Wharton Again Tops P&Q’s Best Undergraduate B-Schools Of 2020

Michigan Ross photo

ROSS’ MOVE TO A DIRECT ADMIT UNDERGRAD PROGRAM BROUGHT CURRICULUM CHANGES AS WELL

At the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, significant structural changes have been made to the curriculum over the past few years. Once a two-year program where students first applied to the University of Michigan and then had a separate application process to get into the Ross School, now high school students can apply directly and enter the business school as freshmen. According to Norm Bishara, the associate dean of undergraduate programs at Ross, the school now accepts around 500 students directly from high school and about 125 sophomores who either come from the University of Michigan or local community colleges.

“We had some growing pains with moving to a full four-year curriculum,” Bishara admits. “But we’ve done a lot to work to make that the program is more cohesive and get a lot of hiccups out of the system. And that carries over to student experience and alumni experience. It was a well-designed curriculum to begin with, but when you make that move from a two-year program to a four-year program, it’s hard to get students to see the big picture. So some of it is just doing a better job of explaining why we have the curriculum we have. And that also includes execution and filling in opportunities in the white space.”

That white space includes the gaps in the scheduled course schedules in January and during the spring term. Bishara says the first-year curriculum is “light by design” to allow undergrads a broader academic experience until the business curriculum really ramps up in the second, third, and fourth years.

Cross-campus entrepreneurial endeavors are also popular at Michigan Ross, Bishara says. “Students are taking classes all over the university,” he says. “We have students getting dual degrees. We have students who are learning things from other schools and bringing them back here — their projects and startups.”

Also growing in popularity at Michigan Ross are study abroad trips. Part of the “white space” Bishara mentioned is being filled with a study abroad winter term for juniors. In winter 2017, 147 juniors took part in the program. So far 290 juniors have been approved to study abroad for the 2020 winter term.

WHARTON’S COMMITMENT TO DATA, ANALYTICS, AND FINANCE

Back at Wharton, changes continue to revolve around entrepreneurship, innovation, and big data. Last March, Wharton created the Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance. The main focus of the initiative is to expand student programming in financial innovation through fintech (financial technology) research courses and mentorship, Robertson says. The school has also created a new position called the Vice Dean of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which is held by Karl Ulrich.

“At the undergraduate level, we continue to add and update course options in our ‘Global, Business, and Society’ and ‘Technology, Innovation, and Analytics’ requirements, ensuring students are exposed to the latest innovations, research, and thought leadership,” Roberston says.

The school also has a Vice Dean of Analytics and added a business analytics concentration three years ago. The business analytics and statistics concentrations are both STEM eligible, Robertson says. Business analytics is already one of the most popular concentrations among undergraduate students at Wharton.

“We continue to add new courses on analytics, for example, Data Science for Finance, which will be offered for the first time in the fall of 2020,” Robertson says. “In this era, businesses rely on increasingly complicated decisions made with insights gained from data and analytics. No longer just the domain of computer science or statistics, policies and decisions with global impact are driven by data — and by business schools like Wharton.”

‘MAKING GIANT HAMMERS AND LOOKING AROUND FOR THE NAIL’

Those sorts of co-curricular and curricular innovations are essential in keeping up with the changing economy and market, Tepper’s Yeltekin explains.

“The business models out there are changing,” Yeltekin says. “Technology and data are everywhere. And we would be doing a complete disservice to our students if we just pulled out the same dusty books and taught them, business models, from 40 or 50 years ago. What we are doing very deliberately is giving them that data science component and giving them that understanding of computer science and technology and how it can enhance businesses and how it can add value.”

Yeltekin says it’s about creating a “bilingual” student. “Our entire goal is to educate business students whom I would call bilingual in the following sense: they know technology. They can do computing. They understand data. And they understand the business side,” Yeltekin explains. “They can sit down and write a simple use case. They can do a proof of concept. They can code a little bit. They might not be the ones who are going to spend all of their time optimizing a piece of code but they understand what it can and can’t do. They can talk to the technologist. They can talk to the data scientist and they can understand the business side of things and make strategic decisions based on that data and technology. And that’s the bilingual type of student we’re trying to raise and graduate from here.”

But, on the other hand, Yeltekin says, without business, the massive amounts of data and technology could be useless. “The way I see it, the problem with technology is not that we have too little of it but that we have too much of it. How can technology add value to society and to a business? That’s where you need the marrying of the two. You need people with skills that understand the business side of things, as well as the limitations and implementations of the technology, looks like.

“We don’t stay still. We adapt to the business environment. But our value is translating that data and technology into a value-added exercise for business and society. Without that, you don’t go very far. Because otherwise you’re making giant hammers and looking around for the nail. We have to be solving a problem.”

RANKINGS AND KEY DATA ON THE FOLLOWING PAGES

No business school or ranking that measures business schools is perfect, of course. We’ve created this ranking as a starting point for those interested in pursuing business education in any capacity. So be sure to take the time to read the individual school profiles and data-driven stories that are based on our proprietary data. Take a look at the previous three rankings we’ve published and look at how schools have changed over time. A college decision is an increasingly important one. It’s one of the biggest investments of a person’s life and should not be taken lightly. So take a look at the full rankings on the next page and some key data points that helped create this year’s ranking. And use it as a launching point for a process that should be intentional, well-researched, and thoughtful.

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