Philadelphia is packed with prime business schools. There is Temple, Drexel, St. Joseph’s, LaSalle, and Rutgers — all powerhouses within 20 minutes of downtown. On the west side, you’ll find the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious business programs. Lost in the shuffle is Villanova University, an Augustinian program grounded in personal development, ethical decision-making, global leadership, and community service.
It might be a stretch to call Villanova underrated. That is certainly true now, after it ranked 9th in Poets&Quants’ 2022 undergraduate business school ranking. That represents a four-spot improvement over the previous year, not to mention the first time that Villanova has appeared in P&Q’s Top 10. One reason: inflation…in the best possible way.
Last year, the school’s SAT average jumped 18 points to 1428, with ACTs inching up a point to 33 too. The same is true of high school GPAs — a measure of grit as much as grasp — where the school ranked 3rd in the country at 4.30. Once these students arrive, Villanova only makes them better. Over the past year, the School of Business’ placement rate rose from 92.12% to 98.78%, with students cashing in $69,031 in starting pay to start.
Yes, employers love Villanova business majors. One reason is they arrive to work polished and ready to make an impact. In some ways, that stems from the school’s famed Backpack-to-Briefcase (B2B) curriculum. Starting freshman year, business majors complete a four-year professional development program. It includes a mix of coursework, coaching, reflections, and activities that covers everything from networking to negotiations to business writing. The B2B program is a reflection of the larger Villanova business curriculum, which relies heavily on hands-on simulations and company partnerships.
“At Villanova, we have a senior capstone in which all students participate in an industry research project that combines all aspects of business from finance to accounting to management to analytics,” one anonymous 2019 grad told P&Q. “Additionally a core class to the Villanova experience is the Backpack-to-Briefcase competition and the Competitive Effectiveness class. In the Backpack-to-Briefcase competition, students are broken up into teams. On the Wednesday or Thursday of that week we are given a case study in which we are asked to come up with a solution to the issue proposed within the case. That Saturday, we [would] present our solution to a panel of professionals, including leaders from top investment banks, big 4 accounting firms, along with other large corporations. The best presentations will move on through two additional rounds. In the Competitive Effectiveness class, we are presented with a marketing task for an actual project that a highly reputable company is working on. For instance, Vanguard came to my class and asked us to come up with a marketing plan for their Roth IRAs to help advertise them to Millennials. Over the course of the semester, our individual teams of about 8 people put together at 50+ page marketing plan which we presented to individuals at Vanguard.”
Another 2019 grad cited the Competitive Effectiveness course, a sophomore year staple, as Villanova’s “key experience.” This alum frames it as a “semester-long case study” with a Fortune 500 business. “This culminates in a presentation to Villanova alumni from this institution, in my case Johnson & Johnson. This class taught me so many soft skills such as time management, scheduling, communicating, and working in a team. I came out of this class with friends and a memorable experience that while [it] tested me, was very beneficial in my development.”
What else can prospective students expect at the Villanova School of Business? Here are some insights from Melinda German, associate dean of undergraduate studies and Brenda Stover, assistant dean for the Center of Professional Development.
5 QUESTIONS FOR MELINDA GERMAN AND BRENDA STOVER
P&Q: What are your undergraduate business program’s two biggest strengths and how do make students better prepared for business once they graduate?
German and Stover: “The two biggest strengths of Villanova School of Business’ undergraduate program are our holistic approach to business education and our signature Backpack-to-Briefcase curriculum, which offers intentional professional development to every student. We define this holistic approach as being a highly integrated, rigorous curriculum–infused with applied education, service learning opportunities, professional development, a firm grounding in ethics, and a focus on each student’s personal experience. Backpack-to-Briefcase is an innovative initiative that integrates professional development into the core business curriculum throughout the four-year academic experience, supplementing students’ participation in traditional academic courses and preparing them for success as business professionals. Our curriculum encourages students to explore the interconnected nature of business disciplines and to shape innovative, strategic solutions that address contemporary business issues while at the same time providing countless opportunities to interact with business professionals. This approach, which includes a liberal arts foundation and collaboration with the business and academic communities, prepares students by connecting theory to practice while, at the same time, providing a common foundation for their career development.”
P&Q: What are some new and upcoming developments in your program that will enhance the business program for future business majors?
German and Stover: “VSB is committed to educating students for the future of work. Our newest minor offering, Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning, prepares students for the ways that AI and ML will affect business which ensures that VSB students remain competitive in today’s job market.
We also recently introduced the Davis Fund for Student Experiences, which allows undergraduate and graduate students to apply for financial support to pursue unique and exceptional learning experiences, thus enhancing their VSB education. These funded co-curricular activities may include conferences, research, independent study, case competitions, nonprofit service, or global opportunities.
Additionally, as part of our strategic plan, we are working toward developing our Success Team Model, which plays off of our holistic approach to deliver an excellent student experience. Currently each student is assigned an academic advisor, and our goal is to also assign them a professional development coach. Therefore, each student would have two advisors for their entire undergraduate career to help guide their academic and professional development journey.”
P&Q: What is the most underrated feature of your undergraduate business program and how does it enhance the experience for your business majors?
German and Stover: “Our admissions model accepts students directly into VSB, so they don’t have to wait until their upper-class years to start taking business courses. VSB students study the fundaments of business, explore issues in real time, complete corporate projects and participate in professional development activities from their very first semester, and then continue to fulfill VSB core requirements throughout their academic career. This multidisciplinary approach and strong liberal ats tradition ensure that VSB students become successful businesspeople as well as global citizens.”
P&Q: When alumni look back on their time at Villanova, what would they consider to be their signature experience? How does it bring the best of the best of the Villanova experience together?
German and Stover: “For 100 years, VSB has been a leader among business schools in fostering an environment that enables students to develop the knowledge, experience and values needed for a lifetime learning and service. We believe our alumni will most remember our Augustinian Catholic mission, which calls upon us to put forth truth, community and service in all that we do. These values provide the framework for our approach to business education and are present throughout all elements of the VSB experience as well as campus-wide. It is our shared purpose to create a strong community of leaders who strive to build a better world.”
P&Q: In P&Q’s alumni survey, Villanova ranked among the best for alumni being accessible and the school connecting students with practicing professionals and alumni. How does Villanova facilitate these student-alumni connections?
German and Stover: “We foster student-alumni connections in a multitude of ways. First and foremost, our VSB Mentor Program brings VSB students and alumni volunteers together in one-to-one relationships to support students’ career and professional development goals. All student mentees and alumni mentors opt in and are paired based on the student’s primary field of interest, desired work location and mutual areas of interest. We are fortunate to have incredibly involved alumni who love to give back to our current students. They serve as judges in case competitions and in-class speakers, as well as actively recruit students at campus networking events. At the same time, we provide networking opportunities for our students and teach them how to connect and interact with alumni and how to harness the power of LinkedIn, NovaNetwork, and professional networking events to do so.”
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