10 Undergraduate Business Schools To Watch In 2020

Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Apple and Microsoft. Ford and Chevy.

On the surface, these product pairings do the same thing. Sodas refresh us. Computers spur communication and creativity. Cars and trucks take us on adventures. That doesn’t mean they are truly alike.

You could say the same about business schools. In the end, they provide an education and a degree. In between, they apply distinct philosophies and formulas to teach business. Some schools hammer home the fundamentals and best practices. Others shove students into the deep end and closely monitor their growth. Yes, every school touts being interdisciplinary, global, collaborative, and student-centered. Most times, they just express these values in very different ways.


At Lipscomb University, students learn business by starting their own companies as freshmen. At the same time, they experience the connection between business and society by supporting entrepreneurs in the community – something long pioneered by Bucknell University’s Freeman College. Like Lipscomb, Freeman earns high student satisfaction marks, with a philosophy that leans heavily on intensive coaching and mentoring from staff and alumni alike. In contrast, NYU Stern fosters a ‘global mindset’ through a deep bench of global projects, partnerships, and courses. The Hult International School achieves this same aim…by creating classrooms where every nationality is a minority. That way, students can understand how to operate in a profoundly diverse context.

Such approaches are as innovative as they are effective. That’s why programs like Lipscomb, Bucknell Freeman, NYU Stern, and Hult are among P&Q’s ‘Business School’s To Watch’ in 2020. Now in its fourth year, this feature honors the trendsetters that are increasing, inventing, innovating, and investing. From rising in rankings to rolling out new resources, these programs are setting the standard for what students can expect and schools can achieve. From Wharton’s new facilities to Evansville’s employer appeal, here are the 10 undergraduate business schools poised to set the example in the coming year.

University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

There is a certain stigma to finishing second. The runner-up is the one who was missing that little extra something or simply didn’t focus or prepare enough. When it comes to rankings, there is nothing wrong with taking home the silver – especially when you are the Ross School of Business.

The consolation prize is just fine in Ann Arbor. After all, Ross ranked 13th just two years ago in P&Q’s Undergraduate Business School Ranking. After catapulting into 4th last year, Ross edged out the University of Virginia for 2nd in 2020.

Hardly a participation trophy!

What happened? For starters, average SAT scores jumped from 1470 to 1500 in one year. The result? Ross placed 2nd – there’s that word again – to the Wharton School in this key input. The school also maintained its already daunting 12% acceptance rate. Even more, Ross graduates were increasingly smitten with their alma mater. In P&Q’s 2019 alumni survey, Ross ranked 11th overall in their Academic Experience scores. This year, the scores moved them to 2nd overall.

Alas, Ross wasn’t always the bridesmaid in 2019. In U.S. News’ ranking of undergrad specializations, Ross claimed the top spot for marketing (and finished 4th for finance as well).

You could say that the Ross School is where all the action is…literally. That’s because action-based learning is at the heart of its educational philosophy Think projects and teams…just like the real world. Take the Living Business Leadership Experience course. Here, student teams launch a division within a partner organization. Guided by company executives and faculty advisors, individual members take responsibility for leading areas like development, marketing, finance, and distribution. Another example is Ross’ legendary MAP program, where students often head overseas to help sponsor companies like Microsoft or Medtronic to develop strategic plans or streamline operations. Of course, there is the increasingly popular Leadership Crisis Challenge, a 24-hour simulation in March where students and alumni play roles – often adversarial – in resolving a business emergency like a product recall.

Norm Bishara

“A major differentiator at Ross is our focus on action-based learning, and the “learning by doing” philosophy is embedded into the BBA program from start-to-finish,” explains Norm Bishara, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs at Michigan Ross. “Through our growing Ross Experiences in Action Learning (REAL) portfolio, students have the opportunity to consult with real clients, invest real money in real companies through our investment funds, and start real businesses – all while supported by the undergraduate curriculum and guided by Ross faculty.”

In the spirit of keeping it REAL, Ross also offers four different Signature Learning Experiences (since students can now join the business school as freshmen). For example, sophomores complete a leadership seminar, where they learn about leadership responsibilities and the best practices of top leaders. As seniors, they engage in a capstone, an integrative exercise that brings together all the lessons of the past four years.

“Allowing students to find and develop their career aspirations is also central to our program,” Bishara notes. “Our Signature Learning Experiences provide opportunities for students to explore their options in business each year in our BBA program. We help students integrate the essential management skills they learn in our world-class set of core business courses, while also providing high-impact, specialized electives and co-curricular options, along with exceptional career coaching. In addition, students take almost half of their undergraduate classes outside of the business school that can relate to their individual interests and complements their holistic business education.”

Why not engage with the full university? After all, Michigan ranks among the top research universities in the country. “The Michigan Ross BBA experience is designed to enable our students to be part of the greater University of Michigan campus,” Bishara observes. “The interdisciplinary nature of a Ross education is an important part of how we develop well-rounded leaders who are equipped with the skills they will use in business and beyond.”

Bishara also points out that over 40% of Ross BBAs complete a dual major or minor in conjunction with other schools on campus. By collaborating with students from areas like engineering and political science, she notes, students develop more well-rounded and diverse backgrounds. Even more, Ross students are heavily active in leadership roles among the university’s 1,600 undergraduate clubs.

“[They’ve] helped to organize high-profile events, including the Music Matters spring festival that partners with the School of Music Theater and Dance or the Michigan Sports Business Conference with the School of Kinesiology,” Bishara explains. “They also take part in programs and competitions put on by other schools, such as a solar car competition at the College of Engineering. We also contribute to a positive campus culture and an entrepreneurial spirit by welcoming students from all over Michigan to participate in many of the Ross classes, clubs, and business competitions. Having those students – and the 560 Ross business minor students – enriches the educational and social experience for everyone in our buildings. For example, our new Michigan Ross FinTech Initiative regularly has programming run by our Ross faculty experts open to students across U-M.”

Still, the real magic often happens inside the Ross School. Bishara describes Ross as having “the support and feel of a small collaborative community,” where students can naturally “develop deep personal networks.”

“We onboard students with introductory classes that are designed to help them transition into the university, Michigan Ross, and the world of business,” Bishara adds. “We also use a cohort model in the core courses. This means that out of the 31,000 undergrads at the University of Michigan and the 625 members in each undergraduate class at Ross, a Ross student becomes part of a four- or five-member team within an 80-person course section. In addition, they are able to foster one-on-one relationships with the greater Ross and U-M community through case competitions, social and professional clubs, volunteer organizations, and peer-coaching and mentoring – all of which is established for new students from the day they arrive in Ann Arbor.”

Go to next pages for in-depth profiles of NYU Stern, Wharton School, Carnegie Mellon Tepper, and more. 


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