PhiGam Thank you.
As graduation was yesterday, this will be my final post. As you may note from the number of postings, I don’t spend as much time here as some. I don’t have some agenda to convince people one way or the other. My opinion is simply that, based upon our experience. Everyone will face the decision of what schools are a good fit for them. My son knows my opinions and beliefs, The purpose/benefit of a Liberal Arts education is to provide a broader knowledge and understand outside of what he gets at home. But expose and understand is different than indoctrination. But again that is only one aspect of choosing a school…
How well does Southwestern prepare students for “What’s Next”? In the end, my son is happy with the education he received at Southwestern. He was a business major with a specialization in finance. He believes that he has a better understanding than his friends at UT and Baylor. UT business school offers much more class options, which drill down into a specific subject matter. Southwestern clearly does not. However in discussions with his friends, he believes much of their education was more about memorization in order to pass a test, than a real understanding of how and why businesses function. And his UT friends were a little shocked to learn my son frequently had dinner at his professor’s house. Having said that, understand that much of that was due to one professor (Andy) who has quite a bit of actual business experience rather than spending their entire career in academia. So again, because Southwestern is a small school, the gain or loss of any one professor may have a substantial impact on the quality of the program. If you want to learn how to do data modeling, this is not the place. But as a business person with responsibility for hitting revenue numbers, budgets, hiring and firing people, I’ll take someone who understands the big picture, with good analytic and decision skills. I can hire an intern to build data models. So here’s my shout out to Andy: Thank you. While I didn’t get a chance to speak with you yesterday, we have met. When we were there 5 years ago for a senior day, we discussed the textbooks you use and you pulled out a copy of Porter’s ‘Competitive Analysis’ . That conversation was a key element of us choosing Southwestern.
From the graduation yesterday, Southwestern has a larger science program than their business program. There seemed to be many more chemistry and biology graduates than anything else. I can not speak to this program, other than to say they are adding a new facility with new labs. I assume that many of those student are heading to graduate school to continue their education. And several art majors, some of whom will probably be working at the cell phone store later this year. Which brings up the next topic…
Career Services. Career services at Southwestern is terrible. And I mean really, really terrible. I met one of their people a year or two ago, and my understanding was she was a Southwestern graduate that wan unable to get a job after graduation so Southwestern hired her. That’s pretty much what she told me. At the first meeting with Career Services my son was told to go to LInkedIn.com and search for companies he was interested in working for, and use LinkedIn to try to network with people who worked there. His second interaction with Career Services he asked for any alumni that worked in finance or investment banking that he could try to connect with. He received none, not even a response to his request. Which was interesting because the commencement speaker yesterday was a partner at Ernst & Young doing business development and consulting, he sits on the board of trustees of the university. Add to that another speaker was the President of the alumni association and a university trustee who is a director at Credit Suisse investment bank in Houston. The total contribution from Southwestern’s Career Services was to print out a list of business in the Austin area, and to direct him to LInkedIn.com. Maybe it’s different for different majors, or maybe their focus is helping students get into grad school, but the better MBA programs require a couple a years of real world experience as consideration for acceptance. So the bottom line here is, if you choose Southwestern you are own your own once they hand you that degree. There is no career services, no job fairs, no companies coming on campus to conduct interviews, and no alumni network.
The Paideia program is being changed. The school will attempt to weave different disciplines into everyone’s education. My son, a Paideia scholar, believes the result will be a mile wide and a foot deep. The proof will be in the execution and I suspect it may take a few years to get dialed in a methodology that accomplishes it’s goal.
President Burger seems to be a nice guy, although it is too early to tell which direction the university will go under his leadership. He is known to interact with students on campus, to the point of getting personally involved in helping with homework. I have attempted to call him on at least 3 occasions, and each time he had someone else return the call. Might be he is still adjusting in his transition from classroom to administrator. Southwestern is in a negative cash flow, and they had some donors cancel large financial commitments when he was chosen. As with any organisation, there is disagreement on direction, which turns into internal politics. Having a President that skateboards around campus such looks hip, but does little to actually prepare kids and launch them into the next phase of their life. Not surprisingly, I am not the type of person who supports spending money on “feel good” campus and social projects when the university is in the red. The core purpose of the university is to provide an education that will prepare students for their chosen career.
As I said, my son enjoyed his time at Southwestern, and is happy with the education he received. And that is in direct comparison in speaking with his friends at UT and Baylor about their experiences. The counter is their schools set up multiple job interviews, and each received several job offers to choose from. So while my son believes he received a better education, his friends are receiving about $20,000 more in starting salary. Of course 10 years from now their income will be based upon their talent and effort, but in the short term one of his UT business school friends has a starting salary $24,000 higher than his. Every school will have pluses and minuses. Hopefully my comments will provide insight for those who are making the difficult decision of ‘what’s the best fit’.
That’s it for me. I’m sure that those with more time so spend here will follow up with a counter opinion, If someone has a specific question for myself, or my son, send me a direct message. I believe those get forwarded via email, and I’ll do my best to respond.