One thing sure to catch our eye at Poets&Quants For Undergrads are programs who demonstrate consistent improvement over time. Few schools have improved as much in our rankings as Florida Southern College’s Barney Barnett School of Business and Free Enterprise.
The school debuted on our third annual ranking in 2019 at No. 83. It rose to No. 74 a year later, and reached No. 52 in 2021. Though it fell to No. 68 in 2022, it bounced back to No. 44 in 2023, its highest ever ranking ever and up almost 40 spots in five years. That, in and of itself, is enough to keep us watching.
Florida Southern College is the oldest private comprehensive college in Florida, and it is located in sunny Lakeland between Tampa and Orlando. The mission of the Barney Barnett School is “to educate and inspire leaders to have a positive, consequential impact, by fostering an entrepreneurial mindset in teaching business disciplines through highly engaged, experiential practices.”
To this end, it recently created a Student Managed Investment Fund course and started an Investment Club to give students hands-on experience with real money. It also added a Business Analytics major and is developing a minor in Supply Chain and Logistics to take advantage of its location in the middle of a major logistics hub in Central Florida.
The business school admitted close to 1,400 students this fall, while achieving the seventh highest employment rate of all 93 schools in our 2023 ranking – beating even No. 3 The Wharton School. Some 98.57% of its 2022 graduating seniors secured jobs within three months of graduation, up just a smidge from the 98.28% for the Class of 2021, according to ranking data provided by the school.
The business schools offers undergraduate majors in accounting, business administration, business analytics, economics, finance, marketing and sports business management. It also offers minors in entrepreneurship, Esports management, and healthcare management.
P&Q INTERVIEW WITH J. MICHAEL WEBER
We asked J. Michael Weber, dean and professor of marketing, to tell us about their innovations, career services and more. Our interview is presented below.
What are recent and upcoming program developments and innovations that will enhance the experience of future students?
The Barnett School of Business & Free Enterprise has a variety of new programs and innovations that are enhancing the learning experience for our students. We created a Student Managed Investment Fund course for our Finance majors and started an Investment Club, so that the students get hands-on experience with investing real money. The Investment Club meets in our trading room that is equipped with 12 Bloomberg terminals, which provide real-time data for investment decision-making. The students also have the opportunity to earn the Bloomberg Certification. We recently added a Business Analytics major to meet the growing employer demand for analysts. FSC is located in the middle of a major logistics hub in Central Florida, so we are adding a new minor in Supply Chain and Logistics.
What are your program’s two biggest differentiators from other undergraduate business programs? How do these prepare students for their careers?
Our business faculty are focused on Experiential Learning that instills an Entrepreneurial Mindset in our students. The experiential learning is based on living case studies and consulting projects with local business entities. Employers tell us that our students are better prepared for their careers, because they are problem solvers.
What separates your graduates from other business school graduates?
Our students have practical critical thinking skills that facilitate their ability to solve business problems quickly. Our students are motivated and innovative in their approach to proactively creating strategies and tactics that yield positive outcomes.
Explain the career services, programming, and extracurriculars that give your students an advantage in career outcomes?
Florida Southern College’s Office of Career Services guarantees each undergraduate student an internship, creating a bridge between a student’s education and their future. Career Specialists are strategically placed around campus, working in their areas linked to the majors of their student populations. By doing this, Career Specialists are able to work directly with faculty to assist each student to procure an internship in his or her field, providing real-world, resume-building experience for each undergraduate.
The office offers a four-year approach to success that guides each student into the best position to secure their future success by exploring career options, gaining hands-on experience, building their professional networks, investigating graduate school options, polishing their resumes, and honing interview skills. Along with those services, the office also has a Professional Headshot Room, a Career Clothes Closet that allows one free outfit per student per year, and quiet and professional spaces that students can reserve for virtual or in-person interviews. When it’s time to graduate, students are prepared with job-relevant experience, a built-in professional network, and the confidence to launch successful careers.
What are two key qualities that prospective students must possess to land a spot in your program?
We expect great academic credentials and look for students who will be successful in a rigorous academic curriculum, and that are an overall fit with FSC’s cornerstones and values, and our mission of engaged and collaborative learning.
When alumni look back on their time in your undergraduate business program, what would they consider to be their signature experience?
The Capstone course provides students the opportunity to apply the skills associated with an Entrepreneurial Mindset. The students are challenged to identify a current and relevant business problem, create solutions for solving the problem, select the most viable solution, and then implement the solution. These are skills that employers value.
What is the most underrated feature of your undergraduate business program and how does it enhance the experience for your business majors?
Our formal and informal mentoring programs are key to student academic success and professional success. Our faculty and alumni serve diligently as mentors for our students as they successfully navigate the decisions and pivots necessary for excellent outcomes at the academic and professional levels. We consider it underrated because the process is very conversational and hard to quantify, but the anecdotal stories confirm the impact.
Which employers are the biggest consumers of your undergraduate talent and what have they told you about your alumni that make them so special?
Accounting firms and investment/wealth management firms hire a large number of our graduates. The firms represent a nice combination of national (Big 4) and regional presence, so students can choose the environment that is most conducive to their career goals. The feedback we receive from employers is very positive, as they routinely say that our graduates are ready to contribute positively on day 1.
What else would you like readers to know about your program?
We have the Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at Florida Southern College that offers a Seed-to-Scale program for all interested students. This is an innovative business incubator designed to deliver experiential and entrepreneurial education to all of our students. In the past year, the CFEE has supported more than 50 student based startup projects, and it has helped students win more than $60,000 in startup funding at various competitions or VC based events.
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