Checking in at 21st place on Poets&Quants’ inaugural ranking of undergraduate business programs is a liberal arts gem. The University of Richmond Robins School of Business totally embraces its liberal arts strength from the university as a whole. In fact, students must successfully complete one-and-a-half years of liberal arts coursework before declaring one of three majors offered within the Robins School.
“We are a business school that’s part of a highly-ranked national liberal arts college,” says Jim Monks, the associate dean of undergraduate business programs at Richmond. “And that’s very unusual. There are only a few of us around the country that have that same combination.” Monks says the B-school leverages the liberal arts strength by requiring all business students to complete half of their courses in liberal arts. “We know we’re unique in that regard and make it a strength for our business students,” Monks insists. “We think that’s a real important and integral part of their overall education and something that makes them better business students.”
Once in the business school, students may choose between majors in business administration, accounting, and economics. Within the majors, students may decide on one of six concentrations ranging from accounting to marketing to international business.
While the business school boasts more students at the University of Richmond than any other department, Robins still features a relatively small class size, enrolling 236 students this year. This, Monks points out, allows faculty and staff to really get to know the students. Indeed, class sizes stay around 20 students. Plus, the academic advisor-to-student ratio also stays around one advisor to 20 students.
“Every faculty member knows all of their students by name,” says Monks, noting he could name all 24 of the students in his class. Another unique perk to the University of Richmond is The Richmond Guarantee, which promises every student $4,000 for an internship or research project with faculty.
ROBINS RANKS NEAR THE TOP IN FACULTY ACCESSIBILITY AND MENTORSHIP OUTSIDE OF CLASS
That commitment is certainly paying off. Robins’ graduating Class of 2014 polled by Poets&Quants rated the faculty’s availability for mentoring and meetings outside of normal class time higher than any other category with a score of 9.73 on a one-to-ten scale. Only three other schools surveyed by Poets&Quants notched higher ratings in the category at the time.
“I think it’s unusual to have faculty request more time with their students outside of class time, but that’s indicative to the level of commitment our faculty have to the students,” says Monks, noting he constantly receives requests from faculty to reserve classrooms in the evenings and on weekends.
Monks believes another factor for the school’s high rating could be the teacher-scholar model emphasized at Robins. “I think we do the teacher-scholar model really well,” Monks believes. “I think we have some outstanding teachers in our classrooms and they’ve won some awards to give us evidence of that.”
Robins has also created its own internal awards — the Robins Teaching Fellows and Robins Research Merit Awards — to incentivize and acknowledge strong teaching and research. Not only are professors spending time outside of class with students, “they are also publishing in top-tier journals,” Monks points out.
EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING AND STUDY ABROAD ARE REAL PRIORITIES AT ROBINS
Another aspect that Monks and the school touts is its emphasis on experiential education. One way in which students can tap into experiential learning is through the school’s Center for Active Business Education. The Center organizes trips like Spiders on Wall Street for Robins students looking to visit Wall Street firms in New York City and short-term study abroad trips to the Middle East, London, and Latin America. “There are a lot of trips we take to show the application outside of the classroom,” Monks notes.
Also housed under the Center’s umbrella is the Student Managed Investment Fund — a $300K fund for seniors in high academic standing. The Next Generation Investors is another student-run fund that “employs a top-down investment strategy to manage a portfolio of exchange traded funds,” according to the school’s website. Students also have opportunities to participate in multiple business and case competitions through the organization of the Center.
Monks was also quick to note the school’s 11 student organizations. The organizations range from Entrepreneurship Club to Finance Society to Portfolio Management Group. Also included is the Lakeside Consulting Group (LCG). Members of LCG have the opportunity to provide solutions to real operations and strategy problems to local businesses. At the end of the semester in which students participate, teams present final plans for implementation to their clients.
Studying abroad is also a popular choice for Robins students. Monks says over half of students at the Robins School study abroad during their junior year. Impressively, 54 of the University of Richmond’s 83 study abroad opportunities are business specific. “We do international business really well,” Monks insists, also noting the school sends 60 students on a foreign exchange program each semester.
MORE THAN HALF OF B-SCHOOL STUDENTS RECEIVE SCHOLARSHIPS FOR AN AVERAGE OF $38,115
Richmond Robins is one of the few private schools on Poets&Quants ranking of top undergraduate business schools that offers a degree in four years for less than $200K. Tuition and fees total for the graduating Class of 2017 was $189,510. Considering 55% of the entering Class of 2017 were awarded scholarships at an average of $39,267, at least half of the class can earn the degree for relatively cheap.
Only 35% of the graduating Class of 2017 left the school with debt. The average was a relatively low $26,562. Robins also reports solid career stats. Some 84% of the graduating Class of 2017 had internships before their senior years. And 97.75% of that class secured a job within three months of graduation — a slight drop from 98.88% for the Class of 2016. Out of those securing positions, the average starting salary reported was $60,795, again a slight drop from 2016’s $60,952.
Of course, as Monks points out, a college decision involves much more to consider than employment outcomes. For high school students considering business education, Monks says to leave the opportunity door open.
“You really don’t know where you’re going to be in 20 years and so it’s important to leave as many possibilities open for yourself as possible,” he says. “Don’t be so sure you want to go into commercial real estate of investment banking at 17 years old, because you change and the world changes.”
“I think what’s challenging and exciting in business is how rapid change is,” Monks continues, noting upstarts like Airbnb and Uber. “If you specialize too narrowly in one thing, you have no idea how long that one thing is going to be around. The best preparation for rapid change is to be ready for it with a broad education.”
WHAT ALUMNI SAY
“A signature experience was a hands-on new venture creation project where we started a business. I learned how to use iterative-driven design to cater to customers’ needs, while cultivating a sustainable business model geared towards stakeholder value creation.” – Class of 2014 alum
“The student managed investment fund (SMIF) where I was one of 12 business school students selected to actively manage a portion of the university’s endowment. This was a crucial point of differentiation in my Wall Street interviews, and I believe, landed me my first job in equity research.” – Class of 2014 alum
“Our Capstone course, as well as several smaller consulting projects conducted throughout the semesters where we helped to support local businesses provided an opportunity to help better understand businesses, their partner’s needs and the costs associated with conducting these decisions, instead of simply making recommendations or dictating a course of action as was common in textbook examples.” – Class of 2014 alum
Where the Class of 2017 went to work:
PwC – 18
EY – 15
Deloitte – 10
Capital One – 7
Vanguard – 6
KPMG – 4
The Advisory Board Company – 4
Harris Williams & Co – 3
HSBC – 3
JP Morgan – 3
Veris Consulting – 3