At Wake Forest University’s School of Business, students sometimes wear shirts bearing the phrase “Work Forest.” The pun is appropriate, says associate dean Pat Dickson, because students come in with very hardworking attitudes – to the point that professors sometimes have to be careful not to assign too much.
And the competitive environment delivers. Dickson says 98% of Wake Forest business students had internships last year, and it’s expected that everyone will find jobs once they graduate.
But Wake Forest isn’t a machine churning out employment-ready graduates. In fact, Dickson says it’s very important that every student understands the value of a liberal arts education. “One of the things we really stress with our students is that we are a business school that exists within a liberal arts university,” he says. “We think it’s critically important that we turn out folks who can think critically and act with integrity – all the things we focus on with liberal arts education.”
The idea, he says, is that hiring managers want people with great excel skills and foundational business skills, but CEOs say they want people who can think deeply and creatively. At Wake Forest, they try to give every student the liberal arts education necessary to impress those CEOs, while preparing them with the business skills to hit the ground running in the business world.
“Focusing on both of those things is our real competitive advantage,” Dickson says. “We’re walking that line – because we’re a small program, we’re able to be personally involved with all the students in our program.”
SMALL CLASS SIZES A HIT FOR ALUMS
And students appreciate the small class sizes, according to P&Q’s alumni survey. Mackenzie Morrow from the Class of 2014 says she rarely had more than 30 people in her classes, and getting to know professors was her favorite part of being at Wake Forest.
Business students don’t enter the school as freshmen. Instead, they spend their freshman year taking university requirements and apply in their sophomore year. But as freshmen, there is a business course they can take – a new class titled “Why Business,” which is meant to help them understand the role of business in society.
“A lot of students had been approaching us about having a course like this,” Dickson says. “There was a lot of interest in having a class where they can think deeply about business and society and what spending their lives in this profession will mean.”
MATH-BUSINESS DEGREE OFFERED FOR THE UNDERGRADUATE QUANTS
In the sophomore year, Dickson says students begin taking foundational business classes like managerial accounting and a quantitative analysis course, and once they’re accepted into the school as juniors, they can begin taking courses for their major.
Overall, business classes take up a good chunk of a student’s time at Wake Forest, but the curriculum definitely leaves room to maneuver, according to Dickson. Nearly all business students have a double major or a minor, he says, and lots of them study second languages, statistics, or computer science.
The business school also offers a joint degree called the math-business degree, which completes the requirements for both math and business majors. Four or five years ago, Dickson says they only had 14 students in the joint major. But now, he says they’re getting closer to 30, as it grows in popularity among students and employers both.
And he says they’re working toward offering more applied learning opportunities. Most majors have a capstone project, he says. For example, in the math-business joint major, the capstone is based around real companies. Students are put into teams at the beginning of their senior years, and they spend the year completing a strategic plan for the company.
SIMULATION COURSE REQUIREMENT FOR EVERY SENIOR
Students in the general business major are required to take a leadership course in their senior year. The class is project-based, and students select specific projects – with leadership themes – to work on.
Finance students complete a program called ‘Wake To Wall Street’ where they shadow people, do job stops on Wall Street, and compete in case competitions. And every senior takes a simulation course in his or her senior year, during which they run a company in a simulated environment.
And some majors offer classes that take students abroad. In managerial accounting, for example, students can take a six-week summer class that’s based in France and the United Kingdom. From there, they learn about applied overhead, variable costs, and fixed costs, and visited a total of seven countries.
“We toured several manufacturing facilities, including Range Rover, a vineyard, a sound-system company, and a brewery, applying what we learned in our managerial accounting class to the real world,” says Allison Jones, an alumnus from the Class of 2014. “It was a great experience, and I have the business school to thank for that.”
WAKE FOREST BOASTS SOME OF THE MOST ACCESSIBLE FACULTY
Overall, alumni awarded Wake Forest above average scores on P&Q’s survey. Notably, the school received the second highest score concerning the availability of school faculty for informal discussions or mentoring when classes were not in session.
The school reports that 96% of the Class of 2016 had completed an internship before graduating, and 93% accepted jobs within 90 of graduating. The average starting salary was $62,669.
*Special note: Wake Forest University does not require SAT/ACT scores for acceptance.
What alumni say:
“We had a simulations class that took us through the cycle from growth to a mature company. We had to make decisions to improve the financial health of our company competing against our classmates. It was a great way to apply classroom learning to real world situations.” – Class of 2014 Wake Forest alum
“I studied abroad for 6 weeks over the summer directly through the business school in Europe. It was great global experience and is especially helpful now that I work at such a global company.” – Class of 2014 Wake Forest alum
“We had a business simulation experience where we worked across disciplines within the business school to run a company. It was a great test in working with others and pulling together all of the different areas of business that we’d learned throughout our time in the Business School.” – Class of 2014 Wake Forest alum