WMU News

WMU revises undergraduate business curriculum

April 7, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University's Haworth College of Business has revised its bachelor of business administration degree program to better serve its students and the businesses that hire them.

The new program, which takes effect with the fall semester, will offer more business courses in the freshman year, introduce courses that integrate disciplines and require students to participate in an internship, study abroad experience or directed research project.

"Students will leave the program with more self-direction, more hands-on, real-world experience and more exposure to how the various business functions interact," says Dr. James W. Schmotter, dean of the college. "Our goal is to deliver the best undergraduate business program in Michigan and surrounding states by the year 2006."

The revised program will introduce five new courses into the curriculum. These courses cover such topics as information technology, communication with an organizational and business emphasis and analytical reasoning. They will blend a variety of business specialties, a factor that Schmotter says is a critical component of the revised curriculum.

"We know from talking to alumni, employers and focus groups that in the real world of business everything is not neatly separated into finance, marketing and accounting in the way our academic disciplines work," he explains. "So we are consciously introducing at least one course every year where students will be integrating across disciplines."

Additionally, a number of general education requirements will be revamped to reflect a student's particular business discipline.

The revised program also is designed to prompt students to think about their education and their careers earlier, according to Schmotter. It will require entering freshmen to register with WMU's Office of

Career Services and develop a portfolio of personal activities, accomplishments and products that

demonstrate use of coursework in a professional context. This electronic portfolio will be established on the student's Web page. During the freshman year, it will entail career exploration but will evolve to reflect the real-life experience students will gain as they proceed through the program. Schmotter says the intent is for the portfolio to be an integral part of a student's employment or graduate school decision process.

"If students really start thinking about what they want to do their freshman year and by their junior year are required to participate in an internship or some kind of meaningful, outside-the-classroom experience such as study abroad or a direct research project, we can really set ourselves apart at the undergraduate level," Schmotter explains. "We're capable of doing that. We have the size, the faculty strength and the support from external constituents to be successful in our ambitious goal."

Schmotter says the college will be adding a staff member to help expand and coordinate the internships. The college's various industry and business advisory councils will play an integral role in this component, as nearly 700 internships will be needed each year. The college also will work with WMU's Office of International Affairs to expand interest and participation in study abroad programs.

The revised curriculum is the result of more than a year of discussion and analysis of the best practices taking place in undergraduate business education. Faculty, alumni and industry representatives, who hire WMU graduates, played a role in the changes.

"We took into account the needs of the main regions we serve -- Southwest Michigan, the whole state and the upper Midwest," Schmotter explains. "This is an economy that is based on manufacturing and service industries and we always need to remember that we are educating students for these arenas, not necessarily Wall Street. The new BBA is very much a product of ongoing conversations with business constituencies and analyses of the best practices in undergraduate business education."

WMU's Haworth College of Business is among a select 25 percent of U.S. business schools that are accredited by the AACSB -- The International Association for Management Education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The 12th largest undergraduate business school in the nation, Haworth

annually enrolls about 4,000 undergraduates in a dozen business major and minor programs. Some 800 graduate students enroll each year in the school's master of business administration, master of science in accountancy and master of science in business degree programs.

Media contact: Julie Paavola; julie.paavola@wmich.edu

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