I have been meeting with the Office of Professional Development staff weekly since the first of the year to learn more about how students are responding to the new primary core requirements and admission into the various majors. Change is always difficult. People need to develop different mindsets and behaviors to succeed in new settings. This forces them out of their comfort zone and into unfamiliar situations where the fear of failure and need to alter course can lead to lots of anxiety. Anxiety leads to questions and where answers aren’t immediate, people assume the worst.
The OPD staff tell me that many of the students they see just don’t understand the need to complete the common course prerequisites and primary core requirements before beginning work in their major. They want to jump right in to the major of their choice. Let me explain.
The key to understanding this issue is to recognize that we are preparing you to be a successful business professional. This makes you a business student first and a major second. Of the 120 credit hours needed to graduate, 75 are from the business school. The first 15 credit hours are designed to teach you how the economy works (i.e. micro and macro economics) as well as the languages of business (accounting and statistics). If you can’t master these two things, you have little chance of being a successful business professional. You need to pursue a different career path. This is why we require you to complete these courses before you gain admission into the college.
Once you do gain admission into the college, more than half of the curriculum is common to all students. Again, you are a business student first. It’s not enough just to excel in your major: An accounting major who goes to work for a public accounting firm, but can’t manage people, provide good customer service or develop clients, isn’t going to work there for very long. They have no chance of making partner. Similarly, a marketing major who makes a presentation with an obvious error in calculating an internal rate of return because they didn’t like finance is going to get laughed out of the room. Ask some students who made this mistake at last semester’s case competition. They can tell you it damaged their credibility and it wasn’t fun.
Like it or not, you need to be a well-rounded professional, effectively communicate with people from different functions and connect the dots by analyzing data in real time to succeed in business. The primary core courses are meant to ensure that you are on your way to developing these skills and show sufficient mastery of the basic concepts in accounting, finance, marketing and management to choose one of these majors if this is your desired path. Just like doctors must master a set of general medical topics before specializing in an area of medicine, we require business students to have a firm grasp of the whole before allowing them to move on to specialize. If you can’t perform competently across these areas, you will not succeed: there is little reason to let you specialize in one. (I want to know that my surgeon passed anatomy and isn’t just a person skilled with knives.) And like medicine, we see an important role for those who choose to be the integrators across disciplines and functions. People who have a good working knowledge across areas (i.e., general practitioners) rather than just a master of one. It is the thinking behind our Integrated Business major.
Finally consider this: It is highly unlikely that you will start and end your career in the same place doing the same things. The pace of change is accelerating. Some of the hottest jobs out there today didn’t exist ten years ago….. You couldn’t major in them. Looking ahead, you will likely change jobs and careers more than a few times before retiring. The best way to navigate the risks of such an uncertain future, is to have a diversified portfolio of knowledge and skills. We aren’t just preparing you for your first job, but for a long career. It’s another reason we treat you as business students first.