Only days after joining the Wisconsin School of Business in August as the newly minted Albert O. Nicholas Dean, I had the opportunity to join more than 500 incoming business students for a group photo. Sporting “Bucky Means Business” t-shirts—a nod to the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s beloved mascot—they are part of the largest freshman class in UW history. As I relished the opportunity to greet so many enthusiastic young learners, I reflected on what those students will experience.
Even as we diversify our menu of degree offerings, including specialized master’s degrees, certificates, and noncredit badges, the bachelor of business administration is critical to our future. Business remains one of the most popular areas of study for incoming undergraduates at UW–Madison, and we are working hard to accommodate that growing demand. At the same time, we are differentiating ourselves from other high-quality business schools.
Consider the retail models we study in marketing classes. Consumers can buy household goods, clothing, groceries, and other commodities at many retail outlets. Key differentiators often include price, location, and other factors. But some sellers simply do a better job of delivering a uniquely rewarding experience—surrounding visitors with stimuli that feel more gratifying compared to competitors.
How, then, do we define and deliver a distinctive Business Badger experience? My colleagues have begun to answer this question by creating an undergraduate program that is intentional, interactive, and integrated.
While many students come to college with vague expectations and little direction, we have designed a process that helps students clarify their trajectory. Students move through a process of self-discovery, identifying what they love, what they’re good at, and which degree options align with those natural inclinations. This is more than a rote checklist or simple one-time self-assessment; it is a guided, ongoing process of introspection and exploration.
Undergraduates have a choice of 10 business majors, all of which feature interactive, experiential learning. Through this hands-on learning, many students reaffirm their choice of major while others find new areas of interest and pivot to a different course of study. Immersive learning extends far beyond the classroom. More than 90 percent of undergraduate students complete at least one internship, and 40 percent study abroad. Nearly all WSB students are involved in one of 40+ affiliated clubs or organizations. Additionally, first-year students participate in case studies that involve real-world business problems from leading businesses like Procter & Gamble.
Through these and other experiences, students find their voice as young professionals. When they do so, today’s Business Badgers will soon realize how they are interconnected with a universe of industry partners and loyal alumni. We listen carefully to the needs and future directions of the firms that hire our graduates, staying abreast of contemporary trends and changing needs.
Recognizing the increasingly short shelf life of technical skills, we work hard to imbue our graduates with a willingness to adapt and an insatiable appetite for lifelong learning. One way we accomplish this is by integrating core liberal arts courses into our business curriculum, helping to stimulate the development of critical skills like communication, cultural competency, emotional intelligence, and a deep commitment to ethical practice.
Best of all, this intentional, interactive, integrated experience doesn’t end when students walk across the stage to receive their diplomas. Our graduates enter the workforce with a tenacious work ethic, boundless creativity, and resilient optimism. And they do so as part of a globally connected community of Badger alumni whose fierce loyalty is second to none.