Today’s rapidly changing business environment requires business schools to equip graduates to be job-ready and employable. Career paths in business are becoming more varied, offering opportunities that didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago. Alabama business schools are responding by offering new degrees, courses that combine classroom learning and hands-on experience and studies in relatively new areas, such as sustainability and sports marketing.
With the rising cost of higher education and a gradually recovering job market, some argue that a college degree is no longer a smart investment. Yet studies show that over a lifetime a college graduate makes twice as much in gross salary as someone who didn’t finish college, and that includes a business degree. And many of the business and financial occupations listed in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook are expected to grow much faster than average through 2020.
A new degree program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is the master of science degree in management information systems, a completely online degree that will first be offered this fall. Students in the MS MIS program can focus on information security, web and mobile development or on IT management.
Molly Wasko, assistant professor and chair of UAB’s management, information systems and quantitative methods department, says that the school’s master’s courses are developed with input from industry professionals on the latest technologies, emerging trends and management techniques to ensure that students learn in-demand skills.
Also beginning this fall is a new, streamlined MBA program aimed at giving all MBA students the same experience and allowing students to complete the new program part-time in two years or full-time in one year. Also new at UAB is a graduate social media certificate, which combines social media and web analytics for business and social media marketing. Interim Dean Eric Jack says the new programs enhance UAB’s ability to meet the changing needs of businesses and their students.
Troy University is also offering a new internationally focused MBA program this fall at both its Troy and Montgomery campuses. The new program offers concentrations in international management, international accounting and finance and international information systems. Troy students will study abroad with their international partners, while the partners will have the chance to study at Troy University, explains Judson Edwards, dean of Troy’s Sorrell College of Business.
A new bachelor of science in business administration in economics also will begin at Troy in the fall, focusing on the moral imperatives of free markets and individual liberty. Troy also added a master of accountancy program in 2012.
At the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a new undergraduate program in economics and computational analysis has been approved by the school’s board of trustees and is awaiting authorization from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the accreditation agency for higher education institutions in the South.
The ability to use mathematics and computers to analyze data more thoroughly is needed in a variety of industries, notes Caron St. John, dean of UAH’s College of Business Administration.
New at Auburn University at Montgomery is a master of science in information systems management, designed to prepare students as leaders in the field. Dean Rhea Ingram, of AUM’s School of Business, says the new program will help students develop skills that are transferable across industries, such as healthcare, manufacturing, services, nonprofits and government agencies.
The biggest addition to business offerings at Birmingham-Southern College is the Stump Entrepreneurship Program, which awards scholarships to students desiring to study entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs mentor students, and courses include for-profit entrepreneur projects. Also new at BSC is a course for senior business majors who write a business plan and run a business for two weeks, starting with $500 seed money. Sara Robicheaux, dean of business programs at BSC, says this year students generated about $9, 000 in profits, which was donated to nonprofit groups.
Spring Hill College, a private Jesuit college in Mobile, is offering “Business, Society and Sustainability, ” a new sophomore required course, which incorporates Jesuit teachings that focus on ethical decision making. Division of Business Chair Sergio Castello says the course will have a service component and will strive to develop moral, ethical and socially responsible future leaders.
Samford University’s Brock School of Business is adding a sports marketing concentration to its fall 2013 curriculum, helping students prepare for a career in the multi-billion dollar global sports industry. Samford will be one of only 10 business schools that are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business to offer an undergraduate program in sports marketing, says Darin White, marketing professor and coordinator of the new program.
Howard Finch, dean of Brock School of Business, says there is a strong demand from students to learn the business side of the sports industry. The field of sports marketing focuses on the advertising of sports and the use of sporting events, teams and individual athletes to promote products. Samford’s program will combine classroom training, internships and client projects.
Under White’s direction, students have been working on sports marketing projects for the past three years, working with PGA, Talladega Superspeedway, Honda Indy Grand Prix and other clients. The program also will give sports marketing students the chance to work abroad to gain industry experience in foreign countries. “Our program is going to be very real-world oriented, ” says White, “with the entire curriculum based on getting them into the industry.”
Science as Product
In fall 2011, the University of Alabama introduced the STEM Path to the MBA, which targets high-performing incoming UA undergraduate students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. These students have the opportunity to take part in honors courses during each semester of their undergraduate studies and graduate with both an undergraduate degree and MBA in five years.
What makes UA’s program different from other STEM programs is that the two disciplines are integrated from the student’s first undergraduate semester and the interaction continues for five years, says Rob Morgan, executive director for innovation initiatives at the UA’s Culverhouse College of Commerce and its Manderson Graduate School, who is responsible for the STEM program.
Starting in the fall of their freshman year, students work in teams every five weeks to develop a new business model for a product or business. By the time they enter the MBA year of study, they have completed 24 business models. Morgan notes that the STEM Path to the MBA aims to create more innovators in science, technology and engineering to enable the United States to maintain global economic leadership.
Peerless CPA Success
Accounting is among the strongest programs at Auburn University College of Business. Joining its undergraduate accounting degree is a new graduate certificate in accounting, beginning this summer. According to Dean Bill Hardgrave, of the College of Business, 80 percent of Auburn’s accounting students pass the four-part CPA examination on the first try, compared to the 8 percent national average. “We’re working hard to get all of our programs up to this level.”
A new undergraduate degree in business analytics will begin this fall, pending approval from the Alabama Commission on Higher Education. A minor in business analytics was added last year.
Beginning in fall 2014, AU’s College of Business will offer a new dual master of science in business administration and finance, with course work in the principal areas of finance —corporate, investments, and financial institutions and markets.
Jessica Armstrong is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Auburn.