School of Business changes core requirement class for all freshmen

Posted September 12, 2014


Completely overhauling a core requirement for all business school freshmen and launching the class in as little as four months is an obvious challenge with a high level of risk, but it is one that comes with many potential benefits.

The switch from Management 100 to Business 101, both named F.I.R.S.T. Step, comes on the heels of upheaval and complaints from upperclassmen and alumni who did not feel prepared for non-technical aspects of interviews and working at Fortune 500 companies.

According to Eugene Anderson, dean of the business school, the change was made to benefit both current and future students, as well as to continue improving the business school by preventing stagnation and maintaining the momentum garnered in the past few years

The MGT 100 course emphasized collaboration as a skill and used discovery-learning methods to help freshmen learn the basics of public speaking and professional presentation. Students worked in groups to develop business plans for non-profit organizations in and around Miami.

However, according to Executive Teaching Leader Maeva Kazandjian, working with actual companies outside of the school and managing their expectations became too difficult and began negatively affecting students’ educations.

Kazandjian, a senior who has moved through the student teacher ranks after taking MGT 100 in fall 2011, reflected on how the course changed even before the official move to BUS 101, and noted that she felt that students walked away with inconsistent experiences when taking MGT 100.

Kazandjian also feels that the switch already seems to be addressing the core problem of students not learning enough soft skills such as elevator pitching and professional conversation.

Prof. Mary Young has pointed out that the class still feels fairly intimate despite bumping class sizes up from 50 students to almost 120 per lecture. In each lecture, she works to cultivate discussion about current events relevant to business and often solicits opinions and thoughts from students by putting a microphone under their noses and asking for their analyses.

Besides acting as pop quiz style motivation to study the provided readings, these surprise solicitations force students to think on their feet and enhances both public speaking and interview skills.

According to the BUS 101 syllabus, the goal of the class is to improve students’ relationships and understanding of the multiculturalism that has seeped into every aspect of business as well as the effects of globalization on top of improving public speaking, communication and interpersonal skills A new emphasis has been placed on current events with news quizzes being administered randomly over the course of the semester.

The class meets every Tuesday for a lecture with 120 students, but breaks into small groups on Thursdays to work on assignments, specifically the term project.

The term project is a group assignment that asks students to become “subject matter experts” by acting as a part of a fictional consulting firm with the goal of educating American executives on how to best approach one of three global issues that impact businesses that want to operate outside of the United States.

Each team is assigned a different host country and presentations are made at the end of the term so every student is able to understand a wide variety of global issues and positions. This composes the bulk of the class and is where the majority of the soft skills are grown.

According to Kimberly Sherwin, executive director of BUS 101, designing and launching the class with quick turn around was difficult but incredibly rewarding. Sherwin was the only student to be involved with the move from MGT 100 to BUS 101 from inception to debut, and is currently managing the program from day to day.

In addition to co-designing the course with Assistant Dean Ellen Marie McPhillip and Prof. Mary Young, Sherwin was responsible for the addition of current events based curriculum to the program.

“Despite reading the news regularly, I felt unprepared walking into interviews because I lacked the precise depth of global knowledge large companies want to see in potential employees,” she said.

Sherwin hopes that teaching students how to effectively read and process the news will help them avoid stumbling in interviews and pushed hard for the inclusion of news quizzes and homework that includes watching Bloomberg television news and reading the Wall Street Journal.

Though there are a handful of concerns about this first semester and using students as guinea pigs, no major problems have arisen and any small kinks have been ironed out as soon as they appear.

Sherwin runs a tight ship and believes the class will be significantly more useful to current and future students. The business school is confident in the new BUS 101 course and feel that every student that is able to take it will be better prepared for an increasingly competitive and hostile job market.