When Victor Mullins thinks of the startup founders who graduated from the Robert H. Smith School of Business, he thinks about the way they hand picked the teams to build their companies from the bottom up. The truly exceptional leaders selected people with different backgrounds and training, people who come from business, science, computer technology, and even psychology or education.
Differences in thought, priorities, approaches to a problem, etc., actually end up coming to better solutions than a homogeneous team of people from the same background, says Mullins, Smith’s Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies and Diversity Officer at the University of Maryland.
That’s one idea behind Smith’s new Interdisciplinary Business Honors Living-Learning Program: Bringing together exceptional students from all University of Maryland majors to reimagine the future of work and business in the real world. The two-year Honors College program will launch in fall of 2022 and will comprise about 60 students from any UMD college or school, whether from Smith itself or from arts and humanities, social science, computer science and others. Students will live together on campus as well as attend core classes in the business program.
It is one of two new undergraduate programs Smith will launch next fall to challenge its highest-achieving students to think more deeply about the changing workplace. The Smith Leadership Fellows Program will invite about 120 top business-school freshmen for its first cohort. No application is required for either program, and students will be invited based on their UMD application.
“I am excited about these programs, which are designed to attract and challenge exceptional students academically and prepare them to be those inspiring leaders who will shape the future and address the grand challenges of our time. These programs will be transformational for these students and future generations,” says Maryland Smith Dean Prabhudev Konana in an announcement.
‘BUSINESS AS A CONNECTIVE TISSUE’
Other business schools have honors programs. Others value experiential learning and working with industry leaders to think about real-world business challenges. But most do so in the confines of their business schools.
What makes the Interdisciplinary Business Honors Program different is that it is, first and foremost, interdisciplinary.
“We are going to have business school majors, but they’re going to be in classes with people who aren’t majoring in business,” says Joe Bailey, associate research professor and Assistant Dean for Speciality Undergraduate Programs at Smith. “What is unique is looking at the business discipline as a connective tissue to disciplines outside of the business school.”
Other UMD colleges have both Honors and Living Learning Programs in which students live together in the residence halls and take advanced classes in their disciplines. But, this is a first for the Smith School of Business, and it is the first one that hopes to attract an eclectic cohort of top students across UMC majors.
“We recognize that discussions sometimes happen in the hallways of a residence hall. There’s a spontaneity to it, a kind of connecting that doesn’t always happen in a classroom,” Bailey tells Poets&Quants.
“If you’re watching an episode of, say, The Wire, it might spark a conversation about all the data and how that could be used in business. Having that spontaneous conversation and not having to wait for a professor to facilitate that when class resumes on Tuesday is a really important part of learning.”