They call it the “Spartan mindset.” Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business is keen to foster a strong sense of community among its more than 5,400 students, and that means going to where they live — literally. Broad’s Residential Business Community, home to about 250 students now and as many as 500 in the not-too-distant future, is dedicated to creating a living and learning academic experience that supports students’ academic, personal, and professional growth, and enhances their leadership abilities.
RBC students start their Broad journey together freshman year, living in the same residence hall and attending retreats, workshops, and prerequisite courses together. The experience continues through sophomore year, when corporate mentor partners begin helping them hone their networking, communication, and presentation skills, and when the students research a real-world business case study.
Kathy Petroni, associate dean for undergraduate programs, calls the residential living-learning community “our biggest, proudest thing,” adding that the RBC’s three-part structure – living in a residential community, learning in the classroom, and leadership outside the classroom – allows students to build their leadership competencies, such as communication skills, team-building, ethics, and integrity, and succeeding by working in diverse groups.
OUTREACH AND ONBOARDING
“Diverse” is the key word. The RBC is particularly aimed at helping Broad diversify its student body by attracting, retaining, and graduating more under-represented and out-of-state students. While its fall 2017 population boasts 18.9% international students, a healthy figure, only 4.3% of all Broad students are under-represented minorities.
“The goal is to attract under-represented students, particularly students from urban school districts,” Petroni tells Poets&Quants, “and to help them excel in our program. We have a lot of peer-to-peer mentoring and advising, as research shows under-represented students tend to do well with peer-to-peer advising, mentoring, and tutoring. And they do a lot of specialized service projects, a lot of extracurricular activities that help make them a community and give them leadership experience.”
Broad is doing more to diversify, Petroni points out, including its Multicultural Business Programs that provide individualized academic advising, tutoring, career development, and placement for more than 650 students enrolled in business or pre-business majors; and its Summer Business Institute, a week-long residential learning experience for incoming multicultural freshmen that features academic seminars by faculty, training workshops by corporate professionals, and team activities, including presenting their work to a corporate partner.
“With the Summer Business Institute, we try to have a mixed group and we try to acclimate them to campus, to business careers, to get them up and ready to adjust, because MSU is such a big campus,” Petroni says. “That program is very successful — the retention rate and graduation rate of those students are very high, and we’re looking to expand that program. For underrepresented students, the Multicultural Business Program is almost their home away from home, and some very successful student groups come from that.”
Broad’s has labeled its educational philosophy “T-shaped learning,” meaning it aims to imbue its students with the ability to collaborate and operate across multiple disciplines, with depth of developed skills in more than one area. The college’s T-shaped curriculum, says Tina Ray, Broad communications editor, stresses the importance of academic skills and discipline breadth — the cross bar of the T — and depth in one or more discipline areas — the vertical stroke of the T.
The curriculum begins with MSU’s Liberal Learning Goals: analytical thinking, cultural understanding, eﬀective citizenship, eﬀective communication, and integrated reasoning. All students fulfill prerequisite business courses, Ray says, and develop “a disciplinary breadth through hands-on learning across business applications. In the second half of their undergraduate Broad studies, they dive deeper into studies in their chosen disciplines for advanced skills development.”
Students mostly take their liberal arts course requirements in their freshman and sophomore years, Petroni says, citing MSU’s Integrated Studies Program and its connection to T-shaped learning. “We want them to have the breadth of knowledge on lots of different things, including definitely the liberal arts, and then we want some in-depth stuff in their area of expertise, whether it be finance, accounting, supply chain,” Petroni says. “But the breadth across the top is really key, sand there we want liberal arts, communication skills, teamwork, all that kind of stuff, and then we try to push down in certain areas — core competencies we want them to have.”
A GLOBAL MINDSET
Recognizing that today’s students need to span educational, social, and cultural boundaries, MSU has fashioned a reputation as a great school for study-abroad offerings, Petroni says, citing the university’s 85 semester abroad opportunities — 38 of which are based in the B-school, with partnerships from Rome to China to New Zealand. Yet only 26.4% of Broad’s 2015 graduates had at least four weeks of global experience — a contrast the school has made a goal of addressing.
“MSU is one of the largest study abroad schools in the country,” Petroni says. “We have lots of study-abroad opportunities, and we would like to do more and make it mandatory but that is cost-prohibitive right now.” As far as cultivating a more global mindset, she points to a wide range of on-campus options for studying Africa, in particular, where MSU has “a huge footprint.”
Molly Bond, Class of 2014, entered Broad after her sophomore year at MSU, majoring in marketing. Before even being accepted to the college, Bond took Managerial Marketing and participated in a 10-day study-abroad trip to London, a trip she says “solidified my interest in marketing and confirmed that I had chosen the right academic path for myself in Broad.” Now a marketing specialist for General Motors, the Ann Arbor native is currently finishing up her MBA at Central Michigan University and cites that class under Professor Gill Harrell as a watershed moment in her academic life.
“As one of the youngest students on the trip and not yet admitted to Broad, I gained many unique experiences that really made me a better student,” Bond says. “Not only did it confirm my passion for marketing, but it sparked my interest in global travel as well. The trip really opened my eyes to how diverse a field marketing is. I learned that marketing included product innovation, research, statistics, price analysis, sales management, and many more interesting topics. The class set me up for a great two years in Broad.”
For all its global offerings, Broad comes up short on the experiential side, with about 20 courses featuring experiential content but only a few required. It’s a shortfall the school is looking to address by making expansion of the experiential program a major strategic goal.
“We have a couple courses that are clearly designed around experiential learning and we’re trying to get more,” Petroni says, pointing to the re-assignment of Sherri Henry as associate director of undergraduate academic services with a mandate to “figure out all the experiential learning that is going on and how we can have more.” Henry started in her new role in August.
She’ll be looking at experiential potential across eight majors: Accounting, Finance, Management, Human Resource Management, Marketing, and Supply Chain Management; Hospitality Business also is offered from a freestanding school within the college.
HIGH SALARIES, HIGH DEBT
Broad saw 84.1% of 2017 grads land jobs within 90 days and they were given an average salary of $57,121. The top employers of Broad grads perhaps show the changing times. In 2015, it was GM and Ford — to be expected in the state where the auto industry is still king. A year later, In 2016, however, Deloitte and Amazon tied GM at nine Broad grads employed. And in 2017, both Amazon and Deloitte passed GM and Ford.
It’s a good thing for Broad graduates that they’re making so much, because the school is costly to attend. An estimated eight-semester total cost for out-of-state students is $220,699, of which $162,003 is tuition and fees. In 2016, 45% of Broadites received an annual average of $5,683 to handle the burden. Graduates of the Class of 2016 took on an average of $21,437 in debt.
ALUM: MAKE BROAD MORE EXCLUSIVE
Broad currently has an acceptance rate of 51.11%, with an SAT/ACT average of 1240/25.5. And that’s one area where the school could improve, says 2014 grad Max Zimmerman, a former finance major and current corporate development adviser for Dell Technologies: Broad, he says, should be more exclusive.
“We need to boost our external recognition,” Zimmerman says. “We need to get Broad into the top 50, top 25, of the national business school rankings. Also need to make getting into the business school much harder. Make the classes a little tougher. Also, I would tear down the Epply Center and build a new wing for the business school — it’s way too outdated of a building to get excited to go into.”
Despite the critique, the East Grand Rapids native has mostly praise for his alma mater, especially its “awesome collection of teachers, students, and overall faculty” and “tremendous learning capabilities and opportunities.” He also singles out Broad’s “great collection of prerequisites.” The foundational knowledge of accounting, he adds, “is by far the greatest thing a business school can teach to its students. The prerequisites also give the students a flavor of which major they might like the best, before actually deciding on the major they will stick with.”
What Alumni Say:
“We competed in and won the Denver Transportation Summit Supply Chain Case competition. Learned a tremendous amount about applying learning to real-world logistics cases. I also studied both business and Spanish for a semester in Quito, Ecuador. Learned a lot about the global markets and international business.” — Class of 2014 Grad
“I was given real-world case studies that allowed me to better understand what is actually done in the real world. I also went on a study abroad to Europe for three weeks.” — Class of 2014 Grad
“I was a part of 30+ select students (within the Finance, Accounting, and Mathematics undergrads as well as MBA students) that helped to manage the school’s endowment fund (i.e. Michigan State Student Investment Fund). The opportunity changed my life and my career. After interning with a company and putting in hours with little pay, I proved that I was important to the organization’s growth, cost cutting, and overall performance. I’m now a successful wealth manager based on the foundation I received from the MSU student investment fund and Professor Greg Sabin at Michigan State (now an adjunct professor at Ohio State).” — Class of 2014 Grad
Where the Class of 2017 went to work:
General Motors: 13
Michigan State University: 10
Hyatt Hotels: 9
Plante Moran: 7
Marriott International: 7