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When Stacy Outlaw joined the administration of Elon University’s Love School of Business as the director of undergraduate programs, the geographical change wasn’t significant. But the community was. Outlaw left the state’s land grant university, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and its more than 18,000 undergraduates, for relatively meager Elon and its 6,000 undergraduates, less than 40 miles away.
“I do like Elon’s smaller environment,” Outlaw says. “And even though Elon is a smaller school, we offer everything and we still have the same opportunities of a large research university.”
Considering their location centered in North Carolina’s saturated higher education belt, the Love School really doesn’t have any option but to offer everything that its nearby competitors do. Indeed, Elon rests right off Interstate 40 almost centered from Outlaw’s previous school and Wake Forest University — both top 20 business programs in this year’s Poets&Quants’ ranking. But while Elon’s Love School finishes lower in the rankings compared to their nearby competitors, the school boasts some intriguing selling points.
LIBERAL ARTS FIRST, BUSINESS SECOND
First, the school is a four-year program. Once a student is accepted to Elon University, they may declare a business major. Not so at UNC or Wake Forest, where students must clear two hurdles for entrance into the B-school. At Wake Forest, for example, 79% of sophomores applying to the business program actually get in. At UNC, only 47.5% of sophomores applying to the B-school are admitted.
Elon is truly a liberal arts institution, too. In the first two years, all students must complete eight hours in the formal topic areas of Expression, Civilization, Society, and Science/Analytics.
Also, Outlaw says, Love’s students receive the personal touch expected from a smaller community. “Students get a lot of one-on-one time with professors and I think that’s something that separates us from other business schools in the state of North Carolina,” she believes. Indeed, Class of 2014 alumni surveyed during the fall of 2016 by Poets&Quants rated faculty availability for meetings and mentorship outside of the classroom highest out of the 12 one-to-ten prompts on the survey with an amazing 9.63.
INNOVATIVE STUDY USA PROGRAM PROVIDES UNIQUE DOMESTIC OPPORTUNITIES
Outlaw also indicated many unique opportunities for students to both study abroad and study elsewhere in the U.S. The university boasts 101 study abroad opportunities — 41 of which are business-specific. Plus, Elon University has centers in New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco where students from all departments within the university may study. Students may participate in the university’s summer in Alaska program or winter short-term programs, which include some study abroad options. “The students that haven’t traveled much or desire to do more can do so,” Outlaw says of the Study USA Program offered by Elon.
Some 75% of Love students study abroad. More than 95% complete an internship before leaving Elon. And 100% are required to complete a senior capstone course — part of Elon’s liberal arts focus. The school has also held strong to four credit hour courses — a rarity for most universities now on the three credit per course system. The school says the extra hour “is designed not for additional lecture time but is designed instead to allow sufficient time during a class for students to begin, complete, and debrief on projects that engage them in learning a topic or concept.”
Early in their coursework within the Love School, students will complete one of the school’s newest innovative courses, Gateway to Business. The school says the course “exposes students to the role of business in society, the importance of finding meaning in work (and therefore in their choice of major), and, by means of a simulation, the core functions of business: accounting, finance, management, and marketing.”
Afterwards, students may then choose from eight majors and seven minors. Majors range from traditional B-school stalwarts like finance, marketing, and general management to unique areas of study like entrepreneurship, international business, and international economics. Even within the management major, students may choose to emphasize certain areas such as business analytics, project management, and human resources management.
THE CHURCH OF INNOVATION
However, the most intriguing major and one with the most unique innovation is entrepreneurship. True to its geographical roots in the Bible Belt, Love has converted a former church into a “living laboratory and dorm” dubbed the Innovation House. “Student residents drawn from across the university engage in projects that apply design thinking,” the school says. Part of the university’s Living Learning Community program, sophomores, juniors, and seniors literally live together and work on entrepreneurial projects under the direction of Scott Kelly, the assistant director of the Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. According to the school, the Doherty Center was created after a substantial gift from Ed and Joan Doherty, the owners of Doherty Enterprises, a restaurant franchise. The center focuses on “experiential education that encourages creative and critical thinking, opportunity recognition, and plan formulation and implementation,” the school says. Within the center, students may compete in the Elon Innovation Challenge, take an eight-week capstone course in startup epicenter, San Francisco, or apply for $4,500 in seed capital from the school’s Acorn Fund.
Other centers housed within the Love School include the Chandler Family Professional Sales Center, Porter Family Professional Development Center, William Garrard Reed Finance Center, and Center for Organizational Analytics. The emphasis on experiential learning, study abroad opportunities and centers seems to have paid off. More than half of the Class of 2014 alumni surveyed by Poets&Quants indicated that they had some form of “signature experience” within the business school — more than all but three universities surveyed.
TUITION DOLLARS HIGH, SCHOLARSHIP DOLLARS LOW
But all of this doesn’t come without a significant cost. For the 2016-2017 year, students pay a total of $46,670 for tuition and living expenses. What’s more, only 35% of Love students during the same academic year received need- or merit-based scholarships at an average of $9,831. On a university-wide level, 43% of the Class of 2016 graduated with $31,622 of student debt. While the Class of 2014 alumni rated the school towards the bottom compared to other schools surveyed by Poets&Quants, Love’s placement stats remain strong. Some 95% of the Class of 2016 and 2017 had internships before their senior year. An impressive 89.41% of the Class of 2017 had secured jobs three months after graduation, with an average base salary of $52,571.
“Within the business school, we have created opportunities for our students to connect with alums,” says Outlaw, noting the Elon Job Network online platform and the increase in profiling Love alums on the B-school website.
Cost, employment placement stats, and debt aside, a college decision comes down to feel and fit — something Outlaw advises to figure out before stepping on campus.
“College choice really boils down to what’s a good fit for you,” advises Outlaw, noting the importance of talking to current students to “get the real skinny.”
“Of course, parents have their opinions on where their kids should go, but what it should come down to is what’s the best fit for the students,” Outlaw continues. “Our students are really friendly so if you talk to them, you’ll learn a lot and they’ll be honest with you.”
WHAY ALUMNI SAY
“I worked with a local botanical garden as part of a 4th year business course. We presented a business plan for their growth, which the committee requested a copy of for their next board meeting. We received great feedback from the garden and they were looking forward to deploying some of our suggested tactics.” – Class of 2014 alum
“I was a part of an ethics course case study. We traveled up to Nova Scotia, Canada to present at a conference.” – Class of 2014 alum
“In the Business in the Pacific Rim abroad experience, I traveled with professors and group of 30 students in the business school throughout Southeast Asia and gained first-hand exposure to foreign markets and business practices.” – Class of 2014 alum
“I was part of a group that managed a portion of the University’s endowment and obtained real-life portfolio management experience as well as experience working in a team environment.” – Class of 2014 alum
Where the class of 2017 went to work:
JPMorgan Chase & Co.: 9
FactSet Research Systems, Inc: 7
Baker Tilly: 6
Oracle NetSuite: 6
Call Box: 5
Credit Suisse: 4
Red Ventures: 4
Insight Global: 4