The dean of the UG College at NYU's Stern talks about popular trends in business education
The undergraduate business degree has come a long way in the last few years. It was once considered a vocational degree that prepared students for specific roles in business. Today, top courses offer well-rounded, academically-rigorous curricula that balance business fundamentals with the liberal arts. HT Education spoke to Geeta Menon, dean of the Undergraduate College at NYU's Leonard N Stern School of Business about these changing trends, the college's association with India and more. Here are excerpts from the interview.
Are you looking at increasing engagement both on campus and around the world (including India)?
The NYU Stern Undergraduate College is always seeking to engage our community in meaningful ways. We engage our students in a variety of globally minded academic experiences that currently, or may in the future, involve India:
Since 2009, we have had a short-term exchange programme with HR College and St Xavier's. Known as Stern Around the World: India, this course sends NYU Stern juniors and seniors to Mumbai for seven days in January as a part of a semester-long course called Social Enterprise and Economic Development: The Indian Context. The following May, students from HR College and St Xavier's travel to New York City. Students from all three schools take part in academic, business and cultural experiences, and interact with each other during their respective overseas trips.
Then, since 2002, we have required all business majors to participate in our International Studies Programme (ISP). As a part of a semester-long strategic business course during the junior year, students travel together to one of three continents - Asia, Europe, and South America and are immersed in an academic, business and cultural experience for one week. Experiences include academic sessions at local universities, business visits at local corporations, and cultural outings to national landmarks. Given the rich academic, business and cultural opportunities in India, we hope to include a location in India as one of the Asia destinations in the future.
What is the importance of research in undergraduate education?
- Research uniquely prepares students to think around all angles of a business problem and critically analyse a situation, in much the same way that business school faculty approach academic research. The NYU Stern Undergraduate College created the Stern Programme for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) to give students access to these new learning opportunities. SPUR is a priority initiative that supports our undergraduates' active participation in top-tier research with Stern faculty and includes:
- The Honours Programme - This year-long programme was established in 2001 to give top students the opportunity to conduct graduate-level research. Students have the opportunity to take graduate course work, participate in a weekly honours seminar, and develop an honours thesis. Only the top 7% of seniors are invited to enroll.
- Research seminars - The college is currently developing research seminars, which will be offered by Stern's top research faculty. Seminars will expose students to recent research findings and the cutting- edge methodologies and tools behind these findings.
What are your thoughts on undergraduate business education?
Trend 1: According to the National Centre for Education Statistics, business has been the most popular undergraduate major in the US since at least 1999. To provide additional context, in 2009-2010, business degrees represented 22% of all US degrees conferred. The next most popular field of undergraduate study was social sciences, which represented 10% of all US degrees conferred.
Perceptions of undergraduate business programmes are changing. The undergraduate business degree was once considered to be a vocational degree that prepared students for specific roles in business. Today, top programmes offer well-rounded, academically-rigorous curricula that balance business fundamentals with the liberal arts.
Trend 2: Student research is a new way for undergraduate business programmes to provide academically-rigorous opportunities. Independent study projects and faculty-led research projects provide students with an additional opportunity to stretch beyond business fundamentals or even the liberal arts.
Trend 3: Social impact and professional responsibility will continue to be an integral part of undergraduate business curricula. Many undergraduate business programmes have incorporated business ethics coursework and activities into their curriculum and co-curriculum.
Trend 4: Undergraduate business students are considering alternatives to traditional career paths. Business students are prepared for a multitude of postgraduate opportunities, including traditional business careers and degrees, but also beyond. Students are showing an interest in working in the non-profit and government sectors, and support for this is growing at the administrative level.
What skills sets are musts for management students planning to work in India or abroad?
At NYU Stern's Undergraduate College, we emphasise a well-rounded education that balances courses in the liberal arts with business fundamentals. We also ensure that every Stern student has a global academic experience because having a global perspective is a must in this day and age. We also make sure that our students are sensitised to their professional responsibilities through our Social Impact Core, a sequence of four courses that challenge students to think about how they would react to different ethical and business pressures in the real world. In my mind, these are the fundamental tenets of a strong undergraduate business education.