When considering a business degree, it is only natural to lean towards universities in the United States that have branded effectively in India. On the other hand, with today’s connectivity and accessibility of information, you can expand your perspectives independent of the bias that might be inculcated by such branding. As you evaluate your educational options, the following trends in US business education might help determine the best fit.
First, holistic and integrated education through dual majors and dual degrees.US-based employers are increasingly seeking employees who not only deliver on their functional area, but can also integrate knowledge and skills from other areas. Why? No single business function delivers value to its customers or shareholders in a silo. Marketing must coordinate with logistics to produce and deliver projected customer demand, just as it must engage with IT to better predict customer demand through analytics. If businesses are such integrated entities, why should your business education be siloed? Responding to this growing need, universities are making it easier for students to graduate with double majors or dual degrees. Considering a marketing major? Combine it with business analytics, or a minor in psychology or computer Science. Or a dual degree in marketing and psychology. This may increase cost and time commitment, but can distinguish you from other candidates.
A liberal arts education builds sought-after traits: leadership, ethics, communication, critical analysis.
Second, infusion of innovation and entrepreneurship in business education. Such qualities are not for start-ups alone; corporations prefer employees with ‘entrepreneurial’ mindsets, who are trained to seek new opportunities, develop and lead innovations, and engage in value creation even for traditional firms. Such corporate entrepreneurship programmes develop critical thinking that questions the status quo, bring greater awareness about locating and prioritising opportunities, and develop abilities to adapt in the face of disruption. Many MBA and undergraduate degrees have enhanced their programmes by adding three pillars of innovation—enterprise risk management, leading innovation and creativity, and leading people and change—to teach students how to analyse their firm’s environment, innovate, and lead teams that can innovate and institute long-term change.
Third, applied and experiential courses. Increasingly, business education in the US is integrating real-world experiences through consulting projects, fund management, applied logistics and procurement projects, and real-world case studies among others. Not only do these equip students to apply their knowledge to the world of work, they also create a learning environment in which students bring their working world experiences to enrich in-class learning. One example is our applied investment management (AIM) programme, which delivers hands-on academic and security analysis experience through active management of equity and fixed-income portfolios. For instance, in 2015, AIM students managed $2.7 million, travelled to Wall Street, and met key industry professionals including Warren Buffet.
Finally, integration of liberal arts education. Our degrees are designed for functional and skill-based knowledge, but employers frequently seek leadership, communication, ethical decision-making, and critical analysis. There are excellent examples of business leaders who demonstrate these traits—Indra Nooyi, Tim Cook, and Howard Schultz, for instance. A liberal arts education builds a layer of these skillsets over traditional business education.
As you explore options for business education in the US, first begin by understanding who you are and what you want to accomplish with this education. Then evaluate your options, keeping in perspective the four trends elaborated above. Which of these matters the most? Which colleges seem best equipped to deliver your aspirations? Effective learning has much to do with the fit between you and your place of learning, as opposed to INStitutional branding.
(The writer is professor and chair, department of management, Marquette University)