For Nancy Bagranoff, dean of the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business, the biggest recent change in business education is how companies are hiring grads. And student interns. The change? Employers are pursuing and hiring top talent earlier and earlier. In fact, Bagranoff says, “Some big banks are now hiring for junior-level internships in April of the sophomore year.”
The shift has had an impact on how business education happens at Robins. Specifically, intensive business courses now have been moved up in the student’s undergraduate career. Students don’t enter the Robins School until January of their sophomore year, so if they plan to go into finance, they have to hit the ground running when it comes to that early recruiting.
“As far as the model of curriculum goes, I have seen a change over the past decade where we have found that we think it is better to rather than have two years for liberal arts and two years for business education, that it be woven throughout,” Bagranoff says. “We’re doing a lot more of that, where they’re starting to take their business classes earlier. And it’s my feeling and observation that many of the business students who take the liberal arts classes later actually appreciate them more.”
Richmond is in a unique place, Bagranoff believes, in that it is a highly-regarded liberal arts university with a large business school.
STELLAR JOB NUMBERS AT THE B-SCHOOL WITHIN THE LIBERAL ARTS UNIVERSITY
The result have faired well for Robins in the rankings. Last year, the Robins School came in 21st on the Poets&Quants ranking of Best Undergraduate Business Schools, buoyed largely by some stellar job numbers. Out of all job seekers for the Class of 2017, about 98% had secured employment within 90 days of graduating. The average total compensation of those reporting salaries was nearly $63,000.
Robins has recently put a lot of effort into their career and professional development programming. Highlighting that programming is the Q-Camp which is for students entering the school in January of their sophomore years.
“When students enter the business school, in January of their sophomore year, they have the opportunity to go to a weekend professional development boot camp,” Bagranoff says. “We actually take them offsite to a hotel and it is competitive — not everyone gets to do it — but, out of our class of 250 or 280, about 180 do it. We think competing for that is actually a good thing. During that boot camp, we talk to them quite a bit about what they need to do to get ready in the future and what careers look like. They really get immersed in the idea of being in a professional school and the career opportunities available and the support.”
See the below interview that includes what is new at Robins, advice for high school students (and their parents), and how the school is trying to change with the times by staying connected to their students.
P&Q: For starters, what’s new for undergraduate business education at Richmond Robins?
Bagranoff: We are evolving as business schools are. We’ve always been very strong in accounting, marketing, and finance. Those have been our big areas, but of course, technology is upending things in a way and students have interest getting into different sectors or parts of jobs than they have before. As an example, some students came to us about a year ago and said, can we start a fintech club? Fintech is something that really appeals to our students and they have helped us understand and think about how we evolve in our offerings.
We are also incorporating data analytics everywhere. We have a new course that is required in that area. But we are also working on a concentration on analytics that has been passed by the faculty but still needs approval from the provost.
We also have a new minor coming onboard in entrepreneurship this fall. That minor is for non-business students only, which we think is very neat. Richmond is unique. If you looked at the list of national liberal arts universities, you would find us rated on their and yet we also have a large business school. We are really a rarity in that sense. We really are a small liberal arts university with a large business school that is generally ranked. So it made sense to us that students outside the business school are included in the things we do and that’s why the entrepreneurship minor for non-business students is going to be very successful. We have many students across the school that want access to the business school without the full-blown education and this will give them that access.
We also have the iLab. Our “i” stands for innovation, inspiration, ideas, you know, all of those things. We’re also excited about that.
The other thing I would say is there are two directions I see us moving in over the next several years. And that is not abandoning accounting, marketing, or finance, but sort of repositioning them and making sure our students also have that education in analytics and in entrepreneurship, because all of those industries are really incorporating that. I’ve always thought of accounting as being very entrepreneurial with people starting their own firms and helping others. And now with analytics, you’re seeing the accounting profession, in particular, change pretty significantly.
The university has also been very committed to diversity and inclusion and the Robins School is interested in that as well. In the strategic plan at the university level and the school level, we have a big focus on that and figuring out how to attract a diverse student population and how to help support them is really important to us.
P&Q: How does the liberal arts portion of the curriculum fit in for business students?
Bagranoff: A few things have changed in that regard. First of all, about 40% of our students take a major or minor outside of the business school. So the business school students are getting a lot of the programming and curriculum outside of our business school. We actually have a school of leadership studies at the University of Richmond and many of our students either major or minor in leadership along with their business degree.
And then, as far as the model of curriculum goes, I have seen a change over the past decade where we have found that we think it is better to rather than have two years for liberal arts and two years for business education, that it be woven throughout. We’re doing a lot more of that, where they’re starting to take their business classes earlier. And it’s my feeling and observation that many of the business students who take the liberal arts classes later actually appreciate them more.
Another change that’s taking place is the hiring has moved up. It’s the biggest change I have seen in business education — the hiring is sooner for students and so they have to be prepared. We can’t just give Finance 360 in their junior year — they’ve already have a sophomore-level internship. So we’re having to move the business classes sooner so the students are prepared for internships. Some big banks are now hiring for junior-level internships in April of the sophomore year.
P&Q: How much pressure that hiring timing put on you all as faculty and administrators to have the students polished and prepared for recruiting?
Bagranoff: I wouldn’t use the word ‘pressure’ too much because I like the idea of weaving the business and the liberal arts education along over four years. Yes, we do need to do that so they are competitive, but we also think having them get courses alongside each other is not a bad thing. But to be competitive, we can’t have our students compete for jobs and not be well-positioned.
There’s also a lot of interest and focus that has changed over the years with respect to career and professional development. The extra-curricular programming is huge now. Students expect it and we provide it.