Students who attend the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah have the best of many worlds. The campus is located in Salt Lake City, at the base of the Wasatch Mountains, barely 30 minutes from several world-class ski resorts, and some of the best quality—and quantity—snow in the American West. During the summer, trails leaving campus into the Wasatch provide opportunities for hiking, running, mountain biking, and rock climbing. Utah is also home to five national parks and millions of acres of public land and is a outdoors-person’s playground.
But the Eccles School isn’t just about nature. The university overlooks the bustling metropolitan downtown of Salt Lake City that Forbes ranked No. 1 on their list of list of Cities Poised to Become Tomorrow’s Tech Meccas. It’s no surprise to anyone who has kept tabs on the tech pulse that since Ebay opened its 241,000-square-foot facility in the city in 2013, venture capitalists have offered over $1 billion in seed money to Utah-based startups. It’s also natural then that Entrepreneur magazine has ranked Salt Lake City as No. 1 in their list of Hot Startup Cities that aren’t San Francisco or New York.
“Eccles School of Business is a place where you’re inspired to learn,” Mary Wilcox, a graduate of the class of 2015, says. “We’re encouraged to explore the world, try things out, test our ideas and think like a business person.
Wilcox, who graduated with a degree in Marketing, now works as a Mobile Marketing Manager with Overstock.com.
NEW INSTITUTE FOR ECONOMICS AND QUANTITATIVE ANALYSIS LAUNCHED THIS FALL
At the Eccles School, students can choose from nine areas of focus: accounting, business administration, marketing, finance, entrepreneurship, information systems, management, operations management, and quantitative analysis of markets and organizations.
The school is named after businessman and industrialist David Eccles who founded over 50 successful businesses and was Utah’s first multi-millionaire. Since the 1960s, the Eccles family has given over $1 billion to causes in Utah and in August 2017, it was announced that descendants of David’s son, Marriner Eccles, had decided to help establish an Economics Institute at the University of Utah with a $10 million donation. The institute, to be an interdisciplinary division of the Eccles School, has been dubbed the Marriner S. Eccles Institute for Economics and Quantitative Analysis. The Charles Koch Foundation matched the gift with a $10 million donation for a combined gift of $20 million and the school launched it in Fall 2017.
At the announcement, Taylor Randall, dean of the Eccles School, told the school community: “This institute will take the school and the University to another level of distinction, bringing leading economists into the Eccles School’s ranks who will enhance student learning in area including economic thought and quantitative analysis, unlocking opportunities for them in a wide range of careers.”
Randall has been leading the Eccles School since 2009 and since then, the school has steadily climbed the ranks. In 2013, the school made Forbes’ Best Business School Rankings for the first time, and in 2015, the school’s accounting program was named in the top 25 programs by Public Accounting Report. To better serve student’s needs, the Spencer Fox Eccles Business Building, a state-of-the-art $72 million, eight-story classroom and administrative building was designed, constructed and opened in 2013. And in August 2016, the school helped open a $45 million space for student entrepreneurs and innovators.
UTAH’S NEW DIGS FOR STUDENT ENTREPRENEURS
Unique to the university and landscape is the school’s Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute. The architects were intentional, knowing the wear and tear that can happen in an extreme climate like the mountains. Right now, the building has a copper tone. But with time and age, architects say the building will collect a green patina and after 25 to 30 years, the building will likely be a pale shade of green.
On the inside, the five-story copper-clad building was designed to be a space where up to 400 students of all majors can live in the same space, ideate, experiment, and launch businesses together. It’s been a year since its launch and the institute’s first residents finished up their first academic year in the building in May 2017.
Megan Glassman was one of 1,300 students who applied to occupant the space from 2016 to 2017. While there, she launched her own company selling unique, geometric art installations for homes and offices. The idea came to her while she was creating murals from tape to decorate bedrooms at Lassonde Studios.
“We want to give every student on campus a transformative experience through entrepreneurship,” Randall told Utah Business. “With Lassonde Studios, we now have the space and resources to provide this experience to every student at the University of Utah. We don’t think any other university provides the same amount of resources and opportunities to student entrepreneurs.”
Before it’s opening, the space that also hosts a monthly seed grant program, maker program, expert consulting meetings, and all kinds of competitions, was featured in media outlets including Fast Company and Bloomberg Businessweek. Today, the building has won many design awards and been named one of nine best new university buildings in the world by Architectural Digest.
The growth of the Eccles School has not gone unnoticed and in 2017, it once again ranked as a top-25 school for entrepreneurship by Princeton Review. The university was also ranked as the No. 1 college for aspiring entrepreneurs by lendEDU and the No. 1 university for technology commercialization by independent economic think-tank, Milken Institute.
MULTIPLE SCHOLARSHIP OPTIONS FOR HIGH-ACHEIVING STUDENTS
Other than supporting the entrepreneurs among them, Eccles School also does a good job of recognizing potential and maximizing it. The University of Utah reports that it gives out over $5 million in scholarships each year and over 80% of students in the school’s honors-level, Business Scholar Program receive some form of scholarship.
High-achieving incoming freshmen are encouraged to apply to the Business Scholar Program and as soon as they complete their freshman introductory business courses, the team will go on an international trip. During their sophomore year, the scholars take Business Scholar Selection Classes and go on a study-abroad trip as part of the program. As they enter their junior years, the scholars will be expected to declare their majors and begin picking up internships before spending their senior year completing the courses required for their major and hopefully accepting a job offer. The school reports that almost 90% of students in the Business Scholar Program are placed in careers after graduation with an average starting salary of $53,000.
Nikki Christensen, from the Class of 2015, says the opportunity to travel in the U.S. as well as internationally, to Japan, Germany, and France, was an invaluable learning opportunity. As part of the Business Scholars Program, she also represented the university and school globally, networked with professionals, and studied companies closely. Today, she works as a tax staff accountant at Ernst & Young, one of the school’s top employers.
For students who find that the cost of a good education like the one at Eccles is too much, the First Ascent Scholarship, created in partnership with the Jeff and Helen Cardon Foundation, is a program intended to help students focus on school. First Ascent Scholars are expected to give back to the community through volunteer work, collaborate with a mentor, and take part in First Ascent Scholar activities such as a mandatory travel immersion program to broaden their horizons and attend a speaker series.
If you’re a first-generation college student looking for a guide through the maze of resources while at Eccles, the Opportunity Scholars Program includes engaging local middle and high schools, attending socials and career summits and a graduation trip. The program also provides tutors and mentors, access to internships, counseling, and financial services.
IMPROVEMENTS TO BE MADE IN GLOBAL IMMERSIONS, EXPERIENCES
Of the 72 Eccles alumni who responded to Poets&Quants’ survey, only 12% said they were engaged in a global immersion trip or project abroad of any kind through the business school. Seeking to change this, the school recently launched the Eccles Global Learning Abroad program to prepare their students to compete internationally.
The program is separated into Fall, Spring, and Summer programs where students can choose to spend a full semester, a half semester, or a summer abroad. In 2018, both the Fall and Spring programs are headed to London, but the Summer program offers many more options including Paris, Barcelona, Rome, and Prague.
“The faculty at Eccles come from all over the world and have a ton of experience,” Wilcox says. “They are not satisfied with anything other than success from every student and will do whatever it takes to support you.”
Under the leadership of Randall, it is clear that Eccles School of Business will continue to evolve to bring students to new places and greater spaces. Almost 95% of alumni surveyed said they would recommend the school to friends and family interested in getting a business education and why not, when at Eccles, they understand the value of return on investment.