Dean’s Q&A: Jim Bryan, SMU Cox

Southern Methodist University. Courtesy photo

One of the biggest changes Jim Bryan, associate dean of the BBA program at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business, has seen in undergraduate business education is the explosion of student interest in entrepreneurship and startup culture.

That change has spurred a new way of teaching and innovation at Cox.

“Students today are so much more a part of the ‘startup’ culture than ever before,” Bryan tells P&Q for Undergrads. “Our faculty used to teach entrepreneurship like a skill that students might need to have later in their careers. Now they are actively working with students on their current projects. The synergy is fun to watch. While the professor-student relationship is still very much intact, it is evolving into more of a partnership where faculty take great pride in students’ startup success.”

At Cox, the relationship SMU holds with the city of Dallas has given business students immense opportunities to pursue internship opportunities and gain real-world experience.

“For example, we purposefully do not teach many upper-level classes on Fridays, specifically to allow students to get substantial internship experiences during the academic year,” Bryan says. “If Cox was in a different location, we couldn’t give our students the same level of out-of-class opportunities.”

The education at Cox is geared towards giving business students hands-on experience before they graduate into full-time jobs. Some examples? The school allows finance majors to manage a portion of SMU’s endowment, which is currently worth around $3 million. Senior marketing majors have the opportunity to take on a semester-long marketing project for Fox Sports. Additionally, students can compete in case study competitions, in areas such as entrepreneurship and real estate finance, across the nation.

“Our goal is that when SMU Cox students graduate, they’ve got more experience than the competition from other schools,” Bryan says. “We couldn’t do all these things if we didn’t take advantage of our location.”

See the below interview that includes innovations at Cox, admission insights, and how students can make a seamless transition into business school.

Jim Bryan, associate dean of BBA programs at SMU Cox says parents should be involved, but let their student be the driver. Photo courtesy of Cox School of Business

P&Q: What are some cool and innovative things happening now at Cox and business education overall?

Bryan: I really love what is happening in our finance department. The Alternative Assets Program has raised the level of our students whether they are in that program or not. Because so many of our finance majors want to get into this very competitive program, it’s made all our students work harder, thus challenging our professors to do even better, too. Again, I’d put these students up against any students in the country. What is especially gratifying is that we’re hearing the same feedback from companies that hire them when they graduate.

I’m also very excited about our new partnership with the university that has resulted in the creation of an entrepreneurship incubator just off campus. The university has taken the position, and we concur, that entrepreneurship is not something that is only happening in the B-school. Our most successful projects are the ones that develop from the collaboration of students studying in different areas. Perhaps it’s the history major that has the idea, the business student who can put the plan into place, and the engineer who can design the prototype. When our students work together, that’s when the magic happens.

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