SPRING, 2014


A BBA Without Borders

by Bob Needham

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.

Bookending the BBA

"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.

Beyond the Boundaries

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.

Expanded Opportunities

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:

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 business programs, 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.

Delivering on High Expectations at Amazon
Peter Faricy, MBA '95, leads the online retail giant's successful Marketplace division.

Helping Make History in Detroit
Lisa Howze, BBA '95, plays a key role in the revitalization of the Motor City.

A New Gift of Lifelong Learning
Alums can participate in Ross' acclaimed Executive Education Program – for free.

Victory For Ross Campaign Off to Strong Start
New fund drive focusing on support for students, programs, and faculty.


20 Questions with Ruth Blatt
Ruth Blatt, PhD '08, writes about surprising intersections between business and rock music.


Ryan Whisnant, MBA '10/ Erb '10
Ryan Whisnant and Aileen Payumo, both MBA '10, witnessed typhoon damage – and set out to help.


An Easy Way to Become a Better Leader
Professor Sue Ashford's research reveals the power of seeking feedback.

Leveraged Buyouts: The Full Story
Professor Kyle Handley finds the private equity story is more complicated than the headlines.


Cindy Soo
Professor Cindy Soo finds a way to gauge "animal spirits" in the housing market.

Joel Slemrod
Professor Joel Slemrod sheds light on the ways tax policy influences behavior.


Seeking Feedback
Watch Sue Ashford's video on being a better leader.

Going Global
Get a video overview of Ross' Global Initiatives programs.

Detroit Through Lisa's Eyes
Check out a slideshow of scenes from the Motor City.

Peter Faricy's Tips
Peter Faricy's three tips for being "customer obsessed"

The Power of Giving
Donors make scholarships possible

The Michigan Ross Impact Challenge
Watch a video overview of this 4-day, high-intensity leadership competition.