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Before this fall, the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business offered five business majors. When they choose majors in the spring, second-year UND students who entered the college this fall will have the choice of a sixth: business analytics.
The addition of the new major is one of the biggest changes in years at the college — but by no means the only one — and represents an acknowledgement of the direction both students and faculty want business education to go, says Dale Nees, assistant dean for undergraduate studies.
“We’ve been working towards the new major for a while now,” Nees says of the major that has joined accountancy, finance, information technology management, management consulting, and marketing on the menu of options. “We’ve had it on the graduate school side and of course most faculty teach both sides, so the courses have been evolving and now we’re ramping up on the undergraduate side.
“It’s one thing that it seems there’s been a lot of interest in. When you talk with prospectives, a lot of people are talking about it, especially recruiters, so this is a growing field and that’s probably one of the bigger things that’s out there for us.”
MAJOR AND MINOR ADJUSTMENTS
Allowing Mendoza to strengthen resources devoted to business analytics, the college has reorganized the Department of Management into two departments, Management & Organization and IT, Analytics, and Operations, to “facilitate both differentiation and expansion of the various disciplines that fall under the ‘management’ umbrella,” says Peggy Bolstetter, assistant director of rankings and communications at Mendoza.
It’s not that business analytics has been ignored at Mendoza, home to 1,881 undergraduate business students in fall 2016. Much of the material has been covered in the school’s information technology management major — “probably our largest growing major here,” Nees says — but that major didn’t cover the demand in the application of technology and the application of data from a business perspective. “And so our department had been looking at that for a while, and on the graduate side it went out first and that kind set the tone.”
Of course, adjustments are occurring all the time at Mendoza, as they are anywhere else, Nees says. Other recent ones include the introduction three years ago of an innovation and entrepreneurship minor, a demotion in name only from when Management Entrepreneurship held major status. “We discovered that while only about 20 students a year would want to take that as a major, yet a lot of the other fields, like accounting and finance, had an interest in entrepreneurship. So we took a hard look at that and said, ‘Why don’t we come up with a minor that everybody can take whether you’re a finance major, an accountancy major, or whatever else?’” Which is what they did — with surprising results. While the innovation and entrepreneurship major used to be 12 credits of entrepreneurial courses with a nine-credit managerial base, the new minor takes 15 credit hours of all entrepreneurial courses. “So those opting to take that as a minor actually get more courses in entrepreneurship — and as a result we have doubled the amount of people who are pursuing that versus the major, to about 40 per year.”
Part of the reason for the increased interest, Bolstetter says, is that replacing the management entrepreneurship major with the innovation and entrepreneurship minor allowed all disciplines to participate in that area of study.
Of course, no one can take any Mendoza business courses until after their freshman year at Notre Dame, and only after being accepted to the college. But freshmen do get an overview of business options even before joining the B-school.
Those options include 22 courses with significant experiential learning, up to seven required depending on major, and 10 courses with global components, including semester-abroad options in such places as Singapore, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, China, and all over Europe. Some 60% of students graduating from Mendoza in 2016 did so with global experience.
Moreover, Mendoza students aren’t confined to the college’s offerings — in fact they are actively encouraged to expand their knowledge base. “One of the things we pride ourselves on here at Notre Dame is having a base liberal education where half of the coursework is inside the liberal studies and half inside of business,” Nees tells Poets&Quants. “It’s very easy for a Mendoza student here at Notre Dame to get the full business discipline whatever field they’re interested in — be a finance major and add on an innovation/entrepreneurship minor, for example, and without any difficulty whatsoever have an ability to get second majors in just about anything.” Except, he adds, engineering and architecture. “That would be a bridge too far I think,” he says with a laugh.
MORE DOUBLE MAJORS
Last year, Notre Dame completed a university-wide curriculum review and announced “substantial” changes. But, as Nees says, from the Mendoza standpoint the changes are incremental at best. “The highlights are more flexibility across different disciplines in the courses that students would take to satisfy their core,” he says. “They’ve gone to try and integrate more across the disciplines to give students more options, and as a result, while we’ve always had a lot of flexibility, I think we’ve even gained more.”
The changes are likely to result in more students across the university pursuing second majors or even additional minors, Nees says — nothing new at Mendoza, which historically has had about 40% of students do a second major outside the college. “And I can see where that will very easily grow even further because of this,” he adds, where more students will pursue second majors…and or additional minors.
No matter the changes, Mendoza will continue to insist in a balance of half business, half liberal studies, Bolstetter says, with students offered a significant number of free electives. Embedded in the course content, she says, is an underpinning of the ideals of community, human development, and integrity that go back to the founding of the college in 1921.
Among other innovations in recent years, Mendoza has introduced optional concentrations to allow further specialization in fields of high interest, and all students are now required to take a research-based course titled Junior Research Challenge: Foresight in Business and Society, which involves identifying and evaluating major issues and trends impacting society, as well as exploring potential business implications that can drive sustainable innovation.
The school also has several initiatives in California, Nees says, part of expanding the Notre Dame brand into new regions. “We’re recognized as a national university, and we’ve done a pretty good job of expanding into the Northeast, so now we’re trying to grow that expansion out into the West, into the tech sectors and stuff like that,” he says. Part of that effort will involve “study abroad” opportunities in Palo Alto, home of Silicon Valley.
“There are a lot of initiatives up in the Bay Area,” Nees says. “There’s a lot of university-wide stuff on the tech side. And we’re always looking for ways to bring the business side into opportunities.”
As for actual study-abroad opportunities, Mendoza offers more than just its 10 global courses. Its Global Business Scholars program, introduced in spring 2016, established a cohort of students from the college to study at two of the top-ranked international schools of business, Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, and National University of Singapore, over three consecutive semesters.
NO. 2 IN THE RANKINGS
As a result of its huge popularity with alumni and strong input standing, Mendoza placed second overall in Poets&Quants’ inaugural in-house undergraduate business school rankings. Placing fifth in inputs — the college average SAT/ACT was on the high end of the P&Q survey at 1460/34 — and first among alums, Mendoza is soaring.
In outcomes, however, the school placed only 13th, with 93% of 2015 grads securing jobs within 90 days, at an average salary of $60,000, plus an average bonus of $12,562. Top employers were Ernst and Young (38 Mendoza grads), Deloitte (29), PwC (26), and JP Morgan (13).
They needed those high salaries: Four years of tuition at Notre Dame/Mendoza cost the Class of 2016 $181,742, and the total estimated cost was $245,258. Some 56% of students received aid in the amount of $38,080 on average — among the highest of reporting schools in the P&Q survey.
BACK TO THOSE HAPPY ALUMS
But Mendoza’s alums are almost universally happy, and Nees says the reason is deep-seated and historical.
“It starts with the residents’ life and how they connect, and all the students just really seem to gravitate toward each other,” says Nees, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and thought that campus had the strongest camaraderie imaginable. Until he came to Notre Dame, that is. “It’s just a whole different feel.”
It starts with the environment on campus. It causes them to connect better with their fellow students, their class, the university. They get that bond which carries forward when they leave here, and as a result, the alumni that leave here stay connected back here.
“I have alumni fighting to come back — CEOs, CFOs, partners, managing partners, global CEOs. They engage our students more than I can sometimes even handle. And you see a lot of that interaction and they’re very engaged in bringing along the next generation of graduates, and it just keeps building.”
This explains Mendoza’s huge 27,546 undergraduate alumni network. “Our alumni network is very expansive,” Nees says, “and I think the nature of this university, what separates us from a lot of universities, is a level of camaraderie that most universities and colleges don’t come close to.”
You won’t find too many Mendoza alums who disagree. In fact, you won’t find many who find fault with their alma mater in any way.
Nicole Zhang, member of the Class of 2014 and currently vice president of business development and marketing at Prairie Tubulars 2015 Inc. of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, says the connection goes deeper than your typical student-school relationship.
“Not only does Mendoza highly prepare its students with the business knowledge and skills to be successful in any industry that they choose to work in,” says the former Management Entrepreneurship major, “but Mendoza has taught us to be ethical, team players, and leaders in the business world. I’m not exaggerating — I think about how thankful I am to have done my undergraduate studies at Mendoza every single day. I am thankful for the wonderful, life-long friends that I have met at Mendoza and the person that I have become because of the amazing mentors that I had.”
Adds Kirsten Conrath, also a 2014 Mendoza grad and now strategic change analyst at BP: “What I didn’t realize was that my time in Mendoza would also help me discover and develop my talent in the relationship side of business. The way classes are structured allows for many group project opportunities, which are key to developing the soft skills that have helped to propel my career thus far, especially in the project management and networking space. Frequent presentations and classes dedicated to broadening public speaking capability (like Management Communication) helped me to hone my presentation skills to the point where I am very comfortable speaking to large groups in my office.”
WHAT ALUMNI SAY
“Our semester-long Foresight course, primarily built around a group project, enabled me to do deep-dive research into any industry to study disruptions and changes. The class was also my first college course group project that required numerous follow-ups within the same group, so that we were able to learn and grow with each other instead of simply turning in one project and then finishing.
I also studied abroad in Accra, Ghana. Given that I was interested in international development, this experience enabled me to tailor the standard business curriculum into the field I was most interested in and paired nicely with my Poverty Studies minor. This was instrumental in winning my job at an international development nonprofit where I regularly work with those in developing nations, including Ghana.” — Class of 2014 Grad
“Through the Student International Business Council, I learned very practical business skills and was able to network with FT professionals. Through a study abroad in London, I took international business courses to learn a non-U.S. perspective and earn an International Business Certificate. I also formed own group focused on consulting for United Way and learned how to deal with consulting relationships.” — Class of 2014 Grad
“A signature experience was a class focused solely on simulating the management and operations of running an actual business, with particular emphasis on competition among other firms in the same market.” — Class of 2014 Grad
Where the Class of 2015 went to work:
JP MORGAN: 13
Bank of America: 11
Goldman Sachs: 9
Nielsen Company: 8