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For the first time ever in 2017, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business plans to significantly expand its undergraduate program to four years. The change means that 80% of each class, roughly 500 students, will not be accepted as freshmen. A remaining 125 students will come in as transfers in their sophomore year.
The decision to move to a four-year program makes Ross a far more desirable destination for business students than it had been. That’s because it was possible for students interested in majoring in business to get into the university and then be denied admission later on. In 2016, only 260 students had been admitted to Ross as freshmen in what was generally regarded as a three-year business program.
“Undergraduate business is the most popular major in the country, so most schools are seeing increasing demand for undergrad business education,” says Lynn Wooten, senior associate dean for student and academic excellence at Ross. “And the world of undergraduate business has changed. Now, there’s just so much you want to teach and do with the students. We think it’s time for a four-year program.”
Known as a “public Ivy,” Michigan has long had one of the premier undergraduate business experiences. In 2016, Ross undergrads had the fourth highest starting pay packages for a business school, with average salary and bonus of $78,952. Only Wharton, UC-Berkeley, and Carnegie Mellon grads did better.
And only two years ago, in 2014, Ross unveiled a major overhaul of its undergrad program. The new curriculum kicks off with a required class called “Business and Leaders: The Positive Difference.” The class places an emphasis on the relationships among the corporate, public and non-profit sectors, and how businesses can work with other entities to solve pressing social problems. In addition to business instructors, the school brings in people from other parts of the university to teach the class, including a mathematician who will discuss the value of diversity and an alum from a leading foundation to speak about the role philanthropy plays in society.
Students are also taught “cultural intelligence,” a method that will help them understand business problems and globalization in different contexts, and though the lens of ethnic, generational and organizational cultures. The hope is that this change would allow students to get more out of study abroad experience in their junior year.
Another central tenant of the curriculum at Ross is “action-based learning,” which has long helped to differentiate the school’s full-time MBA program from rivals. Under action-based learning, students work closely with companies and organization on real-world projects. By their senior year, students can choose to undertake a large-scale action-based learning project in a required capstone course in the final semester. For example, students might work on a project with a credit card company on how to brand their cards to millennials.
The senior capstone course is intended to help ward off any cases of “senioritis” as students start to think about making the transition to the workforce, Wooten said. Students can approach this course in one of three ways: taking on a real-world consulting project, an advanced-level course or doing a thesis.