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Truth be told, when Veronica Velazquez was putting together her target list of business schools in high school, Rutgers University was a safety school. After all, it was among a set of schools that even included the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, her stretch choice. But once she visited the ultra-modern home of Rutgers Business School in New Brunswick, N.J., she was sold.
“I really fell in love with the New Brunswick campus,” recalls Velazquez, 25, who graduated from Rutgers in 2014 and now works as a global associate brand manager at Unilever. “I loved how passionate the students were and I could apply straight into the business school in my freshmen year.”
The New Jersey native has no regrets. “I liked the culture,” she adds. “My classmates were hard working, competitive, and ambitious, I felt I was in a lot of classes with friends. There were a lot of team activities in class, and the school gave me a lot of opportunity to interact with my peers. The professors were always willing to stay late if anyone wanted to speak to them. But what I loved most was my extracurriculars where I was able to work with my peers to accomplish things and have a real impact on the school.”
In fact, one of her most formative experiences was serving as president of the Future Business Leaders of America, an on-campus group that focuses on student professional development, public speaking, and interviewing skills. One of 22 business clubs and organizations for students, it turned out to be the highlight of her undergraduate years. “We would not only meet on a weekly basis, but we were putting together bigger events for the extended student population,” she recalls fondly. “We worked with ten unpaid volunteers to bring in speakers and connect students to different companies. The passion and the work we put in brought me the most joy.”
Krystian Pescinski also is a believer. He was enrolled in the university’s honors program and was among the roughly 500 students in the honors college, with 70 business school majors. “The professors were very good and the program was pretty structured,” says Pescinski, who also graduated in 2014 as a finance major and now works in corporate finance for Philips Lighting. “I would do it again in a heart beat. I feel i’m well prepared for the job I have. It gave me a good foundation.”
And like Velazquez, a transformative experience for Pescinski, 25, was his involvement in another student group, LIBOR, the Little Investment Bankers Of Rutgers. The organization brought a series of i-bankers to campus to speak candidly about their careers in the financial sector. “I decided I didn’t want to work a ton of hours and make a lot of money. I wanted more balance in my life and that led me into corporate finance and more of an operations role.”
Rutgers University, of course, is the state university of New Jersey. The business school actually has two separate campuses and four-year business programs, in New Brunswick and in Newark. New Brunswick is the larger program, with a full-time enrollment of 3,786 business majors versus Newark’s also considerable of 2,303 students. The school’s faculty has academic cred, being the home to 15 scholarly journals and 17 research centers. Yet, Rutgers Business School also relies on a high percentage of adjuncts for undergraduate teaching, with nearly a third — 31% — of the courses taught by adjunct professors. The school also recently launched a publication called the Rutgers Business Review to highlight faculty thought pieces and business cases co-authored by undergraduates and faculty.
Rutgers Business School is especially a bargain for residents. In-state four-year tuition is pegged at $57,488, less than half the out-of-state rate of $120,132. And that’s one reason why many New Jersey high school students find great value in the school’s business programs. Still, 48% of the school’s graduates leave campus with student debt and the average debt loan is just $23,427.
“We have a high quality program at an affordable price for students who are capable and have the credentials but cannot afford to go to the private schools,” says Marty Markowitz, the long-time senior associate dean for the New Brunswick program. “What’s nice about the students here is that they don’t have that silver spoon in their mouths. They feel they have to earn what they get. They don’t expect to be given things. They are resilient and they have integrity. We get that feedback from the recruiters.”
More than one in three students here are first-generation, exactly 37%, and one in five hail from an international locale, exactly 20%. As a result, there’s a significant amount of student coaching that amounts to polishing raw talent. These include seminars on dining etiquette and dressing for success. Rutgers even has a separate program called “R U Suited?” to help disadvantaged students buy their first suits with gift cards from Macy’s.
The New Brunswick campus is not much more than an hour’s drive from New York City and one of the most dynamic job markets in the world. Rutgers’ major employers are an impressive group. In 2016, they included Deloitte (with 17 hires), PwC (16), Ernst & Young (14), JP Morgan (14), KPMG (11), CITI Financial Group (9), Amazon (6), Prudential Financial (6), Johnson & Johnson (5), and United Health Group (5).
Rutgers may not ooze the prestige of nearby Wharton or New York University’s Stern School, but the school has shown it can be innovative in serving up programs that are highly beneficial to its students. One example is the school’s “Road To Wall Street” initiative, an idea that came up in a conversation with one of Rutgers’ alums who happens to be the chief financial officer of tony financial services giant, Goldman Sachs. “He told us that while our students get jobs at Goldman, they don’t tend to get the leadership positions,” recalls Markowitz. “The reason is that they weren’t brought up in homes from high socio-economic areas. So we started this program to identify students early and prep them to learn more about Wall Street and how it works.”
Just under 50 students a year are chosen for the four-year-old program which consists of seminars, concentrated mentoring and internships. Students gain deep dives into Wall Street’s culture, the differences among financial jobs ranging from investment banking and sales & trading to marketing and valuation. The upshot: 96% of the program’s graduates land good jobs on Wall Street through the program.
Overall, Rutgers Business School has six majors: accounting, finance, business analytics and information technology, leadership and management, marketing, and supply chain management. While most students major in finance, accounting and marketing also are popular. “Supply chain is creeping up and could be number one in the next year or two,” says Markowitz. “Business analytics is a good major with 100% placement, but it’s also a tough major.” To major in one of these areas, course loads vary between six and eight courses above the core business requirements of some 12 courses and 24 credits.
In the first year, students get their initial taste of business school with a couple of highly pragmatic courses along with the university’s general education requirements. As soon as students enter the New Brunswick program, they are required to take a Management Skills class which helps them develop their interpersonal skills. There’s also Business Forum, a professional development class that draws upon outside executives to help students improve their skills in business communications, ethical decision making, interviewing, and resume writing. To pass the course, students must perform well in a mock interview.
Markowitz has been at the school for the past 31 years. “When I started here, college was like three years of fun and then you got ready for a job,” he laughs. “Now students come in and are very focused. They get their resumes together in the first month. Students start looking for internships early on and generally have them at the end of their sophomore year.”
Markowitz concedes that with so many students, some fall through the cracks. “You will always have a bunch of students who go with the tide,” he says. “As much as you try, you can’t do it for all of them, but for the majority of students, we can make a real difference. We have high standards. If you get under a C in three classes here, you care gone. It means business is probably not the best major for you. We once had a student who took financial accounting 14 times before passing it. No more.”
What Alumni Say:
“I was enrolled in a hybrid course that allowed us to work with local businesses develop their marketing strategy. It gave us the opportunity to take what we learned and actually apply it. Before that point, much of what we learned was only theoretical, which is only helpful if we operated in a vacuum.” — Class of 2014 alum
“The professors were very good and the program was pretty structured. My favorites classes were investment banking and advanced corporate finance with Professor Ben Sopranzetti. I thought he was a fantastic professor. He had a hands-on style of teaching. He was able to take things out of a textbook and show how they were applied in real life. He was a great mentor, always helping students set up interviews for jobs.” — Class of 2014 alum in Honors College
“I wrote a thesis on a small business and ways it could improve.” — Class of 2014 alum