Honors Programs Go Extra Mile to Draw Top Students

Hofstra University’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business

Hofstra University’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business


Hofstra University’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business in Hempstead, New York, started its undergraduate business honors program — the Dean’s Business Scholars Program — four years ago, seeking to draw more high-caliber students to campus, says Gioia Bales, an associate dean at the Zarb School. Incoming students are invited to the program based on their high school academic record, and more students can join the program their sophomore or junior year if they meet certain GPA requirements, she says. Of the school’s 1,500 undergraduates, only about 120 are admitted each year to the scholars program.

“We started the program because we wanted to provide enrichment opportunities to our highest-achieving students,” Bales says. “We also felt it was a way to attract our higher-achieving students to study at the Zarb School. Many of our incoming students tell us that the availability of a program like this was the deciding factor for them.”

Students in Zarb’s business scholar program spend time with the school’s executive in residence, are invited to attend executive speaker events at the graduate business school, and receive invites to lunch with faculty chairs and deans. There are also experiential learning projects designed for the scholars; this year, Bales says, they visited the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency and did a simulation of how they’d use the agency’s resources to launch a business in Nassau County.

“We’re looking to supplement what they learn in the classroom with these real-life experiences,” she says.


Another way students can get on the honors track at their school is by receiving an invitation to Beta Gamma Sigma, the business honor society of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the main accrediting body for business schools worldwide. There are currently 571 chapters of Beta Gamma Sigma, 500 of which are based in the U.S, said Christina Carosella, Beta Gamma Sigma CEO. This year, 26,000 students around the world were inducted into the society, which has about 800,000 members.

Unlike stand-alone business honors programs like the ones at Hofstra or McCombs, Beta Gamma Sigma students are not admitted from high school, but rather chosen by faculty their sophomore, junior, or senior year of college, often based on their GPA. Typically, only the top 10 percent of a class is invited to join Beta Gamma Sigma, Carosella says. Those who join can attend the organization’s Global Leadership Summit, are frequently invited to network with entrepreneurs and executives who visit their campus, and gain access to Beta Gamma Sigma’s extensive career resources and alumni network.


One of the fastest-growing regions for Beta Gamma Sigma chapters is in the Middle East and Asia, where newly AACSB-accredited schools are eager to start chapters on their campuses, Carosella says.

“Honor means more in their country than perhaps what it means in the U.S.,” she says. “Just having the opportunity to be recognized and be honored is very prestigious, especially in the Asian countries.”

Schools with the most active chapters get creative in the way they invite students to join Beta Gamma Sigma. For example, at St. Joseph’s University’s Erivan K. Haub School of Business in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, faculty members dressed in formal caps and gowns make surprise visits to classrooms during Beta Gamma Sigma week and “tap” certain students on the shoulder with a sword, Haub School Dean Joseph DiAngelo says. They then ask the students to stand in front of the classroom while they are formally asked to join Beta Gamma Sigma. They’re later inducted into the society at a school-wide ceremony, in front of their peers, parents, faculty, and prominent alums.

“The more pomp and circumstance, the better,” DiAngelo says. “It provides some recognition for the students while still at school, and gives the students some status within the university, which they appreciate.”

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