The city of Dallas is Southern Methodist University’s laboratory. And without many competing business schools nearby, the Dallas corporate environment is full of opportunities for Cox School of Business students.
Though business majors traditionally complete internships during the summer, it’s common at the Cox School to have internships during the academic year as well – a convenient possibility thanks to their location near downtown Dallas. And the internships pay off. P&Q’s 2016 survey of Cox alumni found that nearly 75% of respondents got their first jobs in Dallas.
“You study in our classrooms, and then you go to Dallas and practice the things you’ve learned,” says Jim Bryan, associate dean of the undergraduate program. “And you will have more experience than your competitors from other schools.”
FINANCE WITH A LIBERAL ARTS TWIST
Resume prep and interview prep begin as soon as new students arrive, and freshmen get off to a well-rounded start by taking what the school calls Business Core classes, which include a wide range of classes touching on many of the different business major focuses. Other classes in the Business Core are not necessarily related to specific majors, but are topics the school considers useful, like Business Law, Entrepreneurship, and Business Communications.
“Some students will know right away what they want to study,” Bryan says. “But students who come in and don’t know exactly — they’ll start with these classes and figure it out along the way.” Bryan says the most popular major by far is finance, followed by accounting.
But the Cox School isn’t merely a path to employment — SMU is a liberal arts school, and throughout four years, classes at the Cox School will only make up about one third of business students’ total curriculum. The school believes very strongly in liberal arts education, Bryan says, so university requirements will take up a fair chunk of the first two years. The last two will be more focused on business.
That isn’t to say that students don’t take any business classes in the first years. In fact, the Cox School has been revamping its focus on leadership training and hands-on experiences, and students are now required to take a leadership course in the first semester. The course includes business communication skills — both written and oral — as well as a comprehensive overview of career service opportunities.
THE ‘PERFECT’ SMU BUBBLE
Concerning hands-on experience, the school now has multiple international internship programs available during the summer terms, and allows students to work with Cox faculty on their research at the Niemi Center. P&Q’s 2017 survey of Cox alumni found that 44.9% of students participated in a “signature experience” like this, ranging from case-based courses and simulations, to senior capstone projects, study abroad programs, and “real life” work like creating an entire marketing campaign for FOX Sports 1, which was actually implemented by the company.
And academics aren’t the only thing drawing students to this school. Alumnae Arissa Golnabi of the Class of 2014 says the SMU Cox community had a deep impact on her life.
Golnabi grew up in the Dallas area, and says she always had her eye on SMU. Her father was an alum, and she had a number of family friends whose daughters went to SMU. She says she always felt like the SMU students she met had a certain presence that she loved.
She describes SMU as a bubble in the most perfect way. “It’s unlike any other organization. It’s this special little bubble, and you don’t realize it until you’re gone. It shapes you, and gives you a certain vibe – which is the best way I can describe it,” she says. “And it gives you an edge. You have an amazing private school education, and it’s worth the money.”
She says she received the best education she could have wanted, and always felt like the professors and academic advisors went out of their way to take care of the students. “What they taught us there is really how the business world works. It was very straight and to the point. I knew how to talk to people when I interned at a hedge fund. I knew what to say, and I understood what they were talking about,” she says.
NOT AN ‘OVERPRICED, SNOBBY UNIVERSITY’
And she makes a point to say that SMU is not merely an overpriced, snobby university. The students at the business school are very sharp, and easy to get along with, with high IQs and high emotional intelligence, she says. “A lot of my friends have successful families in business, and if anything, they’ve used their connections to help their classmates out,” she says. “It’s a tight network, and not in a negative way. I can message any alumni on LinkedIn, and say I really want to learn more about their expertise, and would they mind chatting with me? I’ve never been told ‘No.’”
Overall, alumni awarded the school high scores on our survey. Cox has the second highest score on the business program’s alumni network and connections, and the fifth highest score for how well the business program prepares students for the world of work.
These favorable scores are reflected in Cox students’ career outcomes. Around 90% of the Class of 2017 had a job three months after graduating, with an average salary of $63,045. Top employers include Ernst & Young, Oracle, and Goldman Sachs.
WHAT ALUMNI SAY
“In my Alternative Asset Management class, we had the opportunity to prepare an IPO valuation for Michaels, the arts and crafts supply retailer. My group was chosen to present to the CEO of Michaels and a group of Dallas business leaders. It was invaluable presentation and financial analysis experience.” – Class of 2014 SMU Cox alum
“I did a summer exchange program in Hong Kong Chinese University during my sophomore year through the business school. It was an eye opening experience, so much so that it greatly influenced my decision to return to China to pursue my career upon graduation. We had an exposure not only to the business environment, but also the culture in China and Hong Kong. We had classes given by stellar faculty from HKCU business school, firm visits and interaction with local students. This exchange program allowed me be global minded and prepared me for my career.” – Class of 2014 SMU Cox alum
“We did a lot of “real life” work in our investments classes. At the time it was horrible. I hated working with classmates and scheduling meet ups on the Fridays we all had off from business school. Two years into the real world and I realize that those projects were far and away the most valuable lessons I learned in school. You had to pull your own weight as everyone was anonymously evaluated by their peers afterwards. Everyone had to present. Everyone had to work together. That’s how the real world is so I’m very thankful for it.” – Class of 2014 SMU Cox alum
Where the Class of 2017 went to work:
Goldman Sachs: 8
American Airlines: 4
A.T. Kearney: 3