Dean’s Q&A: USC Marshall’s Tyrone Callahan

USC's Marshall School of Business

USC’s Marshall School of Business

Now what we are doing is continuing to give students good academic advising and faculty support in their department about what courses are appropriate for their objectives, but we don’t have a curriculum structure that dictates that they have to take specific upper-class electives for a concentration.

We looked at the core courses we were requiring them to take, really made sure that we were getting all the necessary stuff in there, and basically trimmed all the fat. For example, we still require financial accounting and managerial accounting, but we figured out how students can receive what’s necessary in the class in two units rather than four. The net result of all this is that it has opened students up for more free electives. Within the business curriculum, students have a minimum of 24 free electives, and that’s enough to do pretty much every minor. The number of students who are minoring or double majoring has been increasing pretty significantly and steadily since we made those changes, so we are really happy about that. We have students who do minors that are complementary to business, such as a business minor in psychology with the intention to focus on consumer behavior. We also have students who will major in business and minor in dance or performing arts. There are others who major in business and still do pre-med or pre-law because they want to keep their career options open. We encourage through academic advising to do all kinds of extracurricular activities that help expose them to different career opportunities. We encourage them to do whatever suits their academic and career aspirations. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach, and they can personalize their academic careers to their own end.

The World Bachelor in Business program had its first cohort of students back in the 2013-14 academic year, and is widely recognized as one of the more unique undergraduate business programs in the country. Is this a program that every Marshall student should consider?  

The World Bachelor Program is a very unique and fantastic opportunity but it is definitely not for everyone. One of the restrictions the World Bachelor in Business program creates is the way it is structured. Students are admitted to the program and subsequently are admitted into three separate universities, USC’s Marshall School, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Italy’s Bocconi University. Through the program, students fulfill the degree requirements of all three universities. The degree requirements of all three universities are not perfectly aligned as you’d expect them to be, and that eliminates some of the curriculum flexibility that Marshall students have. For example, we don’t have a required business law requirement at our business school, but Bocconi’s business program does. Hong Kong University has two math requirements, whereas we only have one math requirement. The net result is the super-set of required courses that a World Bachelor’s student fulfills is bigger than what USC requires. Because of that, they lose some of the flexibility a typical Marshall student has, but what they gain from that is a much greater immersive international experience than many students have the opportunity to be exposed to, as well as a pretty in-depth exposure to international business and law programs.

Every year, we have a student in our admitted class who is debating between our traditional program and the World Bachelor Program. We had a student in our first cohort of the World Bachelor program who ended up leaving it and enrolling in our traditional program because he wanted to do a double major in business and psychology. The World Bachelor Program really doesn’t give you enough space to do a double major. Then, you have students who fall on the other side of the fence who give up the ability to do a double major or a more elaborate minor, but feel it is worth it because of the other things they get out of the program. For them, they’re not going to be living in a fraternity their junior year because they’ll be in Milan that entire time. They won’t be going to football games all four years because they’re not going to be on campus. They’re giving up a lot, especially for many U.S. students who grow up with an idea of what the four-year college experience should look like in terms of campus life. But in exchange, they get this very elaborate kind of international experience.

Does having the World Bachelor Program enrich the student life experience on the Marshall campus, even for those students not in the program?

It’s a program that attracts quite mature, ambitious, and international students, so having these types of students on campus is just great. They add a richness and diversity to the student body and we love that. The program has also afforded us other kinds of opportunities in terms of discussions we’ve had with other schools and deepening of ties with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Bocconi, not just in terms of the program, but with speakers series, internship opportunities, and other collaborations.

What type of demand are you seeing for the undergraduate business program from applicants?

The university does all of our undergraduate admissions centrally, but we participate very closely in that process. Ultimately, all the offers of admission are given out by central admissions, but students are able to use the common application to express their interest in two programs on campus. For example, you can apply to Marshall and the engineering school in your application, and be considered for both.

Our applications have been strong. I don’t think we’re seeing any difference in our application pool versus what USC is seeing in their application pool. The proportion remains constant, and every year we have a record number of applications. The quality of our admitted and enrolled students is bumping up every year, so we are really happy with that. I think that USC has been on a very strong trajectory and remains on that trajectory — and everyone at the university, including the Marshall School, is a beneficiary of that.

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