Dean’s Q&A: NYU Stern’s Geeta Menon

NYU Stern Dean of the Undergraduate College, Geeta Menon

NYU Stern Dean of the Undergraduate College, Geeta Menon

When you hear the words “New York University Stern School of Business,” Dean of the Undergraduate College, Geeta Menon says to think about the words location and global. Indeed, located in Greenwich Village, less than three miles from the western world’s financial epicenter, Wall Street, it’s hard to imagine a better location for a business school.

Originally founded in 1900 as the College of Commerce, Accounts and Finance, Stern is one of the oldest business schools in the country. It is currently one of the largest and most selective undergraduate business programs. The school enrolls more than 2,500 undergraduate students in their four-year program and, according to Menon, the school sees some 11,000 applications each year for about 620 slots.

Despite such a large volume of students, they all spend at least a week in another country. Through the Barr Family International Studies Program, all juniors go overseas during their spring semester to study a business abroad. According to Menon, at least half of all students spend a semester or more away. Truly a global program, Stern offers study away options either at NYU’s 14 global campuses, including two degree-granting campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai. Students may also visit any of Stern’s 18 business school exchange partners in cities in many different regions around the world.

Menon has also worked to encourage the opportunities for students to study abroad through the Stern Around the World program, study away through the Stern International Business Exchange (IBEX), and volunteer abroad through the Stern International Volunteers program.

CONTINUAL INTERNATIONAL AND RESEARCH DEVELOPMENT

But don’t let the heavy finance stereotypes of New York City fool you. The school emphasizes social impact, reflected through multiple programs like the Social Impact Stipend, which reimburses students for volunteering at local nonprofits and the Social Impact Business Competition. As Menon states, the school is looking for smart, hardworking individuals who also want to do good in the world.

If anyone can speak to the innovations and emerging trends of undergraduate education at NYU Stern, it’s Menon. She originally came to the school in 1990 and has since built a career as a renowned marketing expert and researcher. She’s an industry leader in consumer behavior and health advertising and boasts of being part of a faculty of more than 200 researchers.

Perhaps her biggest innovation since taking over as the undergraduate college’s 11th dean in 2011, is implementing the Stern Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR). A research database, SPUR allows undergraduate students to apply and connect with Stern faculty experts to collaborate on research projects.

In an exclusive interview with Poets&Quants, Menon speaks about the makeup of this year’s entering undergraduate class, her continued emphasis on social impact, and new and upcoming innovations at Stern (among other topics).

What is Stern doing that’s unique in undergraduate business education?

There are certain characteristics about Stern and NYU that automatically make it unique, besides the program. First and foremost, we are located in New York City, and I very often say, the best part of New York City. We have a phenomenal advantage in being of close access to Wall Street and Madison Avenue.

The other aspect which makes Stern unique is that it’s part of NYU, which is also the first global network university with 14 campuses around the world and that allows our students to travel across the globe. And one of the things I make very clear when talking to incoming students or potential students is that there is a real pride point in being a pioneer in business education. We are the fourth school of business to open its doors to this type of education and, in a lot of ways, I think we’ve had a head start in terms of thinking about business and being on the forefront of many innovations.

Our location, both within New York City and our campuses around the world, are definitely unique to Stern and NYU and it’s something we really capitalize on.

Also, the definition of business education is important. One of the big factors I consider important in the way we do business education is that students are really grounded in the liberal arts. I think when students come here at the age of 17 or 18, they’re really young and you need to kind of help them shape their thinking and the way they address problems. So liberal arts is a really important foundation.

For our business degree, we require at least 50% of the student’s curriculum be in the liberal arts—and that’s a really important factor, in my opinion. And so our students are well-versed, whether it’s mathematics, philosophy, or psychology. One third of our students actually minor in the liberal arts and that’s a point of pride.

The business element is really important from the point-of-view of further honing analytical skills and thinking and having practical real-life tools to apply. But I do think that fundamental foundation of liberal arts is very important and makes us unique as well.

I’ve been at Stern a long time—about 25 years. I’ve been a faculty member, I’ve been the chair of the marketing department, so I have a rich history with Stern and with NYU. For me, one of the big things I take pride in is research and publications. One of the first things we instituted after I became dean was the Stern Program For Undergraduate Research, which really enabled our students to get first-hand experience with research projects.

We have 230 faculty members—many of whom are very heavily published and we’re the fourth-most published business school. And that automatically creates a program for undergraduates who have access to these faculty members to do research and is a great venue for further using your analytical abilities and being able to think about problems from a very fundamental knowledge perspective. So we’re really proud of those innovations that really help students think more clearly about problems that are current in our business environment and which people are talking about.

Page 1 of 3