The Northern Illinois University (NIU) College of Business ranked at No. 77 this year — improving two spots from last year’s 79th place. The College of Business had an acceptance rate of 60.83% and an average SAT score of 1023 this year. Employment-wise, the B-school’s Class of 2020 saw slightly lower outcomes with 48.42% landing a full-time position within three months of graduation, down from last year’s 55.88% — although this may largely be attributed to the COVID-19 economic downturn. Internship outcomes remained unchanged at 58%.
At NIU’s College of Business, students are encouraged to learn by doing. The business courses challenge students by requiring them to “run a company.” Students work cross-functionally in solving problems. Experiential opportunities are abundant. By the time they graduate, NIU business students have a ton of experience to stand out amongst the competition. Recent graduates seemed to like their experience based on data gathered through our alumni survey. That data helped NIU place 30th overall in the academic experience methodological category.
BUSINESS STUDENTS, BUSINESS OWNERS
NIU business students can choose from five majors including Accountancy, Business Administration, Finance, Management, Marketing, and Operations & Information Systems. Each major, aside from Accounting, offers the option of a specialized certification. For instance, management students can gain a Certificate of Undergraduate Study in Social Entrepreneurship. Marketing students can gain a certificate of Undergraduate Study in Retail Management.
Learning by doing starts early on at the NIU College of Business. Starting in fall 2018, new business students were given the option to enroll in “Business in Action,” an introductory business course that introduces students to business functions, language, etiquette, and opportunities in modern business through a live consulting project. Additionally, each major program features strong, hands-on learning opportunities for students to apply their knowledge. A number of surveyed 2018 alumni highlighted the learning-by-doing approach of the NIU business education.
“I was part of a business course that ran a simulation of us owning our own global shoe company where each week was a new year of operations and we had to make decisions from a supply chain, marketing, and financial perspective for different global regions,” one 2018 alum told us. “In the same course, we also had simulations of executive business meetings where we discussed the future of real-world companies, as if we worked there, based on recent news reports of what those companies were experiencing. We would discuss how we would advance or improve the business as ‘executive leaders’ of our respective areas, e.g. CFO, CMO, CEO, etc.”
“Created, marketed, financed, and presented on our own company,” another 2018 alum said. “We were given a specific industry (out of a hat) and had to create a business around it. Cross-functional team (one person from every Business major partnered up) acting as executive leadership. Outstanding to work cross-functionally in the pre-real world. Communication and confidence in business speaking went way up. It was great.”
The experience of running a business from end-to-end is extremely valuable. As “business owners,” NIU students are given a unique opportunity to essentially gain insight into what an executive in their field of business does on a daily basis. But the experience is also valuable because it encourages important soft skill development — from effective communication to cross-functional collaboration. When asked how well the opportunities offered in NIU’s business program nurtured and improved their soft skills in business, surveyed 2018 alumni gave a strong 9.1 average rating. Additionally, faculty support is strong at NIU. Alumni rated the business school faculty’s availability for informal discussions and mentoring outside of class at a strong 9.3 average rating and the quality of teaching in business courses at an 8.9 average rating.
EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING CENTER
Experiential learning is a strong selling point for NIU’s College of Business. The B-school has a dedicated student consulting team called the Experiential Learning Center (ELC), where students act as consultants under the guidance of coaches (professors, instructors, and business professionals) and solve issues for organizations. Students must apply for projects and are selected for teams of five to eight students.
The ELC experience is unique in that it offers a hands-on opportunity to gain experience in a variety of business facets including project management, communication, presentation, team building, leadership, and technical skills. Additionally, students work with real companies and organizations to solve real issues. At many other B-schools, this type of experience is limited to a simulation or theoretical case studies.
“[At] Experiential Learning Center, I was a consultant for a non-profit for a semester and delivered a solution to their CEO at the end,” one 2018 alum reported.
“(I) Worked with a Fortune 500 company on an ERP improvement project,” another 2018 alum recalled.
Overall, NIU’s College of Business is a good choice for anyone looking to actively apply their business education with real-world experience. Whether it’s through live consulting projects, running a business, or the Experiential Learning Center, NIU business students are given a variety of opportunities to truly learn by doing.
“I interned for a company’s HR department which helped me decide to major in HR. I took a consulting class where I consulted for the College of Business on their brand which was a great way to engage with product development and how to work with stakeholders. I also completed a capstone project on socio-economics in Indonesia that allowed me to maintain a global focus while honing my research and analytical skills.”
“MGMT 444 was an expectational experience that really got me thinking more of how to gather data, understand it, and implement/recommend business solutions for business problems.”
“I was in a competitive entry class called Student Managed Portfolio that required an interview process for admission. It was a small class of only about 10-15 students and students were assigned to a S&P 500 sector. We were responsible for monitoring the sector and the holdings our portfolio had in that sector. We performed advanced analysis and were taught by the head of the finance department. This class gave me the confidence in my analytical abilities and the respect of peers/professors.”
WHERE THE CLASS OF 2020 WENT TO WORK:
- RSM US, LLP – 12
- Discover Financial Services – 8
- KPMG – 7
- PwC – 7
- BDO USA, LLP – 6
- CROWE, LLP – 6
- Enterprise – 6
- Sherwin Williams – 5
- Aerotek – 4
- CohnReznick – 4
- Target – 4