly value residential and commercial real estate … by having a real residential home to appraise and take to market as an ongoing case study.
Meanwhile, Victoravich tells Poets&Quants, big changes have occurred across the Daniels curriculum in the last five years, including the addition of a Gateway to Business course as a first step to becoming a business major that requires students to create a smartphone app and compete for seed money before a panel of angel investors. In the last two years, Daniels reconfigured its information sequence to require that all students become certified in Microsoft Office, PowerPoint, and Excel. The school also has added an entrepreneurship minor, and further nourishes the entrepreneurial spirit with Project X-Cite, a cross-disciplinary initiative focused on the intersection of innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship. This fall Daniels rolled out its Professional Development Program, a requirement for all students that includes freshman and sophomore workshops on choosing a major, crafting cover letters and resumes, and participating in mock interviews with professionals. There’s also an Ethics Boot Camp.
All of which is leading up to the introduction of an entirely new business core, effective fall 2017, that Victoravich says will feature a new communications course and culminating course, Business for the Public Good, a “dialogue of how business works with society and government” during which students will solve a societal problem.
AROUND THE WORLD IN 150 DIFFERENT WAYS
Daniels students need 185 credit hours to graduate, with wide variety in elective flexibility: For one major, 49 out of 185 credits are electives, Victoravich says, while for another only 24 credits are elective out of 185.
Two-thirds (67%) of Daniels students opt to fulfill some of their credit requirements abroad through the college’s vast network of partnerships with foreign universities. Among the common choices, Victoravich says, are Aarhus University (Denmark), University of Westminster (UK), University of Queensland (Australia), University of Salamanca (Spain), and the Cork College of Commerce (Ireland).
“DU has one of the largest study abroad participation rates in the U.S., as all student have the option to study abroad for one quarter at no additional cost if they qualify for the Cherrington Global Scholars program,” says Christine MacMillan, assistant dean of strategic execution and infrastructure. “Students most often study abroad during the fall of their junior year but may study abroad during a different quarter if they choose. Students are not restricted in their choice of school and are not required to take business courses while abroad. Students may choose from 150 universities across six continents.”
Kellie Mortimer, a Southern California native and member of the Daniels Class of 2014, took advantage of the opportunity to study abroad by taking a class called Doing Business with China that involved travel to China and Taiwan, visiting companies there and learning about the landscape of Chinese business. She then studied abroad in Paris for a semester at the Catholic Institute of Paris, taking courses in French language and culture.
“This experience was one of the best I had in college,” says Mortimer, now a digital development analyst with Richemont. She loved it so much, she says, that she returned to Paris to get her MSc in Management with a concentration in the fashion industry from IESEG School of Management, graduating in late 2015. “DU is such an incredible place to go to school. My colleagues are constantly jealous when I talk about my university experience. The opportunities I was able to take part in — study abroad, specific classes, etc. — were invaluable.”
DENVER-DANIELS 44TH IN P&Q’s FIRST UNDERGRAD RANKING
In Businessweek’s final undergraduate B-school ranking released in April 2016, DU earned plaudits from recruiters and jumped 11 spots to No. 56 in the nation and No. 1 in the state of Colorado, above both the Leeds School of Business at CU-Boulder and Colorado State University. But among the 50 schools ranked by Poets&Quants for it inaugural undergrad ranking, Daniels College of Business landed in the lower tier in the three measures of outcomes (41st), inputs (45th), and alumni rating (44th), finishing with an overall rank of 44th.
Most Daniels grads find jobs: According to the school’s latest figures, 83% complete at least one internship during their four years, and 86% are hired within three months of graduating, with an average starting salary of $49,776 (up from $45,366 in 2015). But like Kellie Mortimer, some aren’t getting their careers launched as quickly as they’d hoped.
“It was challenging for me to find a job in the field I wanted to pursue — fashion/luxury — after college,” Mortimer tells Poets&Quants. “Part of this is that the industry is geographically isolated (New York, London, Paris) and DU did not offer a lot of connections or help in finding a job in that field which ultimately led to (me) going to grad school.
“That being said, I know for a fact I wouldn’t be where I am today without my DU education. But my grad school provided more connections in the industry I wanted to pursue.”
BIG BILLS UNDER BIG SKIES
In the Businessweek employer survey, which accounted for 40 percent of the overall score in that ranking, Daniels was No. 31. Recruiters who hire recent business graduates ranked schools on how prepared students were for jobs at their companies. Firms that hired Daniels grads in 2016 included U.S. Bank, Goldman Sachs, Marriott International, and Boeing.
Getting a top salary out of school means a lot to students who pay top dollar for a top education. At DU, top dollar means $185,688 for tuition and an estimated $40,373 for room, board, and living expenses, for a four-year total of $226,061 — which explains why 86% of Daniels students get some form of aid, with the average yearly scholarship amount $25,635.
Among those who needed, and received, aid: Kevin Friedman, who received the Pioneer Scholarship, a factor that shared his decision to attend the school.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
As Lisa Victoravich says, Daniels is a place where students come who want some sense of community within the business school.
And then there’s that fantastic location.
“Location has always been a huge draw for us,” Victoravich says. “Students who like to ski, who like the outdoors, definitely come here. A huge selling point for us is location.”
Adds Friedman: “The university is located in an semi-urban setting close to a dynamic city which is the fastest-growing city in the country. The stunning campus is situated close enough to downtown Denver to make frequent visits but still retains the feeling of being a small-sized school. If you are into the outdoors, the mountains are a close drive away to escape college life in exchange for skiing, hiking, kayaking, fishing, etc. Also, in my opinion, there is no better climate for weather of all four seasons than in Denver.”
WHAT ALUMNI SAY
“I studied abroad in Sorrento, Italy. I found this a great opportunity to broaden my horizons on a global scale. By getting myself out of my comfort zone in a country where I did not speak the language, I was able to grow as an individual. It gave me the opportunity to represent myself as an ambassador for the University of Denver and the U.S. It has also instilled my desire to pursue international business valuation.” — Class of 2014 grad
“I developed a business plan with two other students all the way from site surveys to location analysis. Really taught us what all goes into starting a business.” — Class of 2014 grad
“DU was a tremendous fit for me and certainly exceeded my expectations. It was a great school to build a strong network of friends ands colleagues, while also forming lasting relationships with professors as mentors and professional resources. The only thing I can think of that did not meet expectations was the ability of the career center to extend its reaches much beyond Colorado. However, the connections DU has in the state of Colorado and many parts of the West are unparalleled. I would strongly recommend DU to anyone and have been an advocate for the school, advising cousins of mine to consider the school. I take tremendous pride in DU, especially the programs I was a part of in the business school.
“I have nothing but praise for DU. The private education, access to and quality of the professors, location, class sizes, career opportunities, growing diversity, and school pride make DU a top-notch rising institution.” — Class of 2014 grad
Where the Class of 2016 went to work:
Arrow Electronics, Inc.: 5
U.S. Bank: 4
Goldman Sachs: 4
Marriott International: 5
Motivity Solutions: 3
Fransen Pittman General Contractors: 2
Janus Capital Group: 2
Northwestern Mutual: 2