FEATURE // SPRING 2014
A BBA Without Borders
Students graduating from college
today face a very different world of
work from the one they might have
encountered a few years earlier — more
globally oriented, multidisciplinary,
entrepreneurial. And constantly evolving.
A reinvention of the Ross BBA Program, starting this fall, aims
to meet the needs of tomorrow's students and strengthen Ross
as a leader in undergraduate business education. It involves
more chances to study abroad, new opportunities for handson
experience, and added requirements but better flexibility.
"If you think about undergraduate
education in general, one of its roles
that people often forget is that students
come in as adolescents and they
leave as adults. We've built that into
the curriculum, to get them to think
about this transition and become more
focused on self-authorship – helping
students think about their developmental
journey,” says Lynn Wooten, associate
dean for undergraduate programs.
This is definitely not
your father's B-school.
In fact, it's not even
your older sister's.
The BBA program has a new beginning
and a new ending: It starts sophomore
year with a required new introductory
course, team taught by a cross-section
of Ross faculty. That class sets the tone
for the integrative approach to come
and begins Ross' signature focus on
business as a positive force in society.
The program ends in winter term
of senior year with a newly required
"capstone” experience — a special course,
potentially with a hands-on component,
or a senior thesis — tailored to bring
together everything the student has
learned, with an eye toward putting
it all into practice after graduation.
Between those bookends, students
will experience a fully re-thought
program. One consistent theme:
bridging separation between various
business disciplines, as well as between
business and a broader education.
The entire curriculum will embrace this
integrative approach, which is unusual
among undergrad business programs.
But the integration comes to the fore
in fall term of the junior year, when
student cohorts take a required set
of classes — management, business
law, and operations — examining the
same set of business cases through the
lenses of their different specialties.
"Your first job may be in a functional
area, but the higher you get up in
your career, you're going to have to
be integrative. You might be a finance
person, but you're going to have to
think of the marketing aspect and the
operations aspect,” says Wooten, a
clinical associate professor of strategy
and management and organizations.
The multidisciplinary approach also
surfaces in expanded programs from
the Ross Leadership Initiative, which will
offer its challenging immersive events in
each semester of the BBA program. For
example, this spring saw a pilot edition
of the BBA SpotLight. Similar to the
MBA Crisis Challenge but reworked
for undergrads, this event asked teams
of students to use their assembled
skills to navigate a mock corporate
crisis, with a $1,250 prize at stake.
Even with all the new activity, Ross
undergrads will still spend roughly half
their credits elsewhere at the University of
Michigan, and students are encouraged to
pursue minors and dual majors. Wooten
notes that skills like understanding issues
in a historical context, or knowing the
impact of the natural sciences, remain
critical. U-M is perfectly positioned
here, because its other programs match
the strength of its business school.
The no-boundaries philosophy also
works on a literal level: The new
curriculum allows students expanded
opportunities to study abroad, and
aims to position BBA grads to get
wherever they want to go — in terms
of geography as well as employment.
Unlike past years — with certain classes
required each semester — students may
now easily study abroad during winter
term of junior year. Ross is also offering
undergrads more faculty-led, shorter
trips to places like Ireland, India, and Peru.
Leading the Way
Other aspects of the new
BBA program include:
- An increase in required business
credits from 45 to 58, and in
business elective credits from nine
to 15 (which is part of the 58)
- A "floating core” that allows certain
required classes to be taken earlier,
which can open up internship
opportunities after the sophomore
year as well as the junior year
- New and reimagined courses, like a
"big data” analytic class combining
business computing and stats
- The Ross dedication to actionbased
throughout the curriculum
- Re-thought professional
development modules from Ross
Career Services on subjects like
interviewing and networking
The BBA reinvention is possible
in part due to gifts from longtime
program supporter Thomas Jones,
BBA '68, MBA '71. Jones' generosity has
expanded undergrads' opportunities
for action-based learning, leadership
development, high-quality advising,
and extracurricular activities.
Already among the
country's top-ranked undergrad
Ross now truly leads the way,
Wooten says. And its graduates
likely will as well.
The new curriculum resulted from a
long process involving stakeholders
from throughout the program —
students, alumni, and faculty. The Ross
BBA has been serving its graduates
well for decades, and these changes
are meant to ensure that holds
just as true for future students.
"In this day and age, people become
so specialized. A lot of times we
don't teach integration,” Wooten
notes. "The curriculum redesign
gives them experience on multiple
levels. When you're a freshman you
kind of grasp it, but by senior year
you are seeing the big picture.”
BBA alums, what do you think of the changes?
Tweet us @MichiganRoss #RossAlum
A BBA Without Borders
Ross revamps its undergraduate program for the students of tomorrow.
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