Course Descriptions

Course catalog descriptions for courses offered in all currently published terms.

Business Administration

BA 380 Senior Seminar
  3 hours Elective Terms Offered: F15, W15, F14, W14
  Advisory Prerequisites: BBA, SR.STD. 

BA 380: Senior Seminar

BA 380 is an honors-type seminar that is open to a limited number of BBA seniors. Students in the seminar work in a collaborative environment with a senior professor to develop a thesis that builds on previous liberal arts and BBA course work. Through the exploration of ethical, political, historical, psychological, scientific, social and cultural aspects of current business issues, students have the opportunity to develop a well-rounded perspective that is valued in the global environment of business. The goals of the Senior Seminar are reinforced by the Boyer Commission report, which emphasizes the importance of an interdisciplinary undergraduate education that culminates in a research project during the senior year. This course is an elective only and does not meet the BBA law requirement.

Senior Seminar Questions and Answers

1.      What is the Senior Seminar format?

a.      The seminar has three modules:

i.                  September-November: Development of a Research Proposal. This module includes sessions with visiting speakers. For example, senior corporate executives from different regions of the world are invited to share their experiences and to suggest research topics.

ii.                 December-February: Individual Research. During this time, students meet regularly with the faculty director for Oxford/Cambridge-style tutorials.

iii.                March-April: Research Presentations. Completion of thesis and presentation of research results.

iv.               Senior Seminar class meetings are scheduled in the afternoon after 4:00 p.m. or in the evening to avoid conflict with your other courses or with recruiting activities.

2.      How many credits will I receive for the Senior Seminar?

a.      You will receive six hours credit upon completion of the seminar, three hours in the Fall Term and three hours in the Winter Term.

3.      What personal benefits might the Senior Seminar provide?

a.      The seminar is designed to be the capstone learning experience of your undergraduate education. Through research presentations by other students, you will gain broad exposure to liberal arts and business school disciplines and their relationship to contemporary business issues. And your individual research will provide in-depth understanding of an issue or theme of special interest to you.


                                                     i.     Special attention will be devoted to developing your analytical and communication skills. For example, students work in a cooperative manner in commenting on each other's drafts and presentations. The seminar will provide you with one last pre-graduation opportunity for candid evaluation of your written and oral communication skills by a professor and your peers.


                                                    ii.     The student who submits the best research paper will receive the Southwick Award and a prize of $500. (If co-winners are selected, the prize will be shared.) This award honors the late Professor Arthur F. Southwick, an outstanding teacher and researcher at the University of Michigan Business School.


                                                   iii.     Some academic organizations allow undergraduate students to present their research at national conferences and to publish their papers in conference proceedings. If your research is accepted for presentation, we will attempt to obtain funding to cover expenses associated with your participation in the national conference.

2.      How are students graded?

a.      To encourage a cooperative learning environment, you are not graded on a curve, as you are in BBA core courses.

3.      Who will lead the Senior Seminar?

a.      The faculty director is Professor George Siedel. Professor Siedel received a Thurnau Professorship from the University of Michigan for contributions to undergraduate education. He has served as Visiting Professor at the Stanford and Harvard business schools and on the Law Faculty at Cambridge University. As a Fulbright Scholar, Professor Siedel has held a Distinguished Chair in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

4.      How many students will be selected for the Senior Seminar?

a.      Enrollment is limited to thirty students.

5.      Who should apply?

a.      The seminar is most attractive to students who are: (a) creative, intellectually curious, independent, entrepreneurially-oriented, and able to establish their own agenda, (b) interested in working more closely than usual with a faculty member and a select group of BBA seniors, and (c) interested in developing research and communication skills that may be useful in consulting, investment banking, marketing, and a variety of other careers.

6.      How should I select a research topic?

a.      Professor Siedel and other students will provide suggestions and feedback that should enable you to select a topic that relates to your interests. Some possibilities:

i.                  An "enhanced major" approach, where you (1) select a topic from your major field of interest (such as information technology, consulting, investment banking, entrepreneurship, or marketing) and (2) explore ethical, historical, social, and/or cultural aspects of that topic. For example, a student with an interest in marketing analyzed the role of sports figures in advertising.

ii.                 A liberal arts emphasis, where you explore a contemporary business issue in light of your liberal arts studies. Example: a thesis comparing the use of technology in competitive intelligence to Sun Tzu's classic, The Art of War.

iii.                Exploration of an enduring business theme -- such as leadership, change management, negotiation, diversity, crisis management, power, strategy or business ethics -- in light of great works of literature, history, biography, or film.

7.      How do I apply?

a.      Professor Siedel will send you application information in March of your junior year.

8.      How does the Senior Seminar relate to my future plans?

a.      The Senior Seminar provides evidence of academic distinction that may be useful when you apply for a job or to graduate school. As the Boyer Commission notes, courses like the Senior Seminar are designed to provide (a) a bridge to graduate education and (b) experience in analysis and problem solving that is useful throughout your career.


Comments About the Senior Seminar (from student evaluations of the course):

·        “This was by far my favorite undergraduate academic experience.”

·        “[The flexible format] enabled me to... work on my time management and organizational skills.... I really enjoyed writing my paper and it is a great thing to discuss during my interviews. Everyone's interest and enthusiasm rubbed off and raised my awareness of some very important issues. This is really what the business school environment should foster.”

·        “A great experience. It really forced me to work independently on my own. Also, learning from others was probably the best part of this class. We really built strong friendships and relationships with others.”

·        “The entire format was great...The presentations were very informative and interesting. I learned more from my peers than I did from profs in other classes.”

·        “The class was great—the best one I took at UM.” 

·        “A great way to finish my undergraduate years!”

·        The time spent together and working with one another was great.”

·        "This class was an incredible experience from start to finish."

·        “Best class at Michigan.”

·        “What a fulfilling experience; perfect end to college career.”

·        “Great class! I recommend it to all!”

·        “By far the best Business School class.”

·        “Amazing course!”

·        “By far the best class I have taken at the University of Michigan.  It is refreshing to know that there’s a course as innovative and inspirational as this one at the Business School.”

·        “This course is a breath of fresh air.  [We are] encouraged to think outside the box.  I leave class every day feeling intellectually aroused and stimulated.”

·        “This class (and writing the thesis) was the most rewarding time of my life.”

·        "This class was undoubtedly the most amazing culmination of my undergraduate experience."

·        "This class is absolutely the best class I have ever taken!"


Comments About the Senior Seminar (from alumni of the Ross School of Business)


·        “I placed the title of my thesis on my resume when I was interviewing [with Chicago law firms], and you would be amazed at how many attorneys wanted to talk about it.  [The Senior Seminar] remains my most rewarding accomplishment during my time at Michigan, and was the most fun along the way.”  (Attorney)


·        “[In applying to Harvard Business School] I am listing my thesis as one of my three greatest accomplishments in one of my essays.”  (Investment Banker)


·        “Having been in the real world now for almost two full years, I truly recognize the value of my seminar experience.  Thank you for allowing us to learn to think out of the box.”  (Consultant)


·        “My learning [on the job] feels very similar to Senior Seminar, as I am given a significant amount of freedom in researching for our clients.”  (A graduate working in Marketing)


·        “[The Senior Seminar] taught lessons which can be applied to nearly everything that I do.  [It] taught me to take an idea or interest and to shape it and work it until it becomes a well-articulated and well-argued thesis.  It also taught me how to pursue passionately and with the highest degree of intellectual curiosity that which I find interesting.”  (Investment Banker)


·        “Each student in the seminar gained a feeling of empowerment that they could apply to challenging situations in the future.  It was not until a few years after the Senior Seminar [while at Harvard Law School] that I fully appreciated that sense of empowerment.  I can say without doubt that [the Senior Seminar] was the most significant and beneficial method of learning that I encountered in my four years at the University of Michigan.”  (Attorney)


·        “[The Senior Seminar provides] intangible skills of questioning, reasoning, and mental discipline that allow students to continue their education even as they exit the University.  I daily draw upon the discipline, reasoning skills, and confidence I developed [in the Senior Seminar].”  (A graduate working in Strategic Planning)


·        “I never envisioned the impact that [the Senior Seminar] would have on me….  I discovered that learning is most rewarding outside a structured environment, where one can control the subject matter, uncover knowledge independently, and synthesize research in new and creative ways. This discovery is undoubtedly the most valuable of my academic career.  Especially now that college has abruptly ended, it provides comfort in the knowledge that for me learning will be a life-long process.”  (Investment Banker)


Other Questions?


Contact Professor Siedel, 5211 Davidson Hall, telephone 764-1392, email


Or visit the Question and Answers document at the course public resources at CTools.  To get there; (1) go to, (2) click Sites, (3) type in BA 380 at "Search for," and (4) click "BA 380 01".