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Should UChicago start an undergrad business program?

giantmangiantman Registered User Posts: 215 Junior Member
edited February 2014 in University of Chicago
An engineering program is being implemented, so should an undergrad business program be started at Booth, like the way Wharton has an undergrad program at Penn?

Replies to: Should UChicago start an undergrad business program?

  • neweducationneweducation Registered User Posts: 78 Junior Member
  • neweducationneweducation Registered User Posts: 78 Junior Member
    Lemme explain. I think Chicago is one of the last places that is resolutely committed to the production knowledge and teaching, not to more worldly ideals of the career. An undergraduate business school would threaten that. It's far more important for 18 - 22 year olds to truly learn what it means to be human, and how past humans have conceived of the world than it is for them to wrangle internships that lead to the next big career step, or for them to use university as a step onto a lucrative job. Chicago should keep the spirit of intellectualism that is so fundamental to its identity.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,984 Senior Member
    There's not even a ghost of a chance. Engineering is a legitimate topic for debate, since it is such a key area of inquiry in modern education. Even then, it's hard to imagine Chicago doing anything that exempted some set of undergraduates from its Core Curriculum, which would pretty much make an ABET-accredited four-year engineering program impossible.

    Business wouldn't be incompatible with the Core, but it's still completely a stepchild discipline in academia. Of the colleges Chicago considers its peers, no more than a couple offer undergraduate business majors. Even Northwestern doesn't offer an undergraduate business major, although it does have some kind of half-assed certificate program. From a Chicago standpoint, "business" isn't a discipline, it's a collection of applications of the work of other disciplines in a particular context -- math, sociology, psychology, statistics, economics . . . . That can be useful for people who don't have the intellectual capacity to learn the guts of the underlying disciplines themselves, or who lack the imagination to apply what they have learned to commerce, but that's not the kind of student Chicago sees itself as educating.
  • fenwayparkfenwaypark Registered User Posts: 696 Member
    The UChicago Careers in Business Program, utilizing the resources of Booth, already exists. Does this fact alter any of the previous comments?

  • kaukaunakaukauna Registered User Posts: 1,127 Senior Member
    edited February 2014
    I agree wholeheartedly with JHS and neweducation. The move into engineering as explained by Provost Rosenbaum was as much, actually more, about staying relevant in the hard sciences as a need for the UChicago to offer majors provided by peer institutions. Furthermore, I believe that "business" is, as JHS so eloquently put it, kind of a stepchild discipline. These days it is better for the undergrad who thinks he or she might wind up in a corporate setting, or banking / finance, to get a good grounding in math and economics. I also agree with neweducation that what sets UChicago apart is this deep, profound intellectual experience you get at the University. You don't want to change that part of the UChicago education.

    One other thing. I would advise any person who thinks they may work in any business setting, whether it be a startup or established corporate setting, to take at least one financial accounting class. It is the "language of business", to borrow a phrase from a famous accounting textbook written by famous (now deceased) University of Chicago Professor Sidney Davidson.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,984 Senior Member
    Chicago Careers in Business is part of the career advising office. It doesn't have anything to do with academic credit. It's a perfectly nice idea. They have long has a parallel program for people who want to go into health professions (i.e., a pre-med advising program), and they have recently created similar structures for law, education, and journalism/arts. The last one would no doubt make my children and their journalism/arts friends guffaw, because as of a few years ago no one in the CAPS office had the first clue about how to find jobs in journalism or the arts. That said, I am impressed with how well the recent graduates have done in those fields, or in sliding over to get meaningful work in other fields.
  • fenwayparkfenwaypark Registered User Posts: 696 Member
    edited February 2014
    Chicago Careers in Business is part of the career advising office. It doesn't have anything to do with academic credit.

    But it sure does have to do with business/financial markets, and it is a program with a very selective admissions policy. It leads me to disagree with the statement that "there is not a ghost of a chance" that there would someday be an undergrad business program at Chicago. I see this as the proverbial nose of the camel under the tent.

    People used to say the same ghost thing about Brown, and in recent years one of the more popular concentrations has become Business, Entrepreneurship and Organizations. Does Princeton have an undergrad B-school? No. But they have Operations Research and Financial Engineering, which goes head to head with Wharton as far as a job recruitment credential in many cases.

    Would not surprise me at all to see Chicago get into this space.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,984 Senior Member
    Operations Research and Financial Engineering is generally another name for what Chicago would call Applied Math, but without the choice of a biology-oriented option that Chicago offers. And Princeton has had it forever; I knew people who majored in it (or in OR; the FE part wasn't added until later) in the mid-'70s. It's a lot more substantive than what gets taught in "business" majors. One of my closest friends from college got a PhD in OR at Berkeley, and the stuff he did had nothing to do with business whatsoever, at least back then. (He was working with the Defense Department on systems vulnerabilities, and spent a lot of time muttering about wishing he didn't know some of the stuff he knew.)

    It wouldn't surprise me to see Chicago do more with that. It does surprise me that so few undergraduates major in Applied Math, but when you look at the Applied Math major you see that the Math Department is pretty ambivalent about Applied Math, too.

    The CCiB thing has nothing to do with academics. It's a nice idea, a way for the university to help market graduates for business careers, and a way to attract more students who want business careers, both of which are good things. Chicago came very, very late to the party on this. I benefited from a similar program when I was in college almost 40 years ago, and I was majoring in Literary Theory. (Back then, we thought Wharton was where you went if you wanted an Ivy League degree but weren't smart enough to handle real scholarship.)
  • beckervrossbeckervross Registered User Posts: 13 New Member
  • uchicagoalum2uchicagoalum2 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    edited February 2014
    I think a robust, publically touted *second* major / minor / certificate in business or finance is almost inevitable at this point, and it will prove popular if peer schools offer any guide. Columbia, Northwestern, Princeton, Brown, Stanford have caved. JHU is on its way. MIT, Penn, Berkeley, Cornell, etc. all have straight out UG business programs. Additionally, it would also be accretive to the prestige of the College to be affiliated with Booth and Booth to have affiliated college alumni, although a standalone program managed by the College is possible.

    The alternative – which seems less desirable – is the continued post-baccalaureate migration to “pre-experience” MA / MS degrees in “relevant” subjects which Ivy League types without a job offer in hand come senior year flee to in droves. However, they are creating an unnecessary arms race for credentials and causing students to jump into graduate fields that they may have only a passing interest in. That is, most students in such programs end up in business school or another master’s program two-to-five years later, albeit with greater debt, and oftentimes with a jaded view of graduate studies in general (been there, done that, just want a career…)

    Separately, while it is true the best jobs in finance / consulting will increasingly go to STEM graduates (most already do), that said, a lot of entry level corporate jobs have gotten rationalized to the point where liberal arts degree even from a vaunted school is perceived as irrelevant to the tasks at hand. Let’s be honest: why should the bellwether names of American business hire a history major into a brand strategy or process improvement role when respectable state schools are minting not too dull business majors with matching portfolios of soft IT skills in droves? Chicago and its peers are facing the harsh reality that the bubbly conditions of the aughts allowed consultancies, banks, and blue chip corporates (and let’s not forget law firms on a three year lag) to offer heady types innumerable busybody roles, a pattern that is unlikely to repeat itself.

    We are not talking a small shift here. The top 15 or so colleges in the US were placing the *majority* of their students pre-recession into finance / consulting alone! For graduates, the then ubiquitous 2-3 year analyst programs offered well paid opportunities to find oneself both professionally and personally in a major city, and provided real world skills that could be ported over to other fields. For parents, they provided immediate financial justification for the cost of an Ivy caliber education. And administrators were off the hook in coming to terms with the structurally challenged state of their curriculum. It was a narrative that served everyone’s interests until the music stopped…

    Should the music play again, I would hope Chicago and its kind will not lose sight of much needed innovation.

    Post edited by uchicagoalum2 on
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,984 Senior Member
    the continued post-baccalaureate migration to “pre-experience” MA / MS degrees in “relevant” subjects which Ivy League types without a job offer in hand come senior year flee to in droves

    1. I graduated from Yale over 35 years ago. When I look at the careers of my friends, and my wife's friends (she graduated the next year), I can think of exactly three people -- out of 40+ -- who both graduated from the college and have had meaningful careers without ever having gone to graduate school of some sort, and without falling back on family money (I know a few of those). One was a history major who was also president of the Dramat, and whose career has been in management in the theater industry, one was also a history major and YDN reporter whose career has been as a journalist, and the last was an English major who has had the kind of career an English major used to be able to have in publishing. I also know (less well) a few people who have succeeded as authors, actors, composers, and professional athletes with just their undergraduate degrees. It's true of my friends from Harvard, too: I don't know anyone who went to college there and has had a career based solely on his or her undergraduate degree. (Let's not count Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg too heavily, or my friend's kid who dropped out after his freshman year to work for Zuckerberg.)

    My point is that there has never been a time in the past 40 years when a bachelor's degree from HYPS, much less Chicago, was enough to support a career outside of a few "creative" fields (and even there, a lot of people wind up getting MFAs). Maybe that's wrong and unsustainable, but it's pretty deeply embedded in the model.

    (I should add that I do know one Stanford grad who has had a great career in the investment industry without ever getting more than her Spanish Lit BA: my sister. She literally started in the file room of a brokerage while she was still in college, and she's a respected 50-something fund manager. I think she took one accounting course in her last quarter of college, but that was 100% of her relevant undergraduate training.)

    2. I think what little vogue there may have been for "pre-experience" masters degrees was an artifact of the abysmal job market that 2008-2010 graduates faced. My AB 2009 kid had a few friends who did that, and more who wished they had before they finally got some career traction. My AB 2011 kid had no friends who did that, although lots of people started some sort of grad school this year.

    In my generation, many more people went directly from college to law or medical school than seems to be the case now.
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