France, Austria, Dubai, Australia, and South Africa. These are just some of the places that students at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland have traveled to during their four years in college. The school believes the best way to learn is through reality-based experiences and whether on- or off-campus, students can choose from a myriad opportunities to gain real-world experience and build strong portfolios rather than crowded resumes.
“It is my firm belief that Smith students will never experience another time in their lives when so many are dedicated to their success,” Victor Mullins, associate dean of the school to the students, says. “At Smith, we are committed to helping our students become information seekers, problem solvers, opportunity creators, and community builders.”
Smith School of Business boasts an impressive 84.5% of students in the class of 2017 found full-time employment within three months of graduation with a starting average salary of $59,950. Their graduates were so attractive to employers, including Ernst and Young, Deloitte, KPMG, IBM, Grant Thornton, and PwC, that 47% of them also received signing bonuses to sweeten the deal. No wonder the school reported that receiving over 7,300 applications to join their undergraduate business program in the fall of 2017. In the end, 1986 students were accepted into the four-year program.
LOCATION CLOSE TO D.C. AND BALTIMORE
The University of Maryland is a public research university located in the city of College Park. Joining Smith means being just eight miles from the White House and being plugged into government, corporate, and international decision-making and opportunities. The university’s Department of Economics and Business Administration first began offering a business curriculum in 1921, where students had to take classes such as diplomacy, public speaking, and constitutional law in an age of dramatic social and political change. It became the Robert H. Smith School in 1998 following a $15 million pledge by the alumnus to the school and today, there are 32,000 alumni living in the D.C. metro area. Just 30 minutes away from Smith is the city of Baltimore. The city has significant historical importance with over 65,000 historic buildings and is the home to the birthplace of Francis Scott Key’s poem that led to the creation of The Star-Spangled Banner.
Fostering an inclusive and diverse environment is paramount for Maryland administrators. As part of their education, students are guided to an understanding of conscious and unconscious bias, microaggressions, privilege, and power. And in November, 175 Smith students joined a two-day event involving faculty, staff, and students in a Diversity Action Forum where they discussed myths such as the popular belief of “I don’t see race, we are all just the same.”
Speaking at a faculty and staff session, Roger Worthington, chief diversity officer of the University of Maryland, College Park, said that while many people used their first amendment rights as an excuse for bad behavior, they “must condemn free speech that is hate speech.”
The school reports that 24% of their incoming Fall of 2017 students are from under-represented minority groups.
EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING A BIG PART OF MARYLAND SMITH CURRICULUM
Students at the Smith School can choose from eight majors: finance, information systems, international business, management, marketing, operations management and business analytics, and supply chain management. Four years of tuition and university fees at the school is likely to add up to about $41,000 for an in-state student, and about $123,636 for an out-of-state student, but almost 60% of alumni surveyed by Poets&Quants said they believed their business degree was worth their time and the cost in tuition.
On top of a rigorous education, the school takes experiential learning so seriously that they have an Office of Transformational Learning that is focused on creating innovative learning opportunities for students.
Top undergraduate students at Smith are invited to join the Innovo Scholars Consulting Program, where they learn advanced management consulting strategies by working in teams to serve a client. Innovo scholars can choose to join the Course Innovation track, where they work with instructors to innovate Smith School courses and programs, or the Business Process Track, where they work with a business and hone their business acumen on real-world situations.
Allison Herskovitz, a member of the class of 2018, helped change the structure of the Principles of Accounting I course to improve learning outcomes while in the scholars program. She said that the experience inspired her to major in accounting and she continues to help and motivate her peers through the course as a teaching assistant.
Since being instituted in 2015, the Innovo Scholars Consulting Program has helped transform over 40 courses and programs with the help of students themselves.
In another innovative move, the school introduced the Smith Live Case initiative in spring 2016, where students work on complex business problems to deliver creative solutions for partner corporations. They are given the parameters, recommendations, and implications of the situation by partners including Target, Deloitte, BDO, Unilever, Salesforce, and Pepsi, before their work starts. And by the end of the class period, instructors and company representatives offer feedback on recommendations to the students.
EXTRA-CURRICULAR EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING ALSO A PRIORITY
Outside of the classroom, Smith students have over 10 fellowships and programs to choose from to get hands-on learning. Most programs include not only coursework but also treks, excursions, and networking events. In the two-year Strategic Design and Innovation Fellows program, for example, students are plunged into the world of design thinking. As juniors, students create retail concepts and pitch their ideas to a set of real-estate developers. In their second year, the intentionally multidisciplinary program will see students rebrand existing companies or products and develop marketing campaigns that they then pitch to seasoned businesspeople. By becoming familiar with the Adobe Creative Suite, creating impressive projects and working on their personal brands, students are prepared for jobs involving product design, interactive websites, user experience design, wayfinding, and other opportunities usually reserved for design students.
“I learned subjects outside of the normal marketing curriculum and experienced real-world projects,” Rebecca Salzman, a fellow who now works as a senior associate commercialization manager for McCormick & Company, Inc, says. “The program allowed me to network and build incredible connections I otherwise would not have and separated me from the rest after graduating and applying for jobs.”
Students who are part of the program also go on an overnight trip to New York City, which is three hours away, that includes alumni networking events, shadowing a marketing or design alum experience, and company visits. Graduates of the program attend a dinner where alums share presentations of their work and help students secure internships in firms including Google, Percolate, and Nestle.
STUDY ABROAD OPPORTUNITIES GALORE
Outside of specific programs, the school also hosts an annual “Smith In The City” trip. In November 2017, almost 200 students traveled to New York City to visit three dozen companies and meet alumni during a networking event at the Grand Hyatt New York. For the purpose of this trip, students are divided into tracks of the functional areas of accounting, business analytics, consulting, entertainment, entrepreneurship, fashion, finance, and marketing. They meet in small groups beforehand to prepare questions for the companies they will visit, including Goldman Sachs, Facebook, and Edelman, and discuss networking strategies to get the most out of their time with industry professionals.
“The NYC trip is a great way for students to fully understand where their studies can take them,” Juliette Carnevale, a class of 2018 marketing major, says. “This trip has not only shown me what my future career could look like, but also how far networking can take you, whether that be through the alumni event or the office visits.”
For students who are interested in taking their Smith education outside of the country, the school offers everything from faculty-led short-term courses and courses with embedded study-abroad components, to semester-long and summer-long programs.
In March 2018, a group of Smith students in the Brazil Embedded Course will travel to Sao Paulo and Rio De Janeiro to add to their comparative study on businesses in the U.S. and in Brazil. While the program fee is listed as $3,090 excluding airfare, visa, meals, and personal expenses, the school offers $600 in Smith School Scholarships for students going on a study abroad experience for the first-time. Students who need more help can also apply for other scholarships that offer up to $1,100 in help with semester abroad programs.
Students can also choose from a multitude of travel-abroad opportunities from outside the Smith School. Alumnus Elaine Oves spent a semester in Vienna, Austria as part of a language immersion program with the University of Maryland Language House.
“I now speak German and French at a near-fluent level,” Oves, who is now enrolled in a dual masters program at Freie Universitaet Berlin while working as an analyst intern, says. “After graduation, I moved to Europe to work in the defense sector in Germany. I likely would’ve never had the courage to pursue my ambitions abroad without prior positive experience at UMD.”