Dean’s Q&A: Andrea Hershatter of Emory’s Goizueta Business School

Why doesn’t Goizueta offer a business minor?

For us, a minor does not make sense. It is business light, just five or six courses and there is a limit to what you can do anyway. So instead we’ve done two things. One thing that is thus far not wildly embraced is we have a summer course with 20 students in it. It is actually two courses in our summer business institute. One academic course is a thoughtful romp through the education field of business with an applied entrepreneurial object so students can get a sense of language and functional areas with going too deep in any of them. It runs concurrent with our professional development skills-based course, which includes some of what we’ve talked about before in terms of self-awareness and some of the assessments we’ve done in that arena.

We also have three different concentrations with the college. A concentration is a cooperative agreement between us and another major in the college. There is one in the arts that includes dance, music, theater and art history, another with the environmental studies department and our first and now biggest one in film and media management.  In each of these cases there is a reciprocal agreement and students in each school take two or three core classes in the other school. They take a couple of electives in each place and embrace the philosophical intent of what it means to be involved in that industry or field, and the last semester they participate in an applied experience with their cohort. For example, the film capstone course is called content creation and what they do in their very last semester is start with a concept and end up with a pitch or produced content around film or media-based projects like webisodes or films.

It’s a great experience because business students learn to respect and have a deep understanding of the history and context of what it means to be a filmmaker and film students learn about business. For example, they’ll take a marketing course, an organization of management class and a film finance class. We have a huge cohort of students in Los Angeles and we took a group trek there to visit a bunch of companies and host an alumni event, the kind of thing we do with students in the banking industry.

I think as a model — at least for us — it make so much more sense because it is not like, “Oh you have this pocket of interest and you want to understand both film and business.” It is much more of an integrative explanation of how the pieces fit together. We are really excited about this, and we’re graduating our fourth cohort from the entertainment one this year.

What do you think is the value proposition of an undergraduate business degree for students today?

I think there are two value propositions. They don’t know who they are yet, but there is one population of undergraduate business students on a linear path towards an MBA. As much as MBA programs embrace student from all majors, the truth is that their number one best-represented undergraduate major is business. MBA programs are going to admit students who have done impressive professionally-oriented work and made meaningful contributions to organizations before they come in. Students who have BBAs are most capable of hitting the ground running in business organizations and have the most opportunities in those arenas.  So the value proposition for an undergraduate is it enables them to get a meaningful job after they graduate. In addition, it allows them to do that job particularly well and move up rapidly, which increases your chance of getting into top-tier MBA programs. I don’t think we are alone in the sense that students with undergraduate degrees in business tend to go to schools that are as elite, if not more elite, than their undergraduate experience. They don’t go to lesser schools than the school they’ve graduated from and are able to take what they’ve learned in undergraduate and really do great stuff with it, move forward and get into strong MBA programs.

I also believe that for a whole other group, the undergraduate degree is efficient. Our curriculum is virtually identical to that of an MBA program, and as students grow in their organizations and have a need for additional knowledge, there are many more ways to get that short of going back to business school. There are online offerings, intensive executive education forms and corporate training. So in some sense, the undergraduate business degree is in lieu of the need to ever get an MBA.

I don’t think those value propositions are contradictory. I think both paths work for students.

What advice do you have for both parents and would-be students in choosing a quality undergraduate business program?

I think there is a real sense among parents that there is a checklist of things they are supposed to look for, and they put a lot of emphasis on prestigious job opportunities or the reputation of the university, as if the journey were linear. My strongest notion is that it is not linear and it is not supposed to be. College as a whole is supposed to be a journey and a moment of exploration. Students should feel free to try and reject lots of career and intellectual paths, and parents should let students do that. I think that maybe there should be a little more leeway in trusting instinct. When you choose a school, there should be a little less emphasis on what the external measures of what a good program might be. Every program and every school has its own personality; if you put a student in a place where he or she is engaged, that student will find faculty to mentor him or her, find alumni connections and network. All of those things will help him or her be successful. I really believe every school out there has that to offer. At some schools it is a little more overtly handed to you and at other schools it is not handed to you, you have to work for it.

Are there any stories or trends that you think aren’t being covered in undergraduate business education? 

A giant and new trend is entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is the new black. It sort of happened at both levels at the same time. If you poll eighteen-year olds, half believe they want to be entrepreneurs when they grow up, even though only four percent end up doing that starting out of undergraduate. At the MBA level a marginalized career choice is now becoming validated. It’s 1999 all over again, it’s the next wave. To me, it’s just more of the cycle. At the undergraduate level, there is a real focus on the academic side in social entrepreneurship.

There are two things behind this. One is a recognition that kids like to connect what they do to something meaningful and apply the opportunity to do that. Clearly they know this is a generation that loves volunteerism and at least be accustomed to it. Community outreach makes sense.

In my opinion interest is emerging because is a playground where they let us play. Nobody would let undergraduates to a consulting project for a Fortune 500 company, but a local community center would very happy to have a bunch of energetic young people look at specific problems and come up with a solution. There tends to be a lot of low-hanging fruit in those environments so the opportunity for kids to work on something and come up with a meaningful recommendation is high. It has become a vehicle for all kinds of things: applied learning, capstone and team learning.

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