How do you know a school is doing a great job?
Their students will tell you.
That was the case for the Neeley School of Business. In this year’s P&Q Undergraduate Business School Ranking, the headline will read that Neeley jumped from 38th to 19th. However, the real story is how the program made this leap. Here, the biggest factor can be boiled down to two words: Alumni Experience.
Last year, the Class of 2019 was surveyed about their experience at Neeley. In a series of 17 questions, alumni rated the program in areas like faculty quality, career preparation, and faculty and career advising to create a composite score. Sure enough, Neeley posted a near-perfect 99.29 index, producing average scores that ranked among the ten-best in nearly every category.
Would graduates recommend Neeley to a close friend? Call that the ultimate test of student satisfaction. In this category, the school averaged a 9.8 out of 10 — the 2nd-highest score among the 94 undergraduate business programs surveyed by P&Q. And the program notched the 8th-best score for a degree being worth the cost and time. Certainly, a Neeley business degree attracts the right kind of attention in the job market. Alumni gave the school a 9.12 score on helping them reaching their dream career — the 4th-highest average and higher than elite programs like Notre Dame, Virginia, and Michigan. At the same time, Neeley ranked 7th for helping business graduates climb in socio-economic status.
Most telling, however, is how alumni responded to this question: Evaluate how well the business program prepared you for the world of work. They gave Neeley a 9.57 average, second only to the Wharton School. One survey respondent attributed this to Neeley’s focus on experiential learning.
“As a senior, we were assigned a capstone project that allowed a real corporation to work with us and guide us as our goal was to bring in a new internal project management system so all parts of technology department (documentation, emails, messages, data, etc.) could be housed in a single platform. This enabled us to take action on a current problem in the company and have a proposed solution ready and researched. Definitely helped me understand what the corporate world is like and was nice to see it in action.”
Teamwork is another cornerstone of the Neeley experience that enables students to more easily transition to their careers…or even graduate school. “Neeley is huge on group projects,” adds another Neeley alum surveyed by P&Q. “There is at least one major group project per class you take. Now that I am in law school, people who graduated with other degrees from other schools haven’t worked in groups since high school, so it is a crazy adjustment for them. In any line of work, you have to know how to work with others. The group projects are so key to becoming a true professional.”
Considering Neeley’s hands-on, team-driven philosophy, it is hardly surprising that the program produced the highest score of any school in helping students improve their soft skills. Survey respondents also awarded high marks to career and academic advising, ranking them 3rd and 4th respectively. By the same token, alumni revered the Neeley faculty, who ranked in the top 10 for both quality of teaching and availability.
The alumni survey can tell you where a school excels, but only a school insider can share how they pull it off. This month, P&Q reached out to Daniel Pullin, John V. Roach Dean of the TCU Neeley School of Business. From soft skills to satisfaction, here is what Neeley has been doing to differentiate itself from its peers.
5 QUESTIONS WITH DANIEL PULLIN
P&Q: What are your undergraduate business program’s two biggest strengths and how do you make students better prepared for business once they graduate?
Pullin: “One of our biggest strengths is our intentional approach to investing in alumni and community involvement, which enhances both the in-classroom experience and hands-on market practice. Two key programs demonstrate these strengths well.
Finance careers focus on adding value through the risk-return relationship, integrating finance with economics and accounting to make wealth-enhancing decisions. Investment specialists evaluate and select securities, manage investment portfolios, and raise capital to finance businesses, governments and individual needs.
The Transaction and Investment Professionals (TIP) Board is an example of how alumni mentorship and real-world application can move the needle in student education. Forty alumni are currently working on Wall Street, and they mentor students interested in competitive finance careers. Since the inception of the TIP Board in 2014, the average number of student internships on Wall Street each summer went from 2 to more than 30.
The Luther King Capital Management Center (LKCM) for Financial Studies offers a variety of opportunity for students to engage with the finance community, including partnering with the TCU Investment Management office, which stewards the university’s endowment, to host the TCU Investment Strategies Conference, which brings in top investment professionals from around the world. Recent conference speakers have included President George W. Bush and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Entrepreneurship and Innovation
We help students enhance their persuasive skills and develop innovative ideas and strategies to bring new products to market. Entrepreneurial thinkers can spot a business opportunity and seize it. We help students start their own company, help someone with their big idea, or innovate within an existing organization. A major in entrepreneurship and innovation gives students the skills to carve out their niches as an innovator. They learn to gather resources, recruit talent, design a business model, develop products or services, communicate a compelling vision, and manage and grow a business.
Our unique transdisciplinary focus is designed to impact students and faculty from every college at TCU. In addition to our academic major, we have an all-inclusive minor in entrepreneurship and innovation, aimed at students of any discipline across campus. The minor facilitates reach and impact across campus to encourage students from all fields to be entrepreneurs. More than 700 students were involved as 54 ventures were funded and 40 paid internships happened last year. 99 mentors worked with our entrepreneurship and innovation students.
Additionally, students and faculty engage with our award-winning Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Institute programming such as the cross-campus incubator, CREATE. Powered by the Shaddock Seed Fund, CREATE enables students to test, validate and grow ideas through workshops, mentoring, EIRs, IIRs, and seed funding. In just two years, approximately 350 students from every college across TCU’s campus participated in this incubator program and have gone on to raise more than $3.5 million dollars in outside funding.
Through offerings like the Venture Builder and the Entrepreneurial Internship Program, we immerse students in learning experiences outside the university in real business environments, where they interact with key members of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem to shape the future of our community and beyond.”
P&Q: What are some new and upcoming developments in your program that will enhance the business program for future business majors?
Pullin: “We make a brand promise to our stakeholders every day. This commitment is known as The Neeley Promise: to unleash human potential with leadership at the core and innovation in our spirit.
A key payoff of this approach to business education is Growing Agile Leaders for every stage of their career, and every stage of the changing business marketplace.
We are proud of building innovators who can reinvent themselves at each career chapter and world change; that commitment has never been more fully on display than in the last two years as the school navigated the global pandemic amidst a transforming business marketplace. Neeley graduates are able to respond and produce in times of ambiguity, uncertainty and change. Given how much change has occurred in the last three years; the school has worked purposefully to ensure our leaders are ready.
The FinTech Certificate is available to any major so any interested student has access to this knowledge and credential. Students take three classes: Blockchain for Fintech, Machine Learning for Fintech, and AI for Fintech.
The Fintech Certificate is offered for a set of technologies disrupting the financial industry and the entire economy. While this certificate develops strong technical skills learned in the context of finance, no prior technology education is assumed and the only requirements for registering for the first fintech class is completion of one business information systems course and admittance into the school. Those obtaining the certificate will either pursue careers assisting with the development of cutting-edge technologies or will assist companies as an analyst or consultant in lending deep insight into decision-making around these technologies. Those students completing the three classes will learn programming (e.g., Python, R) frameworks to build blockchain databases (used for cryptocurrencies, smart contracts, etc.), predictive models (e.g., asset pricing or loan defaults), and AI agents (e.g., robo-advisors to suggest financial portfolio allocation).
There is increasing evidence that firms that perform well against ESG metrics also produce superior financial returns. We recognize the value that our students can contribute to industry and society and have included new coursework at the undergraduate level in ESG. Our courses focus on providing a sound understanding of the range of standards and frameworks that exist for climate accounting and more broadly, ESG disclosures. The interactive courses include case work on ESG data and ESG disclosures in annual reports. In addition, we have applied projects that are specific to interlinkages between financial reporting and ESG reporting.
Neeley NIL (Name, Image and Likeness)
Another innovation is the recently launched Neeley Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) business incubator program designed to serve student-athletes in response to the changing landscape in college sports. We partnered with TCU Athletics to open a business incubator inside the football stadium to help student athletes and non-athletes manage NIL deals, and created a ‘whole-person’ focused curriculum around entrepreneurial brand creation for student athletes and non-athletes. In this program, Neeley is not only helping student athletes with their business prospects during their four years on the track or field, but, rather, is preparing them to be leaders and innovators for the next 40 years, long after their playing days are over. And the programs and courses are open to non-athletes interested in agent roles, sports law or other relevant careers.
This cross-disciplinary partnership to equip students with business skills to navigate and capitalize on the complex and rapidly-evolving NCAA rule-changes in the new market category of collegiate Name, Image and Likeness management, and prepare those students for lifelong, entrepreneurial brand management success even beyond the university setting.
Neeley NIL is essentially an experiential, brand-building NIL Accelerator course, where students earn credentialing or course credit toward their degree while learning about topics including brand management, business formation, crypto and Non-fungible Tokens (NFTs), mental health in a public arena, and more.
New Facilities Opened January 2020
In January 2020, we officially opened our new state-of-the-art business building, the Spencer and Marlene Hays Business Commons, which highlights the best of what a school of business can and should be in the 21st century. The commons features 225,000 square feet of modernized classrooms; meeting spaces; advanced technology; an auditorium for thought leaders to share their insights; outdoor terraces to take advantage of the Texas weather; and faculty and staff offices that invite and welcome students. And, let me tell you, the beauty of the Hays Business Commons isn’t just skin deep – it directly applies to our goal of preparing these leaders at every turn.”
P&Q: In P&Q’s alumni survey, 2020 grads gave Neeley the highest scores for helping them improve their soft skills. What types of programming does Neeley offer through your classroom curriculum, extracurricular activities, and career services that enable your students to sharpen these skills?
Pullin: “Let’s look at four types of programming:
Through the work of the Neeley Student Success Services team, significant focus is placed on starting the soft skill development early. We require all business majors to take a career and professional development course their first year (Business Skills Development). This course lays the foundation of professional development and highlights the importance of continuous development throughout their time in Neeley, and beyond.
This is what Brooks Thomas, Class of 2018, Associate at Kainos Capital, had to say:
“Neeley exceeded my expectations in every way. Through the program’s strong academic curriculum as well as the intense focus on soft skills development, I secured four internships which culminated in accepting a full-time job in investment banking all before the start of my senior year. I received so much support from professors, faculty and alumni, which is a big reason why I and many others are happy to volunteer as mentors to current students.”
JPMorgan Chase Inclusive Excellence Mentoring Program
There are several mentoring programs for Neeley students, providing one-on-one mentorship with engaged alumni. One key, new example launched during fall 2021 is the JPMorgan Chase Inclusive Excellence Mentoring Program. This program pairs up historically underrepresented students at Neeley with industry leaders as mentors that will help them to among other things develop the soft skills needed to excel their career post-graduation. During the inaugural program 20 students were matched individually with their own personal mentor for the 10-week program. Mentoring content includes transferable skills development, personal brand management, compensation and career advancement, navigating office politics, dining etiquette, proper conversation, cultural sensitivity, and more.
Alumni Advantage Series
As part of our commitment to lifelong learning and success, we host the Alumni Advantage Series to provide access to innovative business knowledge from our faculty experts and thought leaders across industries. We’ve specifically designed our series to accommodate a busy professional schedule. Events are hosted virtually, typically during the lunch hour. Topics are always geared toward providing topical, relevant timely content to ensure our alumni network is armed for the changing workforce. Recent topics have included: Leading Teams After 2020: What Is the Future of Work?; Leading Through Digital Transformation: Is Your Organization Ready?;Connecting Through the Chaos: The Importance of Executive Presence; TCU Neeley: The Now and the Next; and The Innovation Imperative.
Office of Inclusive Excellence
We are committed to fostering an inclusive, scholarly community composed of individuals who, through their diverse and sometimes competing perspectives, contribute to a free and intellectually challenging culture where students, faculty, staff and alumni have equitable opportunities and can forge paths toward personal and professional growth.
TCU launched a campus-wide DEI committee in 2017 where Neeley faculty and staff were represented. In May 2019, the Neeley School established its Inclusive Excellence Committee. During the fall 2020 semester, Ann Tasby was named the director of the Office of Inclusive Excellence. The physical office space is designed for students, faculty, alumni and corporate partners to convene. Located at the heart of the Spencer and Marlene Hays Business Commons, the office is one of approximately only 25 similar spaces across the country assigned to this type of charge.”
P&Q: In the same alumni survey, Neeley earned the 2nd-best scores for respondents being willing to recommend their alma mater to close friends. What enables Neeley to earn such a high satisfaction rate among business graduates?
Pullin: “Let me focus on two areas….
Location and Network
Operating at the intersection of academy and industry in the No. 4 market in the US and one of the fastest-growing markets, TCU Neeley is exceptionally good at partnering with industry to ensure what industry needs is part of our classroom curriculum. Our unique location in the heart of the thriving Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex offers infinite opportunity.
We Seek To Be Life-long Partners in Student and Alumni Success
It’s a lifelong relationship with a long tail of benefits, invested in careers at every stage; our goal is to be there for our graduates one, five, 25 and 50 years out. Horned Frog pride is strong. Not just for 2022 or 2023 – but for a lifetime.
Graduation is only the beginning. Horned Frogs are part of a vast network of leaders stretching across the world. They have access to a variety of ongoing programs that grow their knowledge, skills, connections and marketability at each stage of their career, and provide agility as the business marketplace continues to flex. There are countless ways the alma mater continues to fuel life and work. Grads can stay up on the latest research from our renowned faculty; expand expertise through speaker events and executive education; and leverage the powerful network of successful TCU alumni.”
P&Q: What is the most underrated feature of your undergraduate business program and how does it enhance the experience for your business majors?
Pullin: “I’ll give you two:
Academic – Growing Strength in Digital Transformation
Our growing strength in digital transformation includes business analytics, FinTech and strong supply chain programs. We have gained quite a bit of ground in the last three years.
In 2020, we launched the Neeley Analytics Initiative (NAI) which aligns faculty expertise, student interest and marketplace needs through a uniquely coordinated and strategically targeted initiative across all of TCU. Led by Dr. Minakshi Trivedi, the Neeley Analytics Initiative was instrumental in developing the Master of Science in Business Analytics, which launched in June 2020 with a record number of students, and the Graduate Certificate in Business Analytics. Last October, we hosted a symposium and will be hosting the Neeley Analytics Conference in March, focused on data analytics in the healthcare industry. Additionally, the NAI has developed extracurricular programs. The TCU Data Analytics Club promotes knowledge sharing and career opportunities for our MBA and MSBA students, including training workshops, industry speaker series and networking opportunities.
Student Success Services
From time of enrollment to years after they graduate, our student success services are deeply invested in personal and professional success. Our dedicated advisers are career coaches who drive high touch career professional development services because we want students to add value day one, and not be retrained or unable to participate right away.
It is effectively impossible to earn a TCU Neeley School of Business degree without applied learning in a student’s field of choice. Project-based learning and capstone projects are incorporated throughout each student’s journey. Our students graduate with an above average number of internships. This provides the opportunity to experience up to three different industries, cultures and leadership styles. This also ensures Neeley graduates have a sense of what they are good at, what drives their passion, and what type of organization they want to work for. This in turn de-risks the business decision to hire a Neeley grad because Neeley students have seen and done a lot, and can be plugged in immediately to an organization for immediate success.”
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