Dean’s Q&A: Lawrence Murray of UNC

UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School

UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School

What role are parents playing in the application process, and how is the school reaching out to them?

I can’t necessarily say we are seeing an increase in a push from parents because the push from parents is already high just across the board. But I do think that parental influence plays a stronger role than it has with the previous generation of students. I recognize that parents are going to be part of the process and you can’t get away from that. So I wanted to make sure parents are armed throughout with information so everyone is educated and can make the right decision. We started providing parents with more information about our program, and we changed how we communicated with our pre-University of North Carolina students and University of North Caroline freshman.

This way they can help their child make a make a better decision about the school’s undergraduate business programs, majors or minors. There also are e-mails and information sessions. Like most universities, we have a family weekend, and we have an information session and open house for parents of pre-business students.

What is the actual value proposition of a degree in undergraduate business today? What are some of the benefits, and how does it compare with other degrees in terms of employment and pay? 

That is a really good question and one that is a little bit difficult to answer, especially at the undergraduate level. Clearly there are a lot of people who are very successful who don’t have an undergraduate business degree. If you look at any Fortune 500 company, not every senior executive or successful person at a firm has an undergraduate business degree. One of the things we do is inform students that even if you don’t see yourself as a business major or minor, it is still valuable to take a business course. Every student at the university can take up to five business courses as a non-major, and that can provide anybody – depending on what they want to do – with substantial hard skills that they would simply not get if they were a liberal arts major. We have corporate partners on campus every day, and every week there are probably one or two guest speakers. There is always some type of professional development activity going on

The National Association of College Students and Employers (NACE) puts out reports on the average salaries of students across a variety of disciplines. I think you can see the differences in starting salaries from a business major and minor to a non-business student. In some cases, those differences are stark, and I think it just depends on what the student wants to do and how they map out their individual plans. There are plenty of students going into financial services who are not business majors, but they have taken the courses to be successful in their search. At our school, all the clubs in the business school are open to non-majors. If you are a history major interested in consulting, you can join the consulting club. If you are a French literature major interested in marketing, you can join the consulting club. So there are a lot of opportunities for non-majors to get connected to the business school, but there is definitely a premium for being a business student.

I don’t want to speak disparagingly for the rest of the campus but if you look at starting salary, even if you exclude the anomalies and high salaries, I think there is a significant difference between our baseline salaries between a business student and a non-business student.

Who’s doing undergraduate business education differently, and how is Kenan-Flagler’s approach different from other schools? 

I don’t want to say we necessarily have a different approach. I think we are similar at the undergraduate level to any type of school that has a standard core experience in terms of competency in strategy, business law, ethics, management, etc. One of the benefits of our program is that it is a relatively small program. Our average class size is less than 40 students, and that gives the student the opportunity to connect with faculty and instructors. It’s common for faculty to know students on a first- and last-name basis. If a student is not in class without letting students know, the instructor knows that and contacts the program office. I think our relatively small size is our strength because it allows students to have a level of connection not only with the instructor but with the program, as well as have relatively easy access to senior level administrators. Our dean meets with 15 students every other week for either breakfast or lunch, so by the end of the academic term he’s had the opportunity to meet firsthand a large majority of students.

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