Dean’s Q&A: Charles Whiteman Of Penn State’s Smeal College Of Business

That being said, we can always do better. I think that’s the big area where business schools can improve. It’s costly because it is not something that scales particularly well, requires a lot more individual attention, but we are actually in the midst of a curriculum review right now and I expect a report from the committee—a preliminary report in October and final report in January—and I expect this is one of the issues that they’ll be addressing. We’ve put considerable effort into trying to do better at this dimension and we need to find a way to do it even better than we are.

Any final thoughts?

One of the things we spend a lot of time talking about here is engaged scholarship. For us, that’s the way the typical student is getting quality out of the classroom experience that complements what is happening in the classroom through internships. We work very hard to get our students to take on internships. For most of our majors, the amount of students doing internships is in the 80-85% range, which is pretty high when you consider we have 5,400 undergraduates.

But it goes beyond internships. There are other engaged scholarship activities. We are very invested in study abroad and one of my priorities is to try to increase it. When I arrived we had about a quarter of our students engaging in either summer-long or semester-long study abroad experiences. There are other students that are doing things shorter than a summer semester—we’re not counting those in that quarter. And in our strategic plan, we’ve set a goal to try to get our study abroad rates over a third—and we’re on the way. It’s a great effort and a real priority. We know that study abroad experiences change undergraduate students’ lives. My daughter is actually on a study abroad experience as we speak, and she actually sent us a text a week or two ago saying, indeed, it’s been a life changing experience for her.

One of the interesting features of this place—it’s not a big one that affects a large number of students—but our student-managed investment portfolio is a real registered security with actual investors. It’s not just part of the endowment. This has to do with how Pennsylvania’s security law is configured. And it is a real challenge to operate an honest-to-goodness mutual fund. But the students who do it have experiences and have to undertake dealings with shareholders and dealing with the incidence of taxes and timing of transactions and so on that student-managed funds that are parts of the university endowment don’t face. And so our portfolio managers are very sought after by Wall Street firms. And in fact last year, all of the interns who went to Wall Street just prior to their senior year, they actually came back to campus with job offers in hand—every single one of them.

There’s engaged scholarship that is extraordinary valuable to these students. And now we’re trying to do some similar things in related fields.


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