Saturday, December 22, 2007

The attitude of a champion

I found the most amazing quote today when reading a story about Tiger Woods. This is him explaining to a group of people how he views life:

I view my life in a way ... I'll explain it to you, OK? The greatest thing about tomorrow is, I will be better than I am today. And that's how I look at my life. I will be better as a golfer, I will be better as a person, I will be better as a father, I will be a better husband, I will be better as a friend. That's the beauty of tomorrow. There is no such thing as a setback. The lessons I learn today I will apply tomorrow, and I will be better.

What a fantastic attitude! It explains a lot about why he's a champion. Always work to be better in everything you do. Every day is a gift; time is the only thing each of us have, and when each day is gone, we'll never get it back. So what seems to be a reasonable exchange for that day? Sitting on your couch and not doing anything? Probably not. Ask yourself this question: What can you do to give in exchange for this day?

At the end of the day worth living, you will have tried things, risked making mistakes, and actually made some mistakes. As Tiger says, that's just the cost of trying to be better. What makes these mistakes worth it is that you learn from them, that they make you better. It is only by trying things, and inevitably making mistakes and learning from them, that you can get better.

So get out there. Look for some possible course of action. Figure out how you might differentiate yourself — and do it.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

BBA class in China

Just wanted to note here that I will be accompanying 35 students from Jim Walsh's BBA class to China during the next two weeks. I figure that my recent furious rate of posting will decrease and someone might notice and wonder what's going on. I will try to post some comments in my other blog (for those of you who might care).

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Slacking seniors in high school: beware

Recently, there was a real nice article in the New York Times describing how colleges are dealing with admitted students whose grades during their senior year have fallen off dramatically. It seems that universities are really cracking down so that students don’t waste their senior year. The University of Michigan is specifically mentioned for the steps that it is taking.

Monday, May 07, 2007

First steps toward success in college

I have been reading a lot of online posts recently about choosing a college, about going to a specific university, and about the relative ease or difficulty or prestige (or lack of same) between different schools. And mixed among those stories are the comments made by students saying “I got good grades in high school and I got a really high test score, so how hard can college classes really be?” Well, I’m here to tell you right now that they’re hard enough.

A couple of months ago I looked at the first semester business school grades (after one year of LS&A classes) of 120 BBAs here in light of their high school grades. The main finding might shock some people (but only served to confirm what I had believed): Students who do really well in high school (i.e., GPA of 3.9+ and an A in AP Calculus) can do really well at Ross but also can struggle to maintain a 2.0 GPA, and sometimes even fail to maintain that.

The first steps that any student can take toward success in college are the following:

  • Forget how impressive your high school academic record was,
  • Respect your peers (because they probably had a record as good as or better than yours),
  • Respect your professors (because they were the smart kid in some high school and then some college class 5 to 15 or more years ago), and
  • Respect the material (even if it looks something like what you studied in high school, you’re going to be tested on it differently in college).

The sooner that you realize that what you did in high school doesn’t count for much when you’re in college the better off you’ll be. We are all glad that you were an excellent student in high school. We are thrilled that you participated in so many extracurricular activities and contributed so much to your community. These are all wonderful things. All of them have gone into making you what you are today. Let’s sit back and enjoy thinking about them for a minute.

Okay, that was quite enjoyable.

Now let’s get back to the current situation. Those accomplishments don’t count for anything tomorrow when you’re sitting in a college classroom (or later when you have a job) — it will all be about what you do at that time, how you contribute to that community, how you compete and cooperate with those students. This isn’t really anything special to the college admissions process. This is how it will be for the rest of your life so you might as well get used to it. What you have accomplished is what has gotten you to where you are today, but what you accomplish today determines where you will be tomorrow.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Our changing admissions rate

I recently received a question from a student related to the recent change in the admissions rate from 47% (for the class of rising juniors that we admitted last summer) to 30-35% (for the class of rising sophomores that we will be admitting this summer). The question is the following: “Does this mean the average GPA is going to go up and getting in is going to get a lot harder really fast?”

Short answer (that probably doesn’t answer the intent of the original question): I have no idea if the GPA is going to go up this year and I won’t until the end of June when we’re all done.

I would be really surprised if it’s going to get that much harder to get in that quickly. The rate changed so much this year because our whole structure for accepting applications from UM students changed. We used to accept applications from sophomores. These students had taken Econ101, Econ102, Math115, and one (or both) intro accounting classes. By the time these courses were done, it was pretty clear to students 1) whether or not they were interested in business, and 2) whether or not they could succeed in and would like taking business classes. The result of these two factors was that students self-selected themselves out of applying to business by the end of their sophomore years. There are now fewer classes for convincing students not to apply to Ross, so the end result is that Ross receives more applications. I believe it’s currently the case that there are no more students entering UM at the beginning of their freshman year who are interested in business than there were a couple of years ago. The difference in the number of applications is that fewer of these students have been convinced not to apply to Ross. I hope this changes in future years (that is, I hope that the number of applications goes up because more students are interested in business), but I don’t believe it has happened yet (though it may have).

Now, in several years if my plan for global domination succeeds (evil laugh echoes off the walls of my imposing maize & blue castle), then it might be the case that applications will be up because there simply are more students entering UM with a plan for studying business. But I don’t think we’re there just yet.

So, what does this all mean? To me, it means that students this year competed with basically the same number of UM students that they did in the past — it’s just that more of them hadn’t removed themselves from consideration by Ross.

What’s the end result of this in the short run? I believe that the UM GPA of admitted students won’t change by a significant amount this year; it didn’t change much last year. Further, I don’t believe that getting into Ross is going to be any harder than it was in the past — as long as you take into account the fact that we now have a two-phase admissions process. I believe this might have made it slightly more difficult to get in for the average student because we might have (I hope) gotten the attention of more highly attractive high school students and subsequently gotten them to apply to Ross simply because they could get in right out of high school. But the data for this certainly isn’t in yet. We probably won’t have an answer to this question for another couple of years.

So, if you assume that half of our preferred admit class are made up of applications from students who would not have applied to or chosen to attend UM/Ross without the PA program, then that would mean that we have 50 fewer spots for our usual set of (historically, very high quality) applicants. Given that, you might think that next year it would be harder to get into Ross.

But have you considered the fact that we have already thought through this and might be thinking of increasing the size of the BBA Program? If that were to happen, then it might not end up being any more difficult to get into Ross than it was before — it might just end up being a larger (really high quality) program than it was before. (We of course would like, in this scenario, to be both larger and higher quality.) Now, don’t go thinking that the Dean or I have approved this change for next year. We haven’t even discussed it. I am simply saying that this type of change is at least going to be considered. (I haven’t presented the reasons for not getting bigger — and these are fairly reasonable — so don’t think it’s a straight-forward case for increasing the size.) And what matters to you is that it is a complete and total unknown at this point so don’t think that you can guess what we’re going to do by deciphering my writing. (“Oh, he’s clearly not going to make it bigger! I should give up!” or “It’s definitely going to get bigger. I can just cruise from here and wait for my acceptance letter.” No. Resist the temptation!) Because even I have no idea what we’re going to do.

So, don’t despair. Just do what you think you should do in order to increase your chances of getting in. Continue to get advice. But do what you can to ensure that your record is high quality, apply to the program, and let the chips fall where they may. You won’t help anything by worrying about this type of detail.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

How to find good classes and professors

Recently a student asked me what resources are available to him to find good classes and good professors. I asked my advisors, who in turn asked some students, and got a variety of answers. I have combined what I know with what they told me and this is what I have come up with.

  • Public sites. Students said that they are careful to note how many people rated the professor (obviously not much impact with just a few ratings). Also, remember that students who go to these sites tend to have strong feelings one way or the other.
  • UM sites.
    • Course evaluation forms: The Michigan Student Assembly has a form (for current UM students) that allows you to search through the data collected on the official course evaluation forms that professors hand out at the end of the semester.
    • Course evaluations: If you’re a Ross student and are interested in Ross professors, then use this site that is provided by the school to get course evaluation data.
  • Word of mouth: This is what students mostly rely on. (They should at least use the Ross advisors.)
  • Ross Student Advisors: If you are a Ross student, then you should definitely check in with an advisor when you are choosing your classes. They have sat in on many classes, have gotten feedback from many previous students, and understand how different courses relate to each other. They also have a broad and fairly deep understanding of the LS&A and engineering curriculums.

This seems to be the range of resources that students use to find good classes and good professors. I will update this list if I learn of other resources.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The concept of an MBA feeder school

I have heard several discussions recently about the attractiveness of schools, and in rating a school higher because it is an “MBA feeder” school. The way that the rankings usually have it is that a “good” MBA feeder school has a high percentage of its graduates attend an MBA program; you can guess what a school might look like for it to rank low on this scale. I gotta tell you that I do not understand why this is used as a way to rank undergraduate business schools. And don’t think this is just sour grapes. Ross generally does well on such rankings.

Here are the different scenarios that I can come up with for a student who graduates from Ross:

  • A student graduates from Ross. Gets a job, loves it, gets big raises. Happy with career. Never goes back to school. Might become president of the world, for all we know. Note that this counts as a negative in the MBA feeder school ranking since this person never gets an MBA.
  • A student graduates from Ross. Gets a job, hates it, changes jobs and industries through personal contacts. Happy with new career. Never goes back to school. Note that this also counts as a negative.
  • A student graduates from Ross. Gets a job, hates it, goes back and gets a masters degree in social work. Happy with career. This also counts as a negative.
  • A student graduates from Ross. Gets a job, hates it, goes back and gets a Masters in Financial Engineering (from an engineering school) or a Masters in Supply Chain (from a business school!) or gets a J.D. (from a law school) and works in corporate law. All three of these count as a negative.
  • A student graduates from Ross. Gets a job, loves it but can’t be promoted because of company policy that requires an MBA. Goes back to school. Student may or may not end up liking new job. This counts as a positive.
  • A student graduates from Ross. Gets a job, hates it, goes back and gets an MBA. Student may or may not end up liking new job. This counts as a positive.

How is it that the first four don’t help Ross while the last two are good for us? It’s not whether or not a person changes careers or jobs. It’s not whether or not a person made a good career choice out of undergrad. It’s not whether or not a person goes back to school and ends up getting a job in business. It’s not how successful he or she is after getting the BBA. It’s not how successful he or she is after getting the MBA. The only things that count as positives are if a student graduates from our school and, for some reason, feels that he or she must get an MBA. It’s simply the fact that the BBA student ended up getting an MBA. This is the measure of success.

One way to ensure that a school does poorly on such a ranking is to place its graduates in jobs that they will love and will get promoted in. Two ways to ensure that a school does well on such a ranking is 1) to place its graduates in jobs that they will hate or 2) to place its graduates in companies that require MBAs in order to be promoted.

Does this make sense? Should this be something that influences how highly an undergraduate business program is ranked and, through its influence, how attractive the program is perceived to be?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

If you did not get into Ross as a Preferred Admit

If you did not get into Ross as a Preferred Admit, don’t fret and don’t frown. We admitted less than 10% of the applicants to the program. (I would have been a borderline case for admissions; I have great sympathy for those of you who did not get admitted.) We turned down lots of applicants who, based on what I read in their applications, would have a very good chance of succeeding at Ross. (Should we be bigger? Maybe; we have to compete for space and resources with other Ross programs. Can we get bigger right now? No; the construction process makes it quite cramped right now — though this will be better 18 months from now.) When these same applicants apply next year, they will have a much better chance of being accepted. The acceptance rate for the 3-year program is more in the range of 30-35%.

The question becomes what the student should do in order to improve his or her chances of getting in next year. We will look at highlights from your high school application to UM (not to Ross; we don’t care one way or another if you applied to Ross out of high school) so you won’t lose “credit” for your good deeds from high school. Though we will note your high school accomplishments, we will focus on what you have accomplished since you graduated from high school. The following are some productive steps that you can take in the following year:

  • This summer you should do something with your time that is productive in any way possible (paying job, volunteer, or whatever). When you do something, there’s a chance that you will have stories to tell later. And it is with these stories that you can convey a sense of who you are to other people.
  • You should be sure that you get good grades next year. A 3.6 GPA is about the average for students entering the business school. Certainly, some admitted students have lower grades than this (it is an average, after all) but all other things being equal, it’s better to have higher grades than lower grades.
  • Take Econ 101 and one math class (at least Math 115). If you perform well in analytic classes, it helps your chances of getting into Ross. If you take only analytic classes, that’s not so good. If you don’t take these two classes, then we won’t consider your transcript. Analytic skills are an important prerequisite to succeeding at Ross since so many of our classes build on this particular foundation.
  • Take LS&A classes that interest you. You might find a double-major or minor opportunity. Or you might change your major! You just never know. But you’ll certainly do better in a class that you want to take.
  • During school you should be involved in a couple of activities and/or projects that show that you can accomplish something

That’s about it. We’re looking for smart doers with different people mixing those two ingredients in different ratios. The clearer that you can make it that you fit this description, the better chance that you have of getting in.

Note the following: If you think that your grades don’t measure up but you have some other significant accomplishments that outweigh your grades, then please go ahead and apply to Ross if it’s what you have always wanted to do. Don’t let outsiders talk you out of it. Do all that you can do and let us make the admissions decision. Maybe you’ll get in and maybe you won’t — but at least you’ll know for sure.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Specific dual majors and minors

I have previously written about Ross’s support for dual majors and minors (in other disciplines); read this post for a better idea of what I think about this. However, I haven’t ever listed the wide variety of disciplines that students have pursued for their dual or minor. Here is a list of them:

  • Actuarial math
  • Applied statistics
  • Asian Language & Culture
  • Asian Studies
  • Brain, behavior, & cognitive science
  • Cellular & molecular biology
  • Crime & Justice
  • Economics
  • Environment
  • French & Francophone Studies
  • Gender, Race & Ethnicity
  • German Studies
  • History of Art
  • International Relations of the Middle East
  • Industrial & Organizational Engineering
  • Latin
  • Mathematics
  • Organizational Studies
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Psychology
  • Russian & East European Studies
  • Spanish Language, Literature, Culture
  • Statistics

Don’t read this as an exhaustive list. Read it as an indication of the variety of possibilities that lie before you as a UM/Ross student.

Preferred admit activities

My attitude to the preferred admit (PA) program might surprise some people. (And I’m writing about it here so that incoming students don’t end up being surprised.) My goal for the PA students is that they use their freshman year to immerse themselves in the activities and culture of the university while at the same time becoming acquainted with Ross. The University of Michigan is a complicated enough place without us overwhelming the PAs with a bunch of Ross-related requirements. The diversity of options (programs, people, events, classes) at the university is probably our greatest strength. I want the PAs to be comfortable about all of the resources outside of Ross available to them so that they can take advantage of them during their time at UM.

We don’t let the PAs simply roam around the campus without interacting with us. We started off the year with a short orientation whose purpose was generally to allow the PAs to meet each other and to get introduced to our staff. Starting soon thereafter we offered a series of weekly seminars (attendance required) just for the PAs. The purpose of these seminars is to introduce the PAs to business and to Ross. The following are those seminars that we offered this year. Next year will most likely be somewhat different but the general structure and purpose will be the same.

  • Introduction to stock trading
  • Time management
  • Using the school library
  • Self-assessment workshop
  • Retailing
  • Career assessment
  • Strategy
  • Accounting
  • Dual degrees
  • Financial services company
  • Clubs and Internships
  • Marketing
  • Microsoft
  • Medical device manufacturer
  • International Business
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Global Sustainable Enterprises
  • Finance
  • Global equipment manufacturer

We will be updating this series of seminars over this summer so don’t hold up this list to me as some kind of promise for future services to be rendered.

In addition, during the year PAs can use both their LS&A advisors and their Ross advisors to help them put together their academic plan. Given that many of these students are planning on working toward a dual degree or minor, these academic plans need to be constructed fairly carefully.

What we are trying to do is to give PAs a bit of a head start into business and Ross since they are “our” students. For those sophomores who do not get into Ross as PAs, the information that we provide to PAs is not something that they wouldn’t be able to pick up during their time at Ross; however, this does allow PAs to learn about business and Ross without being under the academic pressure of upper-level classes. We think this low-key introduction to business provides a reasonable place to start for students who we want to integrate fully into the university’s life.

What classes you should take

Students frequently ask what classes they should take. “What are the best classes?” This is a both an easy and difficult question to answer.

  • Take as many classes as you can that you are interested in. The more you are interested in them, the better you will do (all else being equal). Why would you take a class that you’re not interested in? I would hope that you would be taking classes to prepare you for the world, and possibly for your work life. And if you think it’s fun to have a job when you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, then you need to talk to more people who have jobs.
  • Take as many classes as you can from professors who are extremely passionate about their class. Even if you’re not completely enamored with the material, it’s almost always fun to take a class from someone who really loves the material and passes on that love to you. Those were some of my best classes (when I was sitting in a room as a student).

Yes, sometimes you will have to take “required” classes, and these aren’t always the most fun. But look for a professor who really loves the class (if you have a choice), and hop on for the ride. Might as well make the most of it.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Tonight’s graduation ceremony was a good one

The graduation ceremony for the BBA class of 2007 (and other programs) was tonight. It was actually a fairly nice program. Steve Case, formerly of AOL Time Warner, was the main speaker. He made four main points:

  • Business is about people, passion, and perseverance.
  • Business is a great vehicle for bringing about social change.
  • The next big opportunities are in health care and the environment.
  • Business people should take bigger risks than they are accustomed to taking.

Lots of good points can be made here. Given his background these points carried additional weight. I enjoyed listening to him. Before him there were some pretty good speeches by students — funny, passionate, and insightful. Good stuff.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Trying to describe the Ross & UM experience

One of the more difficult tasks that I have as BBA Program Director is to answer the question “What is it about Ross & UM that makes it so special that I (or ‘my son’ or ‘my daughter’ or...) should go there?” Well, it’s not hard to answer — it’s just hard to answer in any kind of succinct and compelling way. The difficulty is that our strength is in the diversity of options that a student has when he or she is here. A student has many different paths that he or she might take:

  • Finance is our most popular option but we also have significant numbers of students who go into accounting, consulting, marketing, and general management development programs.
  • Chicago is a popular destination for students, and so is New York. But when a student says that she is going to work in Atlanta, Cleveland, or Washington, D.C., no one is really that surprised.
  • Many students go directly to work for a large company, but we also have a significant number of students who go to law school or to work in more entrepreneurial environments.
  • When students are here, they can be involved in classes or programs that take them to Washington, D.C., Shanghai, Hong Kong, or Central Europe.
  • Many students are involved in dozens of different community service events around southeastern Michigan while they are here.
  • Student summer experiences range from working on Wall Street or consulting companies to going through Domestic Corps to work with not-for-profit companies.
  • About 10% of our students have a dual major or minor in subjects ranging from Economics to Spanish to History of Art to Political Science.
  • For some students, their favorite class was their business statistics class (if you can imagine) or their business law class or their finance class or their Bottom of the Pyramid elective or their Corporation & Society elective... The list is quite long and shows how many different types of students we have.

I think you can see how hard it is to describe the Ross and UM experience in one short simple sentence. So, what we’re doing to try to help this process along is to make videos about specific experiences that BBAs have had during their time at UM and Ross. The first one (that we just posted) is about Neal Uppal and the fantastic Domestic Corps/internship experience he had during the summer between his junior and senior years. You can see this movie if you go to the BBA home page. We will be posting more of these during the coming year.

Having flexible course registration along with cohorts

In a previous post I discussed the complex relationship between the decision of whether or not to have cohorts and the ability of students to have a flexible course registration process. Here at Ross we need a flexible course registration process — or, at least, we need one at least as flexible as the one we have now. A more flexible process would probably also be welcome as long as it could be implemented in a reasonable way by a reasonable number of people working a reasonable number of hours.

It would be easy to implement a very flexible system if we just got rid of cohorts — the practice of putting students into groups that persist across courses. Simply let students register for whatever courses they want that are still available when their registration time comes up. Of course, this doesn’t allow Ross to continue to use cohorts.

I have talked with about 30 seniors over the last two weeks in some depth about this issue. I can’t give you any conclusive proof that what they told me is perfectly representative of the rest of the class, but I can tell you that these students really, really are happy that Ross had cohorts (or “sections”, as they call them):

  • Many students bond with their section-mates so much so that they become their best friends.
  • Section-mates are a student’s support group as she goes through a difficult set of core courses.
  • A student’s section is her home in which she can gain a sense of community in a large university.
  • A student’s experiences with her section-mates are some of the dominant thoughts as she reflects back on her time at Ross and UM.

Any decision to abolish the use of sections would alter the environment of the school and is outside my current goal: to improve the flexibility of the registration process (within the confines of our cohort-based system).

I have received several recommendations from students and staff related to this situation and we’re beginning to narrow in on a proposal. I have already run this exact scenario by about 20 seniors and they liked it. Note that the following isn’t necessarily implementable within the university’s registration process, but it’s worth thinking about. I am writing all of this so that I might hear from students and staff what they think about it.

Here’s the process that I’m thinking about:

  1. The University publishes its schedule, including Ross courses.
  2. Students know which section to which she is assigned for the current year.
  3. Students look at the Ross courses and bid for electives.
  4. Students are notified which electives they successfully bid for. Students have these classes loaded into their schedules.
  5. Each student looks at the Ross electives that she got into and the UM electives that she wants to get it. The student determines if these electives conflict with one of the core courses to which he or she is assigned.
  6. If the student doesn’t find such a conflict (which would be the normal state of affairs), then the student doesn’t need to do anything and registration proceeds as normal.
  7. However, if the student does find a conflict, then she would petition to opt out of the section assignment process for a specific course. Petitions would be more likely to be approved if the student had previously (that is, several weeks or months ago) set up a long-term course of study that requires a certain LS&A or Ross elective to be taken (for example, in order to complete a dual major or minor); they would be less likely to be approved if the student simply wants to get out of an 8:30 section of a course. Of course, the student would end up not being with her section, but this would be a decision that the student thinks is best for her overall.
  8. Before any UM students begin to register, all of the students who did not opt out of section assignments would be pre-loaded into the appropriate sections for the core courses. The students who did opt out of these assignments would not be pre-loaded into courses.
  9. During registration, students would register for courses as usual; however, students who opted-out of their core sections would also have to register for whatever section of the core that is available. Students would not be guaranteed a spot in a “better” section or even a different section during open registration. He or she would simply be taking a chance that a better section might be open when his or her registration slot comes up.
  10. After registration is over, students who for some reason still want to change sections would go to the CTools course swap Web site that we have set up. At this site, the student would attempt to swap her spot in one section with a student in another section of the same course.

I’m not sure how to handle students who are not able to get into a core course section that does not overlap with the electives that she has gotten into. The real problem that I see with this is whether or not there is time to do all that this process requires. I look forward to hearing 1) from students about whether or not this process seems reasonable and which parts might be more important than others, and 2) from staff about whether or not this process can, or even should be, implemented.

Again, I’m sure that I will be writing more about this at a later time.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Stressed, happy, and sad

No exciting news here today, just a bit of reflection. It is such a stressful time of the year for everyone: students taking exams and worrying about their grades, faculty grading term projects and exams and worried about assigning grades, and lots of events for everyone that can be fun but can also be stressful if you are trying to ensure they go off well.

It is also, certainly, a happy time of the year. Students are done with classes (who cares what I got in the class because I’m done!), faculty are soon to be done with grading (and that’s always a relief), and the daily press of scheduled events is soon to be over.

However, mostly, for me this is a sad time of the year. Students have to say goodbye to their friends who they won’s see much, if at all, over the summer. This was always the worst part of summer for me when I was a student. I hated for summer to come because I would have to go home and live with my parents. (Not that they were anything but good to me, but they weren’t my friends and I had to live by their rules and all of that. They were paying the bills so it’s not like this was torture. Ah, the pains of growing up.) I’ve also spent quite a bit of time with seniors over the last few weeks and have seen, up close and personal, what goods kids they are and what good representatives of UM, Ross, and the BBA Program they will be as they go out into the world. I’m going to miss having them around. And I’m also dedicating myself to have more frequent contact with more students. I’m in the midst of trying to figure out just how I can do this.

We had our BBA Celebration in Rackham Auditorium yesterday. It’s a beautiful facility and one that I always enjoy visiting for whatever reason. (That’s not to say that I won’t enjoy having the event in the auditorium in our new building in two years.) I had a great talk presenting to the graduating students my summary of their experiences here and my hopes and good wishes for them for the future. Then with the sharing of good food, highlighted by a chocolate fountain, we went on our way. We’ll see each other at graduation one last time.

And before I know it, it will be September and we’ll start the process all over again.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Class size for BBA Program

Over the last five years or so, the BBA Program has had about 350-360 students graduate per senior class. We had never before had such a large graduating class. Given the high yield rate of students who were admitted to the program and students who ended up enrolling in classes, we usually admitted no more than 360-370 students after their sophomore year.

Now we’re playing a different game. We are admitting students directly from high school and after their freshman year. The yield rate is much lower for the high school students than the freshman students because they have not yet picked a college to attend. The school now has two decisions to make: what percentage of the graduating class should be admitted directly out of high school, and how large should the graduating class be? I’ll take these questions one at a time (though, of course, they are related).

Since Ross had never before admitted high school students, we have been conservative in our first two years related to the size question. We enrolled a class of 70 students in 2006 and hope to enroll around 100 students in 2007. We will continue to monitor the performance of these “preferred admit” students as we strive to determine how to create the best possible class of graduating BBAs.

As stated before, recently we have had graduating classes of around 350 students. We are in a transition period here at Ross because of the construction. We are going to have access to limited classroom space here on the Business School campus until sometime late fall 2008. However, after that, the Ross School is going to have more space than ever at our disposal — not a lot more for classes, but some. The question becomes how are we going to use it (as a school). Do we have a larger Day MBA program or BBA Program? Or do we add specialized degree programs such as the Masters in Supply Chain? Do we add more programs jointly with other schools and, if so, which schools? Do we add more electives, and to which program? These are not easy decisions to make and have not been fully decided yet.

We are looking at all possibilities. We know that there are students who are not in the BBA Program who would like to be in the program and would succeed once enrolled. But, as discussed, the situation is not that straight forward. I will write about this as more decisions are made.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Cohorts or not?

At the Ross BBA Program we currently cohort our students; that is, we assign students to specific sections across several different classes. Cohorts provide the benefit of giving the student a set of students with which they can bond more strongly than they could without the cohort because of repeated interaction with those students. As such cohorts provide a more socially safe environment for students.

Not all is positive related to cohorts. Students don’t get to know as many students as they might otherwise; in a program as small as the Ross BBA Program, that probably should be addressed. Further, academically cohorts aren’t always positive; students can get too comfortable with each other; students can get slotted into defined roles from which they find it difficult to extricate themselves; and faculty can have a hard time breaking into the culture that the students have defined and created (from previous classroom experiences with each other).

I have been thinking a lot recently about cohorts and related issues:

  • Should students be grouped into cohorts for their core classes?
  • How long should those cohorts exist — that is, should they have different cohorts each year?
  • How rigid should Ross be in enforcing the assignment of cohorts — what type of reason should a student have that would enable him or her to opt out of the cohort assignment?
  • If students are not assigned to cohorts, how can we ensure that attractive sections (e.g.., those not taught at 8:30am) are at least theoretically available to all students? And, even if we can ensure this, should we ensure this?

Generally, over the last couple of years I have moved Ross to a more flexible policy related to requests to get out of specific cohort assignments. The reasons for opting out that I have looked favorably upon come from students who have an academic plan in place for their remaining time at Michigan (and have had that plan for a while), and a specific course that is needed to fulfill that plan conflicts with a core course assignment. We want to be as supportive as possible of students who want to challenge themselves academically.

Now that we have a three year program with two fairly significant years of core courses (instead of just one as we had before), we have started out assigning students to cohorts one year at a time. That is, a student’s cohort in the sophomore year will be composed of different students than in the junior year. We believe that this will provide students with a “home” in which the student will be comfortable but will also allow him or her to meet more students during the course of his or her time at Ross.

This issue has come up more frequently for two reasons. First, we have more students getting dual majors and minors so their schedules have to be planned better, are more specified, and have less leeway. Second, the classrooms that we use for BBA core courses have less extra space than we used to have in the old building and less space than we will have in the new building. This means that we can’t simply move a student from one section into another because it is entirely possible that there would not be a chair for the student to sit in.

I have not decided one way or the other what to do. I am trying to come up with the best solution for the most students. If you have any thoughts on this from whatever perspective, please let those thoughts be known. I’m sure that I will have more thoughts on this later and, eventually, I will provide more information about what we end up doing.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Representing the BBA Program

When you’re meeting people, you may not realize it but you represent groups that you’re affiliated with. The other day this point was made to me when I received a very nice email from the Dean’s executive assistant (Audra Asher) that relayed a conversation she had with the Dean. Here’s the background.

The Management & Organizations (M&O for those of us at Ross) core course for juniors had an assignment in which student groups were to investigate an organization from several viewpoints. One particular group wanted to interview the Dean. They sent an invitation to him a couple of weeks early and asked for 30 minutes of his time. They arrived on time, conducted the interview with several students taking turns leading the interview, told him when their 30 minutes was over, wrapped up the interview, and sent a thank you note the next day.

The note that I received from Audra was effusive in her praise for the group and thanked me for helping prep them for the meeting. Well, let me tell you that I had nothing to do with prepping them. They did it all themselves. From my way of looking at things, this was just BBAs being BBAs. I have the utmost confidence in the ability of BBAs to act appropriately in these professional situations.

The Dean doesn’t have much time or many opportunities to meet with small groups of BBAs in the course of his day. When he does, it’s probably because of some issue that has come up and needs to be addressed. This doesn’t leave him much of an opportunity to have a reasoned, thoughtful exchange of ideas with the students. This was one such opportunity and he and Audra came away extremely impressed with this group of students. Better, he also left the interview feeling pretty darned good about BBAs and the BBA Program. The Dean represents all of the students and programs at Ross (BBA, Day MBA, Evening MBA, Global MBA, Executive MBA, MAcc, Exec Ed and, soon, Masters of Supply Chain) to a wide variety of audiences. The more good stories that he can tell (and this is definitely one), the better he can sell the benefits of hiring or working with the BBAs.

The students went into this meeting with the goal of getting some information for a group project for a core course. I’m guessing that they didn’t give a second thought to these ancillary effects when they were in the meeting. Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And that’s just the point that I’m making. Any particular student isn’t just one person — he or she represents the BBA Program, Ross, and the University of Michigan (among other groups). If that person does well (or poorly), he or she is affecting his or her own reputation and that of the other groups with which he or she is affiliated.

This happens whether or not the student realizes it. It happens when students are at a hotel participating in the BBA Formal; it happens during job interviews; it happens during a student’s group projects in his or her LS&A classes; it happens when the student is working with a company during a class project. All of these affect the reputation of the BBA Program and Ross. All of our students are our ambassadors. We professors take this role seriously; we staff members try to admit students who will represent us well. We all try to instill in these students the pride that we feel in working at Ross. It does all BBAs good when a single BBA conducts him or herself professionally or takes pride in a job well-done. I continue to take pride in my association with BBAs. It’s an easy thing to do.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Interest in the 3-year program

This last weekend was the deadline for applying to the 3-year admissions cycle of the BBA Program. Again, we are quite blessed with the interest that students express in the program. Nearly 900 students — historically, these have been very qualified students and I don’t expect this year to be any different — applied for admission into an entering class that is severely limited this year to less than 280 students. The reason for this limit is the size of the classrooms that we are using while we are in temporary quarters. We simply cannot squeeze more than 70 students into the classrooms that we will be using until December 2008 (a conservative estimate for when our new building will be done). After that date we should have a bit of leeway as to how many students we are able to accept into the program; for now, we are going to have to hold tight to that limit.

As in years past, I am very much looking forward to admitting a strong group of smart, hard-working students who are interested in integrating the study of business into their undergraduate studies. Thanks to all who applied to us. It’s the competition among these many strong applicants that makes us great.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Purpose of having freshman and sophomore admissions

The Ross School has two paths by which students can gain admission to the program. The first is the “preferred admit” program for high school seniors and the second is the standard program for college freshmen.

Our preferred admit program allows us to target those high school students who have both built a very attractive resume out of high school and know that they are interested in getting a business education. After gaining admission to this program, they can become full-fledged Ross students their sophomore year if they maintain a 3.3 GPA during their freshman year while taking several required classes (including microeconomics, freshman writing, and a math class).

The standard admissions program yields us several types of students, all of whom have done well at Ross in the past:

  • Students who are late bloomers and distinguish themselves more in their college application than they did out of high school,
  • Students who discovered their interest in business after enrolling at Michigan, and
  • Students who, though they distinguished themselves in high school and were interested in business, were not chosen during the preferred admissions process. Unfortunately, there are lots of students who I would like to admit into the program out of high school that I simply don’t have slots for in the PA program. This means that they have to re-apply after their freshman year and I can only hope that they do so.

Concerning the relative sizes of the PA and standard admissions programs, I would like to balance them so that the third type is minimized while still allowing a strong and large group of the first and second types. It will probably be several years before we know what the proper balance should be between the two admissions paths. I have a feeling, though I am not sure, that there is an actual difference between the students in the two admissions paths — not in their performance or eventual career success but in their interests. We like the diversity of student interests that we have always had here at Ross, and I don’t want us to mess that up. If having two separate admissions routes helps us maintain our general diversity, then we’re going to have two admissions routes.

We have strength in finance, consulting, accounting, operations, marketing, etc. We have a strong job placement success in the Northeast and Midwest (because that’s where our students are generally interested in working) though we generally are able to provide some help in placing students wherever they want to go. I think this diversity is a strength of ours. I will continue to be a strong proponent of maintaining these two paths so that we can learn more about the strengths of each and maintain the diversity of our student body.