Georgetown’s B-School Aims To Crack The Top 10

Georgetown Dean David Thomas lays out changes to the undergraduate business program

Georgetown Dean David Thomas lays out changes to the undergraduate business program

When Dean David Thomas of Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business addressed the Class of 2014 at their graduation on May 17, 2014, he offered them a few key takeaways.

The first? To follow him on Twitter @ProfThomas.

The second? To recognize that “just by virtue of sitting in these seats right now, you have more than 99% of the people on this planet.” That’s bold statement of privilege amidst a sluggish economy, soaring tuition, and crushing student debt.

But, he’s got a point. Most of these cap-and-gown clad students studied abroad, landed an internship, and will go on to secure high-paying jobs. In an era where many students can expect to park on their parents’ couch for another few years, the hard seats on Healy Lawn suddenly seem quite cushy.

That good fortune also involves a bit of timing. Employers recruiting new grads are expected to hire 7.8% more Class of 2014 graduates than last year’s class, and business students are among the most sought-after majors, according to a report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The prospects are particularly rosy at McDonough, where 95% of last year’s class were employed fulltime or headed to graduate school within six months of receiving their diplomas. The average salary for a McDonough graduate? A nifty $60,937, according to the latest BusinessWeek data.

Still, the dean isn’t satisfied. The school slipped two spots in the BusinessWeek ranking, from 16th last year to 18th in 2014. “There’s no question in my mind that we have a top 10 program from the vantage point of quality of students, quality of educational experience, and quality of outcomes. And so now we’re got align at some level with the formula, and the formula has the variables in it that we had obviously not paid a lot of attention to,” he says. His plan to boost the school’s standing involves three key changes that will go into effect this fall: reducing class sizes, lowering the student-to-fulltime-faculty ratio, and revamping the adviser system.

For starters, the B-school will spread fulltime faculty more evenly among its undergraduate and graduate programs. BusinessWeek awards points for academic quality based on the ratio of fulltime students to fulltime faculty, so roping tenured professors into undergraduate classrooms can help the school’s standing. Secondly, McDonough will add more elective courses to cut class sizes. The average class size for core courses is 38 students; elective business courses have an average of 32 students, according to the 2014 BusinessWeek data. Ostensibly, the changes will lift the school’s scores in academic quality. They could also affect the student assessment portion – smaller classes and more experienced faculty tend to produce happier graduates.

Finally, the administration is rolling out a new advising system. Previously students were assigned a different adviser for each year they were in business school. By graduation they would have passed through four mentors. “That was good from the vantage point of having an adviser who was absolutely an expert on your year but not so good in terms of students developing a deep relationship with the adviser, because every year you were switching,” Thomas says. Now, students will have the same adviser for their first two years and a different adviser for their second two years, with the option to maintain a relationship with their original adviser. Thomas is hopeful the hybrid system will give students a stronger support system that’s still tailored to their life stage. “Senior year, one foot’s in the intuition and the other foot’s out as you think about graduation and all those kinds of things, and that’s when students fill out their student surveys. So we’re hoping that, if you will, they’re feeling loved and supported,” he says.

While the changes may seem minor, it shouldn’t take much to boost the school into BusinessWeek’s Top 10. When it comes to other rankings metrics, like average SAT scores for the entering class (1395), the percentage of students with business-related internships (93%), and median starting salaries ($60,937), Georgetown is already among the best of breed. Last year, the program ranked No. 1 in Finance in BusinessWeek’s specialty rankings. (More than half of McDonough graduates go into lucrative financial services positions each year, compared with about 25% among all schools in the BusinessWeek survey).

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