How do business school deans feel about the recent Gallup study that revealed that fewer than four in ten business school graduates are deeply interested in their jobs?
Their first response is not unexpected: Deans of several prominent undergraduate business programs say it’s not their students or graduates. But they largely chalk up the Gallup findings to pressure from parents who urge their children to be business majors, unrealistic expectations, and the economy. And the deans say business majors may appear more apathetic toward work because students aren’t spending enough time reflecting on what they want to do.
Nevertheless, the overall consensus is the top schools attract the best and most engaged students. And the leaders of these schools think lack of interest and purpose well-being is the exception and not the norm for their graduates. They also offered ideas of a shift in what business schools emphasize and what students should expect as possible solutions to reverse these trends.
A LIBERAL ARTS APPROACH
Each school has their own way of saying it, but the message remains clear. A business degree is becoming an increasingly rounded degree. Sure, the business emphasis is still there but schools are trying to produce well-rounded adults.
“Deep business knowledge is still really important,” says Joann Peck, the associate dean for undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin School of Business. “But undergraduate students are becoming adults. They are developing. We integrate liberal arts and humanities courses to help them make creative connections outside of business school.”
Peck emphasized Wisconsin’s MBA approach that has been adopted at the undergraduate level—KDBIN. All lame acronym jokes aside, the style of teaching students Knowledge, Doing, Being, Inspiring and Networking is all about producing students seeking interesting, meaningful and purposeful work.
Georgetown University McDonough School of Business Dean, David Thomas, says the school provides a liberal arts-based business program.
“With the Jesuit context of our education, we emphasize the values of service,” Thomas says. “Our students are prompted to think about meaning and what they want to do and accomplish in their lives.”
LESS IS MORE
Are business students expecting too much monetarily? The relatively low percentage of business students feeling financially secure seems to be a disconnect in what students expect to make and what they often end up making—at least at first.
“I can’t help but think these results have to do with expectations,” says David Vogel, the director of career development at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. “I have worked with investment bankers making seven figures who were disappointed in the amount they made because they expected to make more.”
Business students trailing engineers does not come as a surprise with the tech industry blowing up more than Kanye West’s phone. But being at the same level as social science majors is somewhat alarming. Until you think about expectations. Throw any money at all at a social worker and they will be ecstatic. Business students expect to make major bank.
“We tee them up as being future business leaders of America,” says Thomas. “But they are going to start at the bottom. Where as if you are a scientist or engineer, where you start might be a closer fit with expectations. Business students start with a lot of Excel sheets and exposure to major business problems.”
TOO SMART FOR THEIR OWN GOOD?
The truth is, business students are forward thinking people. They think about innovation. They think about efficiency. Most importantly they think about finances. Their own finances and other’s. This is a gift and a curse. You don’t see a communications major concerned with balancing budgets. At least not a communications major you want to be friends with.
“The other majors don’t even know they should be financially concerned or worried,” Peck says laughing.
Ignorance can be bliss. Lawrence Murray, dean of the Kenan-Flager program, also thinks it has to do with the economic downturn. Results are often and probably skewed downwards because of the most recent financial struggles. Take this survey in 2007, he says, and the results could (and probably would) be significantly more positive.