Nearly 100 years after its doors were first opened in 1922, Villanova School of Business dean Joyce Russell says that what’s hot in business school education right now is business analytics. “Anything with data,” she said in a recent interview shortly after becoming the first-ever female dean in the school’s history. “They [students] know that no matter what they end up doing, they need to have analytics.”
TRADEMARKS OF THE CURRICULUM: HOLISTIC AND EXPERIENTIAL
To prepare them, the business school — which goes by the abbreviation “VSB” — recently added a required Business Analytics course to its curriculum to teach students how to use business intelligence and quantitative methods for decision-making and problem solving inside organizations. The course teaches analytics using real-world business techniques such as statistical analysis, forecasting, extrapolation, predictive modeling, optimization, and simulation.
Taken as a whole, the VSB undergraduate program — which was ranked No. 1 by BusinessWeek in 2016 — is known for intertwining disciplines so students can gain a holistic understanding of how businesses work.
VSB students begin taking business courses the very first year they arrive on Villanova’s suburban Philadelphia campus. Six majors are offered for students to choose from (Accounting, Economics, Finance, Management Information Systems, and Marketing) and a variety of other subjects for them to add a double major or a minor. These include Business Analytics, International Business, Real Estate, Business Law, and Entrepreneurship. The curriculum is loaded with team teaching, simulations, and it’s balanced with 50% of courses rooted in Liberal Arts & Sciences.
Another hallmark of Villanova’s business school curriculum: experiential learning. Within experiential learning, the standout course that alumni often can’t stop raving about is Competitive Effectiveness.
SIGNATURE ‘COMPETITIVE EFFECTIVENESS’ COURSE GETS RAVE REVIEWS
The purpose, says Jennifer Whinney — the school’s Director of Accreditation & Strategic Initiatives — is to “Make a strong, concrete, graspable link between the core concepts of both marketing and management, and teach students to learn concepts from multiple disciplines by working on real problems.”
The class pairs students with regional executives local to the business school area and enables them to pitch marketing campaigns, market research, competitive analyses, and budget proposals to the execs. The experience has such an impact on students that it is repeatedly cited when alumni are asked to recall the one experience that was most influential to their business education.
“The course is a semester-long project where students work with a local company on a real-world issue facing the business, in a marketing and product design capacity,” said one alum. “My class worked with Vanguard to design a fund to market to college students. It was incredibly valuable learning not only about the types of jobs at a company, but gave me confidence I was capable of solving real-world problems post-graduation.”
“The Competitive Effectiveness course taught me about the challenges that come with working on a team with different personalities and skill sets,” said another grad. “But I learned to value the contributions of others and find ways to incorporate their gifts and perspectives to create an imaginative and innovative service. Additionally, I grew professionally and personally from being exposed to diverse perspectives that I did not always agree with, but could understand and respect.”
NEW ‘BACKPACK TO BRIEFCASE’ SHARPENS PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SKILLS
One might suspect that being appreciative of diverse perspectives and incorporating others isn’t an accidental outcome. Following the footsteps of the university’s founding on the Augustinian values of truth, community, caring, and leading through service, this business school is known for infusing ethics throughout all of its programs and has branded itself with the tagline “Business Leaders for a Better World.” VSB’s deep ethical roots date back to the school’s founding nearly a century ago. Yet there’s another, more recent adjustment the school has made to enhance its curriculum and make students more prepared to face the real business world.
Villanova recently introduced a series of one-credit professional development courses called “Backpack to Briefcase” or, B2B. Backpack to Briefcase is a new addition to VSB’s core curriculum requirements, spans the four-year duration of the undergrad program, and is focused on prepping students for success as business professionals.
“B2B is our vehicle for advancing professional development, beginning in students’ first business class—Business Dynamics—in the fall of freshman year,” Whinney told Poets&Quants. “Each year of the program, students will gain practical strategies and skills for professional success.”
Freshman year of B2B teaches students to utilize spreadsheets for business. Students are also required to earn Bloomberg Certification through completion of a self-paced e-learning program that gives an introduction to financial markets.
“Additionally, students participate in and reflect on professional development activities related to exploration of majors, college planning, career exploration and professional skill building. Critical written communication techniques are developed. Each student also crafts a professional resume and participates in a networking etiquette workshop called The Art of Mixing and Mingling,” Whinney said.
Second year students take a course focused on career exploration, internship and job searching strategies, developing their personal brand, conducting an informational interview, and honing their interviewing skills.
In their junior year, VSB students form small groups to take part in an internal case competition. Written and verbal communication skills, analysis, team dynamics, and leadership permeate this course experience and students submit an executive summary at the end.
Finally, the capstone year of the B2B curriculum places seniors in a series of social, professional, and spiritual activities designed to unify the graduating class and prepare them for life after graduation.
TOP RECRUITERS AND LIFE AFTER VSB
For Villanova business school’s class of 2017, post-grad life saw an average starting salary of $63,144 and an average signing bonus of $7,448. Three months prior to graduation day, approximately 88% already had jobs confirmed. The school’s most favorable recruiters? The Big Four accounting firms. In both 2016 and 2017, VSB saw its highest number of graduates head off to PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, and KPMG.
“VSB is dedicated to providing a highly relevant and experiential education so students graduate with the tools necessary to excel in the workplace,” said Whinney.
WHAT ALUMNI SAY:
“Group projects were key part of the curriculum. Studied abroad twice and the experiences completely changed my life.” – Class of 2015 alum
“A lot of my coursework was group work/projects. In particular, Competitive Effectiveness was a six-credit class surrounding a group project sophomore year.” – Class of 2015 alum
“For many of my finance classes, we were assigned projects to evaluate stocks and portfolios using the Bloomberg terminals which allowed me to get a deeper understanding of “real-world” application for the skills we were taught in class.” – Class of 2015 alum
“During my sophomore year, I was in the pioneer program for BCIC. The international experience broadened my interests and spurred me to search for a career in a field other than the traditional finance and accounting roles VSB students usually find themselves in (Not that there’s anything wrong with them – that path was not for me). I am now in graduate school, specializing in a niche degree that will hopefully allow me to use my finance degree from VSB and continue working with the UN. My team works on coordinating, proposing, evaluating, and monitoring investment projects in poverty stricken areas throughout the world.” – Class of 2015 alum
“Marketing classes that made you become a talented presenter and public speaker.” – Class of 2015 alum
“In my coursework, I completed classes with both a real life business project in which we worked with companies to develop marketing plans, and I also had a class in which we competed in marketing simulations. I feel both of these experiences helped prepare me for the work world in meeting employer’s expectations and delivering what is asked. It has also greatly helped in giving presentations.” – Class of 2015 alum
Where the Class of 2017 went to work:
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC): 36
JPMorgan Chase & Co.: 13
Morgan Stanley: 6
Bank of America Merrill Lynch: 5
Goldman Sachs & Co.: 5