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Raj Singh doesn’t know how many other business schools require 100% of their students to complete an international experience before graduating (hint: not many). But the associate dean of the undergraduate program at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management points to last spring’s foray to Cuba by the B-school’s entrepreneurship program as proof of the value of crossing borders and leaving one’s comfort zone.
“The students’ eyes really opened up,” Singh says of the excursion to study the island’s emerging economy. “It’s like anything else in college, right? It’s learning.”
Carlson prides itself on providing international learning opportunities. Besides requiring all students to have some kind of global experience before graduation, through fall 2016 the school offered 10 courses that feature significant global business components; over 300 more options are available through the university. The Carlson Global Institute facilitates 38 exchange programs to universities around the world. Not satisfied there, Carlson is constantly adding new elements, Singh says, as it did with the 2014 introduction of a global supply chain program that traces products from sources in China to ports in California to warehouses in Minnesota and, finally, shelves at Target stores.
“We have increased what I would call the richness of the international experience,” Singh tells Poets&Quants. “Every year we keep trying to add to the mix.”
IMMERSION AND EXCHANGE
In the inaugural 2016 Poets&Quants undergraduate business school ranking, by far the school whose alumni reported the most participation in an international experience was Carlson, with 83%. (The next closest school was Illinois, at 60%.) It’s no coincidence that Carlson also had a very strong showing in the alumni feedback portion of the ranking, landing fifth among 37 responding schools. Most of those who chose to elaborate on positive views of their alma mater cited some element of their study-abroad experience, raving about formative experiences in such far-flung places as Beijing and Kenya.
Mark Haakenstad, Class of 2014, chose Carlson in part because of its international requirement — and he wasn’t disappointed. Haakenstad, a Minnetonka, Minnesota native who now works as a revenue management analyst for American Airlines, tells Poets&Quants that he was drawn to the school because of its proximity to many large Twin Cities-based Fortune 500 companies and its required study-abroad component and second-year immersion core component. He took advantage by spending a semester at the University of St.Gallen in Switzerland.
“Needless to say, I was able to form some life-long global relationships,” Haakenstad says. “I had an amazing experience, and am thankful of Carlson’s ties to strong academic programs like St.Gallen. Likewise, he adds, courses like International Finance and The Global Economy “prepared me well for dealing with international airlines, and for being sound in my financial judgement for AA.”
ON THE GROUND IN AFRICA, SOUTH AMERICA
Another Minnesota native and 2014 Carlson grad, Justine Beran, spent six months in Kenya, taking classes and doing an internship with an NGO. Beran, now a program manager at Land Bank Twin Cities, studied finance and nonprofit management at Carlson and used her classroom time in Africa to learn some Swahili and study the history of economic development and small business enterprise in Kenya. She interned with a sustainability group and helped local residents get certification in computer skills.
“We stayed with a host family, which is the most cultural experience you could have, instead of staying in an apartment,” Beran says. “It was awesome. And it’s probably what keeps me most connected to the university after graduation. They try to keep all of us grouped together and offer our phone numbers and emails to students that are going abroad.”
Anthony Jison, who graduated in 2014 with a triple major in supply chain and operations management, marketing, and entrepreneurial management, grew up in Germany and has traveled to more than 40 countries. Still, he found Carlson’s international requirement an invigorating experience. “I took a course titled Management of Innovation and Change, which I found to be fascinating,” says Jison, who is currently earning his Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification at the California Institute of Technology. While at Carlson, he studied the burgeoning tech scene in Recife, Brazil and traveled to Sao Paolo to meet with the leadership at a variety of organizations and major corporations.
“Despite growing up abroad and being fortunate enough to have been to over 40 countries,” Jison says, “the experience still resonated very deeply with me. For my fellow classmates who may have not ventured out of the Midwest or even the state, the impact the experience had on them cannot be overstated.”
CARLSON RANKS HIGHLY
Carlson ranked 12th overall in P&Q’s inaugural ranking, bolstered by a No. 5 spot in alumni satisfaction. The school placed 22nd in applications, with 586 new students in the fall of 2016 (a 28% acceptance rate), and 18th in outcomes, with 96.9% of students landing jobs within 90 days of graduation (a slight drop from 97.9% in 2015). Their average total compensation was $61,935 ($61,074 in 2015); remarkably, grads receiving signing bonuses — at such employers as UnitedHealth Group, Ernst and Young, Target, and KPMG — jumped more than 12% in one year, to 29.6%.
Calling Carlson a “fantastic value play,” Anthony Jison relates the story of how he chose Minnesota over the three other schools he was accepted to, including UCLA. “I ultimately whittled it down to the U of M or UCLA,” he says, “and the ultimate decision was based on a value factor: Attend the U of M — which in and of itself is less expensive than UCLA — where I received merit scholarships, or attend UCLA at ‘full price,’ where tuition alone is more than $50,000 per year, not including Los Angeles living costs. The decision to me was quite clear, given my family’s financial situation, and the fact that the disparity in national rankings between the two universities wasn’t that astronomical.”
Still, out-of-state tuition at Minnesota costs $103,379 for four years; an estimated total for cost of living for four years is $49,032, bringing the total cost of an education at Carlson to approximately $152,411. A full 64% of students received an average $8,623 in annual scholarship support, and 48% graduated with an average of $25,664 in student debt.
INITIATIVES AND EVOLUTION
Study abroad isn’t all that Carlson offers. New business students can choose between 10 majors: accounting, entrepreneurial management, finance, finance and risk management, human resources and industrial relations, international business, management information systems, marketing, public and nonprofit management, and supply chain management. Carlson’s experiential learning components are strongly woven into every program, with 24 courses featuring significant experiential learning, and more planned to be added to the mix — the result of Raj Singh’s stated intention upon taking over the undergrad program to scale up experiential offerings.
Carlson also is reaching out to women. The University of Minnesota student body is comprised of about 52% women, but the B-school has just 41%, and Singh says a program started two years ago to reach out to area high school juniors and seniors is designed to address the disparity. The idea of the one-week course, he says, “is not to teach them business but to get their curiosity going, so if they are thinking about something else, they can see a future here.” The course features women entrepreneurs and women CEOs from top firms located in Minneapolis, and targeted students are all “high-achieving women — if they apply they will get into the program.”
Changes at Carlson continue in other ways, Singh says, including a minor in business law introduced in 2015 and another in business analytics planned for fall 2017, the latter aimed at “giving students the extra edge of being uniquely qualified to talk the language of data sciences.” Efforts to smooth the transition of new students will include a freshman on-boarding experience that got a test run in 2016, when about 70 students were loaded onto two buses out of Chicago and taken on a four-day excursion to do community service projects at different locations.
“Our point was, they learned something about community service, but more importantly they learned something about their own community,” Singh says. “When they walk into their first class they will know at least 10, 15 people. They will already be a part of the Carlson family.”
WHAT ALUMNI SAY
“Carlson Consulting Enterprise allowed me to work with a team of full-time MBA students to perform consulting services for startups, mid-size, and Fortune 500 companies. It was a really great learning opportunity that helped prepare for full-time employment. I also did a semester-long study abroad in Singapore that was an incredible cultural immersion and opportunity to experience another part of the world.” — 2014 Carlson grad
“The study-abroad experience specifically focused on business abroad including an internship, was thoroughly engaging, and gave me an opportunity to see and work outside of my home culture, greatly expanding my outlook.” — 2014 Carlson grad
“A signature experience was in an Honors Program section of a business communications course. The entire course revolved around a project in which the class was divided into groups of three and four and given the task of partnering with a local small business or nonprofit to improve elements of their communications materials. The final deliverables varied based on the requirements of each individual organization, but it was an interesting project that essentially gave us firsthand experience of consulting, project management, etc.” — 2014 Carlson grad
Where the Class of 2016 went to work:
UnitedHealth Group: 26
Ernst & Young: 23
Wells Fargo: 13
Boom Labs: 12
General Mills: 11