10 Undergraduate Business Schools To Watch in 2017

Lehigh University

Lehigh University: In a 2014 P&Q interview, Georgette Chapman Phillips, dean of Lehigh University’s College of Business and Economics, described the program in as a “huge reservoir of untapped potential,” calling it a “really great school that flies under the radar.”

Don’t expect that to last much longer.

If you had to slap a one word label on Lehigh, “options” would probably do it justice. The program offers more than 100 double majors. For some business majors, that means better customizing their experience and targeting their interests. For others, it is a way to expose themselves to far more than they would in a standard curriculum. “It is very rigorous and gives them a lot of depth,” explains Katrina Zalatan, associate dean and director of the undergraduate programs at the business college. “It helps them solve problems better because they’ll have depth across all the subject areas. It’s also important because when you think about problems in business they’re not usually packaged with a nice disciplinary bow. Students have to draw from a broader breadth of understanding to address them.”

You could also describe Lehigh as a “work-in-progress.” Recognizing that advising was an area for improvement, the program instituted an initiative in 2016 that tied each student to a staff adviser for their entire four years. Like many schools aspiring to step into the spotlight, the business school will soon be breaking ground on a new facility. That should play to Lehigh’s existing strengths, which includes a helpful alumni network and unfettered access to faculty. In our eyes, such assets bode well for Lehigh to climb the ranks in the coming years.

University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business

University of Michigan (Ross): When you start college, you want to get your hands dirty right away.

Who wants to wade through required courses before getting down to what inspired them to attend college in the first place? In 2016, Ross heard these student voices loud-and-clear. As a result, they began admitting freshman, essentially stretching the business program from three to four years.

Are they ready? They’d better be. Ross is a very different type of business program. A pioneer in experiential learning, the defining student experience is known affectionately as MAP (Multidisciplinary Action Project). A field study that pulls the curriculum together, MAP enables students to team up with sponsor companies to address their most arduous dilemmas. That doesn’t just require a business background. Like the best business schools, Ross’ signature experience was spruced up in 2014 to inject a stronger dose of liberal arts and global awareness into the curriculum.

“We are talking about helping students develop a skillset where they can work across functions and disciplines and have a mindset where they develop an orientation for lifelong learning,” explains Lynn Wooten, Ross’ dean of undergraduate programs. “In the global world, we wanted our students to be more global and more culturally intelligent. The ability to work in diverse groups and to be collaborative and diverse in organizations and business situations was important.”

At Ross, business majors get a daily look at how business can be a force for good. Make no mistake: It can also be a path to prosperity, with 2016 grads taking home $78,952 in total starting compensation, behind only Wharton, Haas, and Tepper. At that rate, you can expect even more high school seniors to be clamoring for a Ross acceptance going forward.

Notre Dame University’s Mendoza School of Business topped our alumni satisfaction survey

University of Notre Dame (Mendoza): It wouldn’t surprise anyone if you saw Mendoza students skipping down the halls in unison, breaking into a spontaneous rendition of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” Look no further than the alumni. In P&Q’s 2016 alumni survey, they scored their alma mater with an A+ in recommending the program to a close friend, real world preparation, skill development, return on investment, the quality and diversity of extracurriculars, masterful teaching, solid academic advising, corporate outreach, career advising, alumni networking, and alumni accessibility. Alas, the Fighting Irish still have some work to do. They only merited an A in terms of faculty availability.

Yeah, they’re obviously doing something right in South Bend to get that level of satisfaction.

Legendary football coach Lou Holtz was fond of saying, “Those who know Notre Dame, no explanation’s necessary. Those who don’t, no explanation will suffice. Well, we’ll let Dale Nees, Mendoza’s assistant dean for undergraduate studies, cut through the aura for us. In a 2014 interview, he theorized the school’s strong pay and placement played a part, adding that the school’s formidable alumni base, which numbers over 28,000 strong, helped opportunities seemingly present themselves. In his view, the real root stemmed from the curriculum’s focus on “ethics and integrity,” which is infused in every class. “As a Catholic university it is embedded in our mission statement to act in a manner where we look after the human aspect of the community,” he observes. “I think a lot of companies are counting on us to focus on that as well.”

Nicole Zhang, a 2014 graduate who has already earned a vice president title, echoes Nees’ sentiments. “Not only does Mendoza highly prepare its students with the business knowledge and skills to be successful in any industry that they choose to work in,” she tells P&Q, “but Mendoza has taught us to be ethical, team players, and leaders in the business world. I’m not exaggerating — I think about how thankful I am to have done my undergraduate studies at Mendoza every single day.”

This considerate culture may be the glue, but the academic foundation is as solid as granite, too. One of the largest undergraduate programs with nearly 1,900 students who major in business, Mendoza hasn’t been afraid to tinker with its wildly successful formula. Recently, the program added a business analytics major, along with reorganizing the college into dual departments: Management and Organization and IT, Analytics and Operations. At the same time, the program has poured additional resources into such areas as entrepreneurship and social responsibility, all while beefing up offerings that incorporate experiential learning and global travel. At the same time, Mendoza is broadening its reach out west, pushing several “study abroad” opportunities in Silicon Valley.

In other words, expect Mendoza to remain entrenched as one of the most innovative and attractive undergraduate business programs in education. Irish eyes truly are smiling down on them.

Next Page: Boston University, Georgetown, and Minnesota.