Business majors get no respect. You know the reputation. Business is the catch-all major. Come junior year, it is the last refuge for party hounds and confused souls alike. To outsiders, business majors don’t have to read or write like everyone else. They’re the ones who supposedly took the easy way out so they didn’t have to learn the hard stuff. Alas, a business major may not be a punch line like communications, but it isn’t considered as time-consuming as engineering or rigorous as biology, either.
Sure, some may deride business majors as second rate corporate climbers; reformed misfits who are more interested in landing a job. Fact is, business is the most popular undergraduate major for a reason. The degree is versatile enough to offer something to everyone. Want to save the world? Think social enterprise. Love solving puzzles? Maybe finance is your calling. Do you find yourself motivating and coaching your peers? You’re probably management material. If you want to control your own destiny, you’ll probably find yourself becoming an entrepreneur someday.
APPLYING REAL WORLD CONCEPTS IN REAL TIME
For the ‘Best & Brightest’ business majors from the Class of 2017, business was a means to explore an array of choices so they could find where their passions truly lie. “I loved the number of options I had when it came to classes, internships, and career opportunities,” says Olivia Guerrasio, who studied international business and marketing at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. “I was able to try so many different things along the way allowed me to figure out what I like and don’t like before graduating. In my opinion, I have been able to get such a well-rounded education thanks to my business degree.”
Lehigh University’s Kelly Mayid, who’ll be joining Ernst & Young after graduation, echoes Guerrasio’s sentiments. “I truly enjoy how expansive the field is. I was able to take such a wide variety of core business courses that I got a taste of everything. Everything you learn—ranging from accounting to marketing—is applicable to multiple fields. You can do business within any type of company.”
Indeed, business is as much art as science. Fueled by an apprenticeship-driven model, it requires hands-on experience as much as mastery of technical concepts. The practical nature of business was attractive to the University of North Carolina’s Theo Onigbinde, who’ll be starting in investment banking this summer. At times, Onigbinde wondered if he’d ever use what he’d learned in non-business courses. That wasn’t the case when he studied business. “My classes had some sort of real world application and gave me skills and knowledge that will help me as I make the transition from undergrad to business professional,” he notes.
TEACHING STUDENTS “HOW THE WORLD TRULY RUNS”
At Cornell University, Casey McClaren interned with the FBI and Senator Charles Schumer before joining JP Morgan Chase as an analyst. As a student, she was fascinated by studying real companies and issues that she was familiar with from the headlines. This turned her business classes into real world labs with a greater urgency to her. “It made everything a lot less theoretical and a lot more interesting!” Going from the macro to the micro, Arizona State’s Spencer William Elliott, who was named a “Person To Watch” by the Arizona Republic, says studying business helped him absorb some of the unwritten rules that trip up many new graduates. “Business has opened a window into how the world truly runs.”
One way that happens is through internships. During his four years, the University of Minnesota’s Raffy Maristela completed four internships, including ones with Salesforce and Accenture Strategy. This enabled him to reduce the learning curve he’ll soon face when he starts work at McKinsey after graduation. “I worked in an abundance of teams, consulted with real clients, and worked on class projects with real Twin Cities businesses that helped me develop into an effective team member and professional in the real world,” he shares. “I also loved how inherent relationships and social interaction were to my learning – I get a lot of energy from being around people so this aspect always kept my learning engaging!” Business students didn’t just learn on the job, however. The University of Florida’s Sherman Wilhelm, who studied economics and statistics, also gained experience through the “learn by doing” nature of the business school. “Through internships, student involvement, and business case competitions, I’ve been able to use what I learned in class to not only further develop my own skills, but to impact the world around me.”
That impact goes well beyond excelling at a job for the University of Connecticut’s Roma Romaniv, who hopes to someday enter social impact consulting, investing, or entrepreneurship. “I believe that business is and will continue to be the most efficient vehicle to bring about social and economic prosperity as well as peace. It is a tool, which with the right environment, can be used to accomplish any goal beyond just making profits.”
FAR MORE DEMANDING MAJOR THAN PEOPLE EXPECT
When you hear from this year’s ‘Best & Brightest’ business majors, money seems to be the furthest consideration from their minds. Instead, this year’s class is seemingly comprised of problem-solvers with a penchant for clarifying, ordering, and inventing. Northeastern University’s Miranda Beggin, for one, admits that she had to constantly don “a new hat” with the diverse set of problems she’d regularly encounter. At the University of North Carolina, Craig Amasya, who’ll be settling in as a strategic analyst after graduation, was exposed to a wide range of functions as a business major. Not only did this help him understand their intricacies, but also how his decisions impacted them. “I’m a pragmatist,” he confesses. “I like bringing ideas to life and seeing the possible in the otherwise impractical. Majoring in business has allowed me to design initiatives at a high strategic level and then execute on our strategy by modeling finances, creating marketing campaigns, designing efficient operations, and running data analyses.”
This ability to formulate and execute solutions is particularly critical in business. Technological breakthroughs and rising expectations have created a dynamic where change is constant and speed and service is paramount. To thrive, students are learning that they must be constantly re-evaluating their value proposition — if not the marketplace itself. The University of Denver’s Ronan McIntosh and the University of Missouri’s Greg Stringfellow both focused on finance in business school, a discipline not traditionally associated with outside-the-box thinking. However, each views it as an engine to sustain change efforts.