At the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business, students begin their business education by thinking about ethics, inclusive leadership, and their self-identities and how it impacts their working style and communication. After all, these are the basic career building blocks to create great leaders and great organizations, said Jim Francone, assistant dean of the undergraduate program.
The Wisconsin experience is all about making sure students learn both inside and outside a classroom and work towards developing empathy and humility, intellectual confidence, relentless curiosity, and purposeful action. To do this, freshmen start the four-year program by taking the Personal and Professional Foundations in Business Course. In this course, students explore what it means to create their own personal brand, work on interview skills, and more. At the end of the semester, they are asked to use everything they’ve learned in a group project where they manage group dynamics to solve a case study around diversity.
“This is their springboard experience, the first common experience students have at Wisconsin. Then they go through the next three years in the school of business with a range of classes to choose from to build on the foundation of their leadership,” Franzone said. “It’s a one semester summary of who they are, what they want to do in their careers, and how they plan to achieve that. We want to empower them to make long term sustainable decisions.”
University of Wisconsin-Madison is a public research university located in Madison, Wisconsin, that was founded in 1848. In Fall 2018, the College of Business received an impressive 9,213 applications, and 2,444 were admitted to the undergraduate business program, giving it an acceptance rate of 35 percent. The total full-time enrollment for all business majors in Fall 2018 excluding minors and pre-business students was 3,097.
Students at the College of Business can choose to major in Accounting, Actuarial Science, Finance, Investment, and Banking, Information Systems, International Business, Management and Human Resources, Marketing, Operations and Technology Management, Real Estate and Urban Land Economics, and Risk Management and Insurance.
The school estimates that the total four-year cost of attending including tuition and fees paid by a graduate in the Class of 2018 was $45,848 for in-state students, and $63,170 for out-of-state students. In-state students paid an additional $58,348 in expenses for food, lodging, transportation, and supplies, while out-of-state students paid an additional $59,558. Of the incoming Fall 2018 business student cohort, 40 percent of them received some form of scholarship support once they were accepted into the business school, with the average scholarship amount for students at $10,521.
LEARNING PROFESSIONAL FUNDAMENTALS AND MANNERS
Another way in which the College of Business at University of Wisconsin-Madison is strategizing to give students more opportunities to brush up their soft skills is through the required Professional Communications class. The course was recently revised to focus on helping students become skilled in analyzing audiences, contexts, and discourse communities. Students are also trained on how to adapt their communication to various audiences and purposes to establish professional credibility and build trust, as well as collaborate on cross-functional and diverse peer review teams.
“We were finding that students today need to be more than just technically competent when they earn a degree,” Brian Mayhew, associate dean of undergraduate program, said. “We want to plant the seeds on leadership and identity early on and get them to think of their careers early on so they can go to the right places on campus to build that career.”
The class teaches students the approaches to take to be more persuasive and compelling in arguments.
“The big thing is to be able to sell your ideas and insights to leaders above you,” Mayhew said. “Employers constantly communicate the importance of being able to sell thoughts and arguments, and we want to know that when our students become leaders, there will be effective communicators in the C-suite.”
ENROLLING HIGH AMOUNTS OF FIRST-GENERATION COLLEGE STUDENTS
One thing that’s notable is that the school reported a high 16.3 percent of their incoming Fall 2018 students were first-generation college students, almost 8 percent of them were international students, and another 8 percent of them identified as belonging to underrepresented minority groups.
To better support these students who bring with them diverse backgrounds and experiences that enrich the classroom discussion, the school has a Business Emerging Leaders (BEL) Program, specifically designed for promising high-school students in their sophomore year and meet every summer for three years and experience life on campus before they are due to start college.
The program was started four years ago and brings to Wisconsin highly talented first generation college students, or students from underrepresented minority groups. High school students who are selected get access and exposure to all the departments and majors in the business school, even going on treks to learn more about the opportunities in business, before going to college. Earlier this year, BEL participants visited firms including Google and General Electric. Those who complete the program, apply and are admitted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison are offered a full scholarship.
“We want these students to see a range of opportunities do they can make an informed choice on their career paths. We also help them with things like their ACT prep if they join the program,” Franzone said. “The first cohort, where we took 30 students, was just admitted to UW. Out of the 25 who gained admittance, 21 of them decided to come.”
GLOBAL EXPERIENCES AND STUDENT CLUBS
While at the College of Business, students have ample opportunity to travel abroad and get a global business experience. In 2018, the school’s International Business major was reduced from 43 to 24 credits to help make it more doable for students. This is because all students who are International Business majors also have another major, Franzone explained. “International business as a standalone major doesn’t have enough substance to it, you need some form of technical expertise, whether it’s finance, marketing, management or something else,” he said.
International Business majors at Wisconsin must spend a semester abroad at a location within the region of emphasis. The university offers 185 opportunities for students to study abroad, which the school offers 30 business-specific opportunities. In a response conducted by P&Q among alumni of the Class of 2016, 30 percent of students said that they got to travel abroad while working on their undergraduate degrees, from Germany and Spain, to China and Cuba.
Nichole Springer, a Marketing and International Business major from the Class of 2016, traveled to Thailand as part of a study abroad program where she says she learned about the culture of Thailand, and also about global business in the local market. She was also part of a class that traveled to Cuba over spring break as a “field visit”. “I feel that I have a better sense of Cuba’s history and the US involvement in things like business, culture, and relations,” she said.
Stephanie Volesky, a marketing major with a specialization in supply chain management and a leadership certificate, went on a ten-day Global Experience trip to Germany to study the supply chain auto industry. Today, she is corporate buyer at Kohler Company.
Of the Class of 2016, over 60 percent of those who responded to the P&Q survey said that they would recommend the Wisconsin undergraduate business program to friends and colleagues without hesitation. Almost 40 percent said they felt the program had prepared them exceptionally well for the world of work, and more than 50 percent believed that their business degree was absolutely worth its cost in tuition.
Also new in 2018, the College of Business has shared that they will be beginning a program to support students financially who engage in internship experiences, thanks to the support of a generous donor. The support will specifically help students with financial need and in the event that they are offered particularly attractive but unpaid internships. Some of the funds will also be used to support student business clubs and organizations in organizing employer treks, and to provide wraparound advising services to help students prepare for their internships and make the most of it.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison also has 40 business-specific student organizations for students to join to find out their interests, meet like-minded peers, and even practice leading others. One of the main organizations of the business school is the Wisconsin Undergraduate Business Council, where student leaders being the needs and wants of the student body to the faculty and staff to build a school they dream of. Other organizations include the Capital Management Club, where students learn about investing in stocks through a five week training program. Members of the club pitch their research and make recommendations on stocks to buy, and where a majority of 60 percent of members and above agree, the club then uses part of the $100,000 real money portfolio to make a purchase. Students with an interest in an investment banking career can join the Investment Banking Club, where they will learn about valuation methods, case analysis and firm research, get a chance to attend speaker forums and engage in mock interviews, and get a foot in the door to one of the most competitive industries by joining either the club’s New York City, Chicago, or San Francisco visit.
And to further help their business graduates know what to expect when they walk into boardrooms and interviews, Franzone says that the school’s career advisors are assigned to academic majors where they do site visits every summer where their alumni are present to learn what the industry is looking for, what companies need, and what students should be to be sought after.
The College of Business has over 15,000 alumni on it’s LinkedIn network, where Franzone says current students are always encouraged to reach out to alums. In fact, over 40 percent of alums from the Class of 2016 said they felt their school did an exceptional job at connecting them with practicing professionals.
“We connect our recent graduates with alumni to leverage our worldwide global network to help them advance in their careers,” said David Giroux, Chief Communications Officer at the college, said. “Whether a business graduate ends up in London, SF, Miami, or Hong Kong, they’re going to find a friendly face nearby. Badgers take care of one another.”
What Alumni Say
“My capstone project in the Information Systems major spanned across the two final courses for the major. In the first semester we created the back end databases and framework for a business on campus. Giving us an opportunity to network with businesses and practice writing an IT focused business charter. In the second semester, working with the same business we developed a web interface that utilized our databases from the previous semester. Overall, it was a great way to see the start to end progression of formulating a business charter, developing all necessary IT applications, and then presenting that value to the business.” – Class of 2016 alum
“I was a part of the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Project through the Actuarial Science program at Wisconsin. This program’s primary goal was to help students pursuing the actuarial field prepare for actuarial exams. Actuarial exams are notably difficult, and the TEL project was integral in helping students pass exams by providing students online practice problems and lessons catered specifically towards exam syllabi.” – Class of 2016 alum
“In the International Real Estate class, my classmates and I had opportunity to travel to Munich to attend the Real Estate Expo – Europe’s largest real estate conference. We had the chance to speak with Europe’s leading Real Estate professionals, many of them UW – Madison alumni. The capstone project of the class was an independent research study of an asset class in Europe. My group focused our study on the comparison of investment in student housing between the United States and Europe.” – Class of 2016 alum
Where The Class Of 2018 Went To Work:
Epic Systems Corporation
Kohl’s Department Stores
J.P. Morgan Chase