Business Bridge-to-Career: Teaching Business Fundamentals to Everyone

The popular press is laden with examples of how undergraduate students with majors in the professional disciplines are more likely to find meaningful work upon graduation from college.  One example is a US News and World Report (F. Powell, 7/21/2016) article entitled “Top College Majors for Finding Full-Time Work.”  In this article, F. Powell references a table from “Job Outlook 2016”  by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (see below).  This table presents a rank-ordered list of the majors that are in the greatest demand by employers:

Top JobsMy question is simple: is it easier to find meaningful employment with a professional undergraduate degree than it is with a non professional undergraduate degree?  Much of what I have read suggests that this is the case and countless conversations with parents who are interested in making sure that their children are employed upon graduation also suggests that this is the case.  Some will argue that this isn’t the case, and the purpose of this brief note isn’t to prove that it is.  However, if this is the case, why does it have to be this way?

A personal example: my oldest child (Erin) was a very accomplished college student and graduated with an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Tennessee (UT).  While she was a senior at UT, my coauthors and I hired her to edit a book (<-shameless plug) on supply chain management.  While editing the book, Erin discovered that she was interested in supply chain management.  She then enrolled in UT’s (top 5) supply chain management undergraduate program as well as its business analytics program.  During her studies, she completed a six-month co-op at Colgate Palmolive in logistics and distribution supply chain.  Along the way, she discovered that her degree in english was a very valuable commodity that most of the other business folks she worked with didn’t have.  When she hit the job market, she was a hot commodity!  She accepted a job with the Los Angeles Deloitte office as a consultant — a top job.  English + supply chain + business analytics. 

This really started me to pondering the possibilities around blending the arts and sciences with professional education in business.  So, several of us here at Boise State’s College of Business and Economics decided to run an experiment to see whether there would be interest on the part of non-business majors in business education.  We scratch built a tailored six course sequence in business fundamentals that we would only offer to non business majors.  We called this program “Business Bridge to Career (B2C)” and we launched it in the spring of 2016 in an online/distance format, (so that students could access it at a time that wouldn’t interfere with their major program coursework).  We also enhanced the value proposition for this program by coupling it with our career services center.  That is, any student enrolled in B2C would be encouraged to use the same college of business career center that our business majors used to find meaningful employment.

The graph below presents evidence that there is strong demand for the addition of tailored business education for the non-business major.  In the semester we launched the program, we enrolled 128 non business major undergraduate students.  This semester (spring of 2018), we enrolled 460 non business major undergraduate students.  I expect that this program will eventually teach over 1000 students a semester.

B2C Growth

You might call this out as an old idea, as many business colleges offer minors for non business majors.  However, most minor programs use coursework that is designed for business majors.  What makes this B2C program so special is that it is designed specifically for non-business majors and it is offered in such a way as to prevent it from interfering their (non business) major program of study.  As an example  of  “tailored,” we teach our business majors how to develop a set of accounting financial statements.  We teach our B2C students how to read and understand a set of financial statements.  If you are a fine arts student who will eventually run a small business, this skill might be very valuable!

The experiment was a success and I encourage other colleges of business to consider launching similar programs, as they are in the best interest of ALL of our students and it is a great way for a college of business to make a contribution to the broader university and to the community.  I also believe that there are opportunities for similar minors within the business disciplines as well.

If you are interested in seeing how this curriculum is designed, click here for a description of each of the courses.