It’s safe to say that Melinda German loves her work. For more than 15 years she’s served as dean of the undergraduate program at the Villanova School of Business (VSB) — ranked 17th among Poets&Quants’ Best Undergraduate Business Programs. In the school’s endeavor to develop business leaders for a better world, Dean German oversees a program with six majors and a student body made up of 1,700 undergrads. The best part of the job, she says, is getting to know the students and seeing them transition from bright-eyed freshmen into full-fledged business professionals, entrepreneurs, and more.
Still, there is much to keep her eyes on. For instance, ensuring Villanova’s business students are prepared for the changing demands of technology and analytics (the school recently added a required Business Analytics course to its curriculum) and encouraging incoming freshmen and their parents to remain open-minded when it comes to navigating business school and choosing a career.
In the interview that follows, Dean German tells Poets&Quants for Undergrads what’s changed in business education throughout her long-standing tenure as dean and offers a glimpse into the culture and life of an undergrad at Villanova’s business school.
P&Q: How has business education changed or evolved in your time in business higher education? What are some of the key changes that stand out to you?
German: I think there’s been a greater focus on career preparation and professional development.
P&Q: How have students changed over the years?
German: They’re more focused in terms of careers than in the past. I think our students are very well prepared for their college years as well as for life after Villanova. I think they’re more focused and driven.
P&Q: What are the key trends in undergraduate business education you’re paying attention to at the moment?
German: A lot is being demanded in terms of tech and analytics and what students must be prepared for has changed. I pay a lot of attention to making sure that they’re equipped with the skills and tools they’ll need.
P&Q: Describe one common trait about Villanova’s business students.
German: What we hear from employers is they hit the ground running and they are the roll-up-the sleeves-and-get-the-job-done types. They’re dedicated and motivated and they’re hard workers with great work ethics.
P&Q: Describe the culture at VSB.
German: I see it as a very collaborative environment. Students are very supportive of one another. They tend to play well together and work well on teams and projects.
P&Q: What’s the most popular area of study at VSB?
German: Finance is by far most popular. In the undergraduate program, there are about 1,700 total students and about 60% of them are finance. But we also have a lot of double majors. Behind finance is accounting and then marketing.
P&Q: What are the top jobs, companies, industries your students are pursuing?
German: A lot of students are attracted to Wall Street and the Wall Street firms as well as the Big Four accounting firms. Advertising and consumer packaged goods are the gamut of our marketing positions.
P&Q: What advice do you have for high schoolers who are interested in studying business in college?
German: I would say to keep an open mind and allow time to explore options. We get students during freshmen orientation who say, ‘I’m going to be a finance and accounting double major with a minor in XYZ.’ Give yourself the opportunity to explore what’s here and take advantage of the resources and opportunities that are available.
P&Q: Any advice for parents?
German: Allow your child to grow. They’re going to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. Allow them to grow and mature.
P&Q: What do you enjoy most about your role?
German: Getting to know the students and working with the students. Seeing them get from freshman year and beyond.
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