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New Business Major

Brandeis introduces an undergraduate business major

October 7, 2010

Brandeis University is building on its distinguished MBA program by launching a new undergraduate major in business to give students the knowledge, skills, and practical experience to gain an edge in today’s tough job market.

The business major is ideally designed to leverage studies in other academic disciplines at Brandeis, according to Ed Bayone, chair of the undergraduate business program and a professor of Finance and International Real Estate at Brandeis International Business School (IBS). “Brandeis has a great liberal arts tradition, and the business major is intended to complement that,” he said.

“We want students to come here and explore everything the academy has to offer. Students in the major will not only have an understanding of how the business world really works, but they will also have the critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, and sensitivity to human dynamics that are characteristic of a liberal arts education.”

The undergraduate business program shares faculty with the masters programs at IBS. The major requires six courses including: Introduction to Economics, Financial Accounting, Introduction to Finance, Fundamentals of the Capitalist Enterprise, Organizational Behavior, and Marketing Management. The major also requires five elective courses, at least two of which must be from other liberal arts departments.  Students may take an elective internship course, which involves working, for example, at a financial institution, ad agency, museum, start-up venture, or the business office at a hospital.

As in the Brandeis MBA program, many of the undergraduate business classes are taught using the case study method. The method presents a case and puts students in the role of analyst and decision maker. Students will be expected to write and discuss case analyses, and give effective oral presentations. “We embrace the case study method because it challenges the students to think critically,” said Professor Bayone. “They will have to make decisions with insufficient information, where there are numerous right and wrong answers. The case study method is also a strong example of how experiential learning is integral to Brandeis’ curriculum: how you navigate a case to get to a particular solution replicates what happens in the business world.”

Brandeis is launching the major in response to student demand. It introduced a business minor 15 years ago, and it rapidly became the most popular minor at the school. The new business major will also broaden the school’s appeal to prospective applicants.

“Our research tells us that many top U.S. and international students are looking for a college that offers a business major.  At Brandeis, we want to take that one step further – we want these students to integrate their studies in liberal arts with preparation in business,” said Detlev Suderow, senior lecturer at Brandeis IBS, and also the program’s undergraduate career advisor.
A double major in business and a field in the liberal arts or sciences expands students’ career opportunities, said Professor Suderow, who is a former Senior Vice President of Human Resources in several international companies.

“Particularly in this difficult economy, students and parents are looking for graduates to leave with skills that are applicable to the working world. As students consider how to apply what they learned in their major to a career, the overlaps with business are very clear: applied psychology is marketing; a practical way to use an art history degree is to curate a museum, or run a gallery; applied sociology is the growing field of human capital management. And of course the most popular double major will be economics. We’re presenting a very attractive package to employers: our graduates will have the analytical and technical skills of a business degree, with the intellectual breadth of a liberal arts degree.”

Candidates for the major may apply for admission in their sophomore year, after doing well in at least three core courses. The admissions committee makes decisions based on the student’s grades, work experience, and community activities. The inaugural group, admitted earlier this month, includes 59 juniors and seniors, about half of whom are economics majors. The other half is comprised of students majoring in fields from film, to German, to psychology, to international global studies. 

“We expect this intellectual diversity to be the hallmark of its new program,” said Professor Bayone. “It’s a business degree with a distinctly Brandeis flavor.”