George Washington University Pushes Undergraduates to Try Nonbusiness Classes

George Washington University Pushes Undergraduates to Try Nonbusiness Classes
Courtesy George Washington University

Beginning next year, George Washington University’s School of Business will require freshmen to complete a nonbusiness minor. One in four undergrads at GW’s School of Business already finishes a second minor or concentration outside the school, and its new bachelor of science in finance major requires students to complete a second major outside the school.

Ranked 71st in Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2013 ranking of undergraduate business school programs, the school devoted itself to curriculum reform in 2012, at the first annual (PDF) meeting of the Aspen Undergraduate Business Education Consortium, a project seeking to bring liberal arts and business education closer together.

“The intent is really to make sure that students have an in-depth experience outside of the business school, and that is something that is coming from the market,” Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou, the school’s associate dean for undergraduate programs, told the GW Hatchet. “Recruiters actually want students to be a little more than only business-skilled students.”

In one sign of that desire for a broader skill set, a gathering yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, included a discussion of Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein’s undergraduate history major—there was no number-crunching in his collegiate years.

Elite undergraduate business programs have been leading the bandwagon on diverse, integrated study. At the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, about half of the course work for business majors is in nonbusiness classes. “We leave it up to the students to do their own exploration and see where their passions lie,” says Dale Nees, assistant dean of undergraduate studies at Mendoza. “While many of them will do a second major in economics, others come back with minors or majors in peace studies, gender studies, political science, or pre-med.”

Other top undergraduate programs encourage more diverse course work. At McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia, prospective business students don’t apply for the program until sophomore year, usually from the College of Arts and Sciences; course work for the major doesn’t start until junior year. A third of undergrads at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School finish with a dual degree.

“We’re constantly considering how to tweak our curriculum to bring in societal and ethical concerns,” Nees says. “Integrating that more fully into our pure business curriculum is a priority.”

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