Entrepreneurs don’t play by the rules. And you wouldn’t expect a business school that caters to the startup spirit to follow them either. That’s part of the charm of Babson College, which ranked 28th overall in P&Q’s annual undergraduate ranking.
At Babson, entrepreneurship is far more than epiphanies and instinct. Here, success hinges on a repeatable methodology – Entrepreneurial Thought and Action (ET&A for short) – that ties heavily into a founder’s purpose. It is a data-driven exercise, one that requires small, calculated steps to test both a venture’s viability and a founder’s commitment and risk tolerance. Even more, Babson entrepreneurial underpinnings involve more than profit-and-loss. It is an exercise in creating larger social value and impact.
How serious does Babson take this philosophy? Look no further than freshman year for business students, who complete a required, year-long Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship course. In a nutshell, students are handed $3,000 in seed money and told to start a business – with all proceeds going to local nonprofits. The course embodies the program’s learning-by-doing approach, where students are supported through every stage of business development, launch, and maintenance. In other words, they learn where the pitfalls lie in a low-risk exercise, making the process far less daunting when they set out to do it on their own.
On top of that, startup-minded students can spend a semester at Babson’s Bay Area campus to deepen their exposure to startup life. “Spending four months building a startup and consulting for another, along with learning about the culture and history of the Bay Area, was an experience that transformed my four years of college,” says Oliver Davis, a recent Babson grad.
While entrepreneurship may be the Babson BA’s signature, that doesn’t mean graduates aren’t coveted by employers. In fact, 97.9% of the Class of 2018 landed jobs within the first three months of graduation – a tip of the hat to can-do attitude and jack-of-all-trades skillset that students develop in the program.
The program hardly rests on its startup chops, either. Babson now offers study abroad options in 38 countries. At the same time, it has been beefing up its curriculum to stay current with market demands. Last year, it rolled out a new concentration in business analytics, along with enhancing its Technology Management concentration with new courses like “Clouds, Platforms and Networks.” “Agile Methodology,” and “Blockchain.” In addition, the school is launching a series of half-semester courses to better address emerging topics in a timely fashion.
More than that, the school has been working consciously to make the program more diverse. While 29% of the business student are underrepresented minorities, Babson has been tackling the cultural gap that dogs most higher education institutions. This includes areas like a lack of faculty diversity and coursework that sometimes includes a limited number of perspectives.
“We need to increase the mass of people who look different or bring different experiences,” says Alana Anderson, senior assistant director of multicultural programs at Babson. “We increase the numbers (of diverse students), but we don’t think about the atmosphere and climate we ask students to come into. We don’t do enough to examine the climate and experience that people face and sort of just bear through once they’re here.”
To address these shortcomings, the school has introduced programming like “Diversity Matters,” a monthly discussion platform on inclusion topics, and “Race & Racism,” a three part series that offers a look at racial issues through history. While these efforts remain a work-in-progress, they provide further evidence that Babson, no different than any successful venture, is open to the possibilities and ever-ready to take action.
Austin…Seattle…Raleigh…Salt Lake City.
What do these cities have in common? They have emerged as the best places to grow high tech startups. Surprised that Salt Lake City made the list? You shouldn’t be. “Silicon Slopes” benefits from a bevy of business-friendly laws, public-private partnerships, and higher education institutions – not to mention a low cost of living. This has created a tech ecosystem that boasts billion dollar tech startups like Domo, PluralSight, Qualtrics, and Vivint – which have taken the place of more mature Utah-based ventures like Ancestry.com and Overstock.com. Not surprisingly, this activity has also drawn big players to the I-15 Corridor, including eBay, Adobe, and Oracle.
‘A rising tide lifts all boats,’ as the saying goes. In the City of Saints, the University of Utah acts as that tide. Last year, ‘The U’ ranked as the top university for commercializing technology innovations according to the Milken Institute, which measured patents, licenses, licensing income, and startups forms. Sure enough, the Eccles School of Business is capitalizing on this momentum. In 2016, the school opened the Lassonde Studios. Think of it as a dorm-meets-incubator, where 400 students live and work together on everything from testing concepts and building prototypes to sharpening investment pitches and launching businesses. It is the kind of convergence – where business students can be paired with engineers, designers, and scientists – that may produce the next generation of breakthrough innovations.
“We want to give every student on campus a transformative experience through entrepreneurship,” explains Eccles Dean Taylor Randall in Utah Business. “With Lassonde Studios, we now have the space and resources to provide this experience to every student at the University of Utah. We don’t think any other university provides the same amount of resources and opportunities to student entrepreneurs.”
Ranked 72nd in P&Q’s 2018 ranking of undergraduate business schools, Eccles possesses all the ingredients for a major move in future. That starts with a revamp of the core curriculum, which will be rolled out this spring. Notably, the school will take a page out of the Kelley School’s acclaimed program with a semester-long integrated course, where students can experience the interconnections between management, finance, marketing, and operations through intensive projects and cases alike. At the same time, business majors will spend an entire year on a Frameworks for Business Problems course, where they’ll master in-demand skills like critical thinking and data analytics.
That’s not the only big investment being made at Eccles. Last year, the business school introduced a semester-long Global Learning Abroad program in London, which has since expanded to South America and a combined Sydney-Shanghai experience. At the same time, business majors can now enjoy summer programming in Paris, Barcelona, Rome, and Prague. What’s more, Eccles remains one of the more generous business schools, doling out over $5 million dollars in scholarship support annually.
More entrepreneurial, integrated, and global – with an increasing emphasis on economics and quantitative analysis. That has been the recipe for growth at business programs like Minnesota Carlson…and it could vault Eccles into the spotlight in the coming years as well.