Best College Business Programs by Specialty

In early March, Bloomberg Businessweek released the sixth-annual undergraduate business school ranking, which highlights the top business programs in the country overall. In the ranking, the schools that boast the most satisfied students tend to fare the best. If you want to find schools that excel in specific academic areas, however, you need to drill a little deeper.

For instance, in the recent ranking, you would assume that Rensselaer Polytechnic's Lally School of Management and Technology (Lally Undergraduate Business Profile), ranked No.43, is a middle-of-the-pack business program.You wouldn't know that the school ranks No.1 in both financial management and corporate strategy.Similarly, the University of South Carolina's Moore School of Business (Moore Undergraduate Business Profile), with an overall rank of 92, is no where near the top of the list. But in our 2011 undergraduate specialty ranking, it emerges as a leader in international education, taking the No. 2 rank in that category.

As part of Bloomberg Businessweek's annual ranking of the top undergraduate business programs, senior business students from the 139 participating schools were asked to assign letter grades—from A to F—indicating how well their business programs teach 14 specialty areas: quantitative methods, operations management, ethics, sustainability, calculus, microeconomics, macroeconomics, accounting, financial management, marketing management, business law, and corporate strategy, as well as entrepreneurship and international business, which were added this year. Based on those grades, scores were calculated for each of the ranked schools in each specialty area. Twelve schools were removed due to an insufficient number of student responses.

A Lot of Good Scores

Of the participating schools, a wide variety thrive in the specialty ranks, including top programs, midtier schools, and those that did not rank on the overall list due to insufficient responses by corporate recruiters. In all, 53 of the programs earned at least one top-10 finish, with the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business (Mendoza Undergraduate Business Profile)—the No.1 school overall—and Emory University's Goizueta Business School (Goizueta Undergraduate Business Profile)—No.3 overall—leading the way with 10 each.Notre Dame claims top spot in the ethics specialty, and Emory earns top honors in business law.The University of Richmond's Robins School of Business (Robins Undergraduate Business Profile), No.12 overall, follows with nine top 10s.In terms of consistency, the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce (McIntire Undergraduate Business Profile) scores the best across each of the specialties, with an average rank of just over 12.

Further down the list, a few surprises can be found. Take Northern Illinois University's College of Business (NIU Undergraduate Business Profile).NIU ranks No.84 overall but is No.3 in ethics.Other schools—such as Worcester Polytechnic (WPI Undergraduate Business Profile) and Samford University (Samford Undergraduate Business Profile)—were not included in the overall ranking at all because of an insufficient recruiter response rate. But both score well in their respective specialties, with WPI ranking first in both operations management and marketing, and Samford claiming the top spot in quantitative methods.

The No. 23-ranked Mason School of Business (Mason Undergraduate Business Profile) at the College of William & Mary takes top honors in sustainability, thanks to the school's extreme focus on everything green. Undergrad business students can enroll in such courses as Green Supply Chain and Environmental Consulting, or join the Net Impact chapter. In addition, the Mason School, along with Saatchi & Saatchi S, a consulting firm focused on corporate social responsibility, has launched the "Do One Thing for Sustainability" initiative (DOT), pushing students to do their part in the green movement. Some student- and faculty-suggested DOTs include eliminating textbooks where possible and getting rid of plastic bottles at various campus events.

Seattle University's Albers School of Business (Albers Undergraduate Business Profile), already ranked fourth in sustainability, is ramping up its efforts in the specialty by introducing a new special topics elective called Sustainable Marketing in the spring of 2012. And at Richmond's Robins School, ranked seventh in sustainability, the new business facility, Queally Hall, is expected to receive a LEED Silver rating in 2012, with such features as low-flow water systems and the use of recycled material in construction.

On the International Scene

Robins also thrives in the newly added international business specialty, taking the top spot because of a concentration that includes seven required courses; an international cultural experience involving at least a semester of study outside the U.S., along with proficiency in a second language; and a full-time international internship. In all, about 12 percent of Robins undergrads choose to concentrate in international business. Additionally, 50 percent of business majors not focused on international business study abroad.

Chapman University's Argyros School of Business and Economics (Argyros Undergraduate Business Profile) also fares well in international business, finishing fourth in the area. At Chapman, students have the option of traveling abroad on various internships and study tours offered through the business school's Schmid Center for International Business. Moreover, as part of the university's general education program, each student must take 12 credit hours in what is called the "global citizen" cluster. This includes a foreign language course, as well as global study courses such as International Marketing and The Multi-Cultural Organization.

The other new specialty, entrepreneurship, is led by Babson College (Babson Undergraduate Business Program). "Babson believes in entrepreneurial thought and action," said one Babson senior survey respondent. "Everything students are taught is put into action, from owning our own businesses as part of the first-year curriculum to consulting for companies and entrepreneurs domestically and internationally." Traditionally known for its entrepreneurial focus, Babson requires freshmen to take a seven-credit, yearlong course called Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship. In the course, teams of 30 students invent, develop, launch, and manage an actual business using $3,000 provided by the school. Any profits are donated to local charities.

The Whitman School of Management (Whitman Undergraduate Business Profile) at Syracuse University also thrives in entrepreneurship, finishing third in the specialty. At Whitman, undergrads can major or minor in Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises (EEE), taking courses that include Imagination, Entrepreneurship, and Creative Problem Solving, Entrepreneurial Marketing, and Finance for Emerging Enterprises. Students also have the opportunity to study abroad within the EEE curriculum. To make sure every business student graduates with a taste for entrepreneurship, a course called Entrepreneuer Business Plan is required for graduation. In the course, students develop an idea and create a business plan for it. "The business plan course prepares students to do anything in the workplace," says a Whitman senior responding to the Bloomberg Businessweek survey. "You must display creativity, teamwork, and responsibility in order to create a great company and get a good grade."

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