Undergrads Get Down to Business

By Lisa Zagaroli
Published: Fall 2009

New students entering the GW School of Business this fall will benefit from significant changes in the curriculum, giving them enhanced expertise, more class choices and substantial career assistance.

It’s all part of GWSB’s continual effort to keep its program on the leading edge of global business education, said Lawrence G. Singleton, associate dean for undergraduate programs.

“Everything we do is about continuous improvement and making ourselves better,” said Singleton, also a member of the accountancy faculty. “The undergraduate educational experience in the School of Business is outstanding. These curriculum revisions keep us up-to-date with the best business programs anywhere in the world.”

Highlights of the new curriculum include: additional focus on business writing, foreign language and culture, ethics and political science, as well as greater depth in a student’s chosen concentration, such as finance or marketing. Development and career management are taken seriously from the day a student arrives at the School of Business.

The new requirements for the Class of 2013 and beyond are the result of a collaborative effort among faculty, students, alumni and the broader university community. The four-year effort included a comprehensive review of what peer and aspirant business schools offer and input from focus groups.

Faculty gave final approval to the new curriculum last spring, in time for the fall rollout.

“Our undergraduate program is recognized as one of the best in the nation, but we are always looking for ways to improve our students’ education,” said Dean Susan M. Phillips. “We think this new curriculum will give our students the flexibility and emphasis they need inside the classroom to help them achieve even greater success in the business world.”

Recent graduate Betsy Smith, who helped research the new curriculum with Singleton, said she likes the enhanced requirement for students to take five courses in their concentration, instead of the previous four, to help them develop a greater expertise in their chosen field.

“When we graduate we are all going in so green,” said Smith, who graduated in 2009 with a BBA and a concentration in human resource management. She explained that employers may not be as concerned as recent graduates are with their “greenness” because they plan to train the new employees, but the tools of the new curriculum will give future undergraduates entering the workforce more confidence.

She also is pleased that the school is putting an even greater emphasis on global business by requiring students to take either foreign language or foreign culture courses for two semesters.

“We live and compete in an increasingly global business environment, and a better understanding of international business is essential,” Singleton said. “Our location in the nation’s capital, surrounded by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the U.S. State Department, allows us to provide unmatched international opportunities to our students.”

The business school has demonstrated its commitment to global understanding in other ways. It already has an impressive number of students studying abroad—40 percent of undergraduates spend part of their education overseas in programs in France, Denmark, Sweden and elsewhere. Singleton said he would love to see that number increase to 50 or 60 percent.

While many students enrolled voluntarily for political science classes, at least one course will now be required so that all undergraduates develop a better understanding of the relationships between the public and private sectors.

Student Jamie Ramacciotti said she is pleased that a strong ethics component will be added to a three-hour, business-law class for seniors.

“As part of the core curriculum it reinforces what our professors are sprinkling into their other courses,” said Ramacciotti, who plans to complete her BBA and graduate in December ’09 with a dual concentration in marketing and sport management. She spent the summer interning for the Washington Kastles, a pro tennis team.

One of the most distinctive features of the new curriculum is that, for the first time, students will be able to obtain at least one of their two required Writing in the Disciplines (WID) courses in a business discipline.

“One of the things we constantly hear from employers, alumni and faculty is students need to be better communicators,” Singleton said. “This course will be an analysis of business issues with a strong writing component.

” The new curriculum also will offer a critical classroom component to help students understand that career management is a lifelong process. “Career Management Strategies” will be required of all juniors, beginning with this fall’s incoming freshman class. The new course is based on competencies and skills that were developed by professionals in the F. David Fowler Career Center. “Rise Above the Rest” is an elective four-year, career-management strategy. The new course, piloted earlier this year, prepares business students for internships and fulltime jobs by providing tools and techniques for self-assessment, market research, networking, interviewing and negotiating.

“It gives GWSB students an advantage over peers who tend to get serious about career planning only as graduation day approaches,” said Gil C. Yancey, executive director of the F. David Fowler Career Center.

“Recognizing that career management is a lifelong challenge requiring competencies that will be used again and again, GWSB decided to join those ‘leading- edge’ universities that have made career management a part of the curriculum,” Yancey said.

To encourage freshmen to take advantage of all the benefits of the First Year Development Program, one hour of credit will be given when students complete an enhanced version of the two-semester course.

“It’s designed to help students adjust to living away from home, become a scholar earlier in their academic career and identify their strengths. It helps them choose their major, and exposes them to study-abroad opportunities,” said Singleton.

Students also will have more flexibility in the classes they select because they are no longer required to take 50 percent of their courses outside the School of Business. That will allow them to take more foreign language classes, earn a dual concentration in the School of Business or obtain a secondary field in another GW school more easily.

The evolving curriculum is only one part of opportunities that have grown over the past decade for GWSB undergraduates to get an unrivaled business education.

For example, for the first time this fall, students will be able to participate in a first-of-its-kind case competition— sponsored by Deloitte Consulting, a highly regarded professional services firm—to solve a public sector business problem.

“The curriculum changes, the exposure to research and career planning and the emphasis on a global outlook ensure that we are cutting-edge,” Singleton said. “It’s all about getting better in every area.” GW