Innovation means staying ahead, always looking to make things faster, easier, and better. It is a mindset to leverage technology to expand what’s possible and enhance how he work and live. Most of all, innovation is a commitment to bring more people into the conversation and empower them to reach their full potential.
Since 2016, Arizona State has been ranked as the most innovative university in America by U.S. News & World Report. In recent years, the Sun Devils have instituted accelerated degrees, customized prep for high school students, and tuition reimbursement partnerships with companies like Starbucks and Uber. Most famously, Arizona State has emerged as a leader in undergraduate online education.
No, online education isn’t just for busy professionals anymore. These days, it is an avenue for active military members and international students, not to mention young workers seeking better work-life balance. Currently, the university boasts over 100 online programs and certificates. In Business, it offers the #1-ranked undergraduate online program according to U.S. News & World Report.
For the most part, the online business degrees are a mix of videos, readings, simulations, and coaching sessions. The lectures are accessible anytime, with students able to use a searchable transcription tool so they don’t miss out on important details in their notes. By the same token, online business majors can join student clubs and participate in campus activities, all while enjoying the flexibility to take a full-time or part-time course load. Of course, online students can walk the stage at graduation — just like their on-campus peers.
The campus program also includes over 30 business degree programs. Notably, the undergraduate program ranks among the ten-best in five specializations according to U.S. News: Supply Chain Management, Management Information Systems, Marketing, Operations, and Quantitative Analysis. Sure enough, the same faculty holding classes on campus are the same one teaching online students. The only real difference between campus and online programs is the weather. After all, December mornings start at 45 degrees and peak at a cool 66.
Who wouldn’t want that?
What types of innovations has the W. P. Carey School incorporated into its on-campus and online programming? To answer that question, P&Q reached out to Michele Pfund, associate dean for undergraduate programs at the W. P. Carey School of Business. Here are her insights on what makes the program so unique.
5 QUESTIONS WITH MICHELE PFUND
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?
Pfund: “W. P. Carey is driven by the Arizona State University Charter, which states that we are measured not by whom we exclude, but by whom we include and how they succeed. This directly translates into our mission of access, excellence, and innovation.
The undergraduate business programs at W. P. Carey allow students to grow personally and professionally and prepare them to enrich and lead their organizations and communities. We offer more than 30 different Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree programs, opening the door to a variety of students from different backgrounds and different levels of quantitative skills. Our powerful combination of programs allows our students to specialize in their field of interest while enabling more students to pursue their dreams and obtain a business degree. We believe that business education creates opportunities and changes lives.
At ASU and W. P. Carey, it is not enough to be more inclusive of our student population; our goal is to provide outstanding and personal education and to ensure that our students succeed and excel not only in the classroom but also in their careers. We achieve this through a commitment to innovation, highly ranked programs and disciplines, world-renowned faculty who produce groundbreaking and impactful research, and individual support for our students, demonstrating that at W.P. Carey — business is personal.
If you ask any ASU student what ASU is known for, they will likely say, “No. 1 in innovation.” This is because students see us practice innovation every day. We encourage students to start new programs, clubs, and organizations. We encourage them to get involved with research and startup incubators and do extraordinary things. We’ve established partnership programs with corporations that allow their employees to fulfill their dream of a college degree. We’ve also built career navigation courses into our undergraduate curriculum so that our students receive relevant curated career instruction for each year of study. Innovation isn’t just an abstract concept at W. P. Carey; it’s a visible part of each student’s day-to-day.
Access, excellence, and innovation help us realize our charter. However, it is not enough. Helping students succeed cannot be achieved without individual connection and that is where our “Business is personal” mindset and coaching come into play. We know our students and their dreams, goals, and challenges so we can provide the right tools for them at the right time to ensure their success.
Our coaching model builds strong bonds, and our W. P. Carey students are a part of our community for life. Our alumni have access to lifelong assistance from our career center. They also have lifelong learning opportunities, including a portfolio of free, discounted, on-demand, event-based, and virtual ways to learn to help them be prepared for and successful in the ever-changing business environment.”
P&Q: What are some new and upcoming developments in your program that will enhance the business program for future business majors?
Pfund: “In 2021, we launched the Business Community Advantage Program, which creates small business communities for our students. Students live and learn together in the same residential community as their classes are assigned based upon their housing community. These small business communities help students form tighter connections and improve their success.
Throughout the pandemic, our focus on teaching and learning has grown stronger. In partnership with our Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning, Dan Gruber, our faculty is exploring how we can be more effective professors in this new environment and better meet our students’ needs, including a robust inclusive teaching program and frequent collaboration to share best practices, from virtual case studies to flipped classrooms.
We have also been excited to launch several new majors and concentrations on our ASU Online platform — in fact, there are nearly 20 new degree options available online, including accounting, financial planning, business law, human resources, and sports business.”
P&Q: W. P. Carey boasts the #1-ranked online undergraduate business program. When did it launch? What has been its growth rate in recent years? What is its acceptance rate? What are some of the features that differentiate W. P. Carey from other online business programs in the undergraduate space? What do students say they love the most about your online program?
Pfund: “W. P. Carey launched its first online programs in 2012 with fewer than 20 students. Our growth has remained strong at about 20% growth year over year. In the fall, W. P. Carey welcomed approximately 3,500 students pursuing undergraduate programs through our ASU Online campus. Approximately 75 to 80% of applicants are accepted into our program, and those who do not qualify but meet ASU’s admission standards can pursue pathways that enable admission based upon academic performance in classes required for the major.
Our online majors are designed for students who balance college with other responsibilities such as family, full-time work, and military service. Instead of juggling five classes over a semester, ASU Online students take two or three classes during each 7.5 week-long session. This allows a deeper dive and attention on a smaller set of courses.
Additionally, online students have a wide range of support services — from career and success coaches to academic advisors and online tutoring to other comprehensive assistance. Our program is academically rigorous but highly supported. We genuinely want students to thrive and succeed in our programs.
And our students share that they love this range of support — the process of beginning and completing an academic journey and balancing everything in life can become challenging at times. Our coaches help guide students through their journey, supporting them in choosing the right major, classes, and support resources along the way.
Students also share that they love being able to work on classes when it best suits them. All our classes are asynchronous, which allows students to plan life around their courses. Our 7.5-week course schedule also provides the opportunities to build short breaks into the academic year.”
P&Q: Your undergraduate program is known for its coaching culture, where every student is assigned a career coach. How does that work? How do those relationships grow over students’ time at W. P. Carey? What do students say are the biggest benefits of this coaching?
Pfund: “Our coaching culture is something we are very proud of, as it aligns with W. P. Carey’s commitment to building a tight-knit community where business is personal. Our students are supported by multiple types of coaches throughout their journey: academic advisors, student success coaches, and career coaches.
Our academic advisors work with students each year of their journey. Our first-year immersion students work with our first-year team that specializes in helping students navigate the transition to college. These coaches are embedded in their experiences, such as orientation and Camp Carey, so students can make strong connections with our staff and know they can lean on them when needed.
Our students are also supported by first-year success coaches. These are typically upper-division students who can assist from a peer-mentoring perspective. Hearing that a previous student once struggled but found a way to succeed can make all the difference. Once students move beyond the first year, our major advising team supports students in their disciplines. Our Barrett and Leaders Academy students (those who are in the top 20% of our class) are supported by our Leaders Academy coaching team and associated faculty advisors.
Throughout their journey, our students are also supported by career coaches who also lead them through a proprietary program that requires students to take a career course every year of the undergraduate journey. The content is practical, high value, and designed to meet the students where they are in their programs, decision-making, and overall career journey.
Outside of the coursework, our career coaches reach students with timely, curated, relevant content to help them be successful and feel supported. This includes a curated website for each program, editorial content that is dropped into student inboxes twice a week, and a host of workshops that range from career and goal setting to storytelling and preparation for specific companies. Face-to-face coaching takes place in professional clubs, small groups, one-on-one, and with peers from our graduate programs.
The channels and infrastructure for support are practical, relevant, and go beyond traditional coaching to broader access that is available 24/7. And it doesn’t stop with graduation. Our alumni can visit our career coaches to obtain assistance for life.
One thing that remains constant throughout all of our coaching teams is that our goal is to create a strong connection to our students. We want to learn about their short-term and long-term goals and how we can best support them throughout their time here at ASU and beyond.”
P&Q: What are two key qualities that prospective students must possess to land a spot in your program? Are there differences between on-campus and online students? What are two things that prospective students can do to enhance their odds of landing a spot at W.P. Carey?
Pfund: “Because we measure ourselves by whom we include and how they succeed, prospective students will possess the values of our Carey Code: excellence, integrity, impact, and community. Prospective students will demonstrate that business is personal by treating others with respect. They will advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion with their voices and action. They will champion fellow Sun Devils and embrace and exhibit ethical business practices. These qualities will spark positive change in the world, by doing good while doing well.
Regardless of the campus — immersion or online — students must meet the same admission standards. Similarly, students receive the same faculty, rigor, and learning outcomes and expectations online and in person.
ASU’s and W. P. Carey’s admission requirements are met with high school work, college work, and test scores. Prospective students must first apply to ASU and select a W. P. Carey business degree program. Direct admission standards vary between our Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science programs.
Consistent with our access mission, there are pathways built for students who meet university admission but do not meet our direct admission requirements to qualify for our W. P. Carey programs. The same is true for Barrett and our Leaders Academy program. Our admissions team is always on standby to assist students with their W. P. Carey application process, providing helpful guidance on a successful application.
Once admitted and enrolled, students should expect a high-quality, holistic educational experience that prepares them for the job market and beyond. We encourage students to get involved, urging them to meet with their advisor, attend free tutoring, go to student organization events, and meet with their career coach to discuss career options. We also recommend to students who are struggling to reach out, so we can connect them to key resources that can facilitate success — whether it’s their first year or they’re fast approaching graduation.”
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