Over the years, the Gies College of Business has established its reputation as a top-tier institution. In Poets&Quants‘ 2023 undergraduate rankings, Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s B-school lands 12th, up one place from the year before.
One of the reasons Gies is so well-regarded is that it boasts serious on-campus support systems, both in the classroom and once students have moved on to start their careers. In fact Gies, setting an example for its peers to emulate, supports students from the get-go by giving first-year freshmen a tag of “Business Undeclared” that helps ease the pressure these incoming undergrads naturally feel. Gies gives them time to explore different academic paths without the stress of picking a major right out of the gate.
Once in the academic fold and all the way through to graduation and beyond, Gies students are further bolstered by guidance through a collaborative effort involving in-house advisors and peer mentors within the Office of Undergraduate Programs, Office of Career and Professional Development, and Success Lab.
ENHANCING CURRICULUM WITH NEW DATA+ MAJORS
Ask any professor or administrator at Gies about their support for students and the first thing they’ll point to is the school’s curriculum, which was recently strengthened with more of what everyone’s looking for: data analytics courses. The B-school is attuned to the industry, Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs Cory Ohms says, ensuring that students are ready to ride the rising wave.
Gies recently unveiled three new data-heavy majors that faculty and students have been buzzing about: Finance+Data Science, Accountancy+Data Science, and Business+Data Science. The majors were born from a campus-wide effort, Ohms says.
“Faculty wanted to get involved and teach data courses, and we’ve seen demand in the workplace and industry for students who can merge two concepts and understand how to pull, analyze, and understand the data. There’s some in other departments now and there’s more majors like this to come. They were developed based on the combination of faculty and the department feeling like there’s a need,” Ohms tells Poets&Quants.
‘LIKE A DOUBLE MAJOR’
“A lot of students are really excited about these new majors,” Ohms continues. “They’re interdisciplinary, so students will be working with different departments across campus.”
What can students expect from these majors? Here’s the scoop: Students signing up should be ready to invest way more time and effort than they would for a regular major. Ohms says these majors are a perfect match for students with a specific talent, and the +Data majors come with an extra chunk of around 18 hours of coursework.
“How we talk to students about it is kind of like a double major, because they still have to take the business core, but the business analytics courses are replaced by the much larger data science core. They’ll have an Algorithms course, Linear Algebra course, and some Ethics courses within Data Science,” says Ohms.
For students who have an appetite for even deeper data exploration, Gies has the Margolis Market Information Lab waiting for them, fully equipped with state-of-the-art finance and business tools.
INNOVATIVE 01 COURSES & EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING
The support doesn’t stop there. Gies has all students take their signature Core Professional Pathway Courses, nicknamed the 01 series – BUS 101, 201, 301, and 401 – one each year of their degree.
“I think something unique that Gies is doing in the undergraduate space is their 01’s courses. The 101 course covers Business and Ethics, the 201 course includes a simulation looking at project management and business issues, in 301 they work with real clients, and the 401 Capstone puts it all together. Other campuses might have one or two courses like this but we have this four-class, four-year sequence that really helps students make sense of their time here at Gies and enables them to communicate it to all audiences – especially future employers,” says Ohms.
Of the four courses, BUS 301 takes the spotlight because it offers every student the chance to collaborate with real clients in order to address real-world organizational challenges.
On the top of experiential learning – although it’s not required for any major besides Supply Chain Management, many Gies undergraduates participate in an internship.
“It’s really rare to meet a Gies student who hasn’t undertaken an internship, co-op, or some type of learning experience,” says Ohms.
SUPPORT & OPPORTUNITIES BEYOND ACADEMICS
Many undergrads turn to the Gies Global office when they’re on the hunt for a study-abroad opportunity.
“We are excited to see that our number of students participating in study-abroad experience is back to the numbers we were seeing pre-Covid,” says Ohms.
Once students approach graduation and begin to think about their first jobs, Gies offers plenty of opportunities to network with both alumni and industry experts, in Career Fairs, a CEO Program and Career Immersion Program, Employer Showcases, and in their “Conversations with Leaders,” where current Gies students get to hear from and network with alumni.
It’s clear that alumni remain pleased with their experience at Gies: In the trio of Poets&Quants ranking categories (Admissions, Academic Experience, and Employment Outcomes), the B-school secured a commendable No. 5 overall ranking in Academic Experience, which draws from two years of alumni survey data.
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