Ambitious plans for the future
From the Fall 2012 issue of Reaching Higher: The Binghamton University School of Management Magazine
By Steve Seepersaud
When George "Skip" Curth Jr. '90 reflects on his time as a student and thinks about today's School of Management, the most obvious difference is the physical environment. He attended SOM classes in the basement of the library, while today's students enjoy a modern facility.In the years since he graduated — as an engaged alumni supporter — he has contributed to other changes within the school. Named SOM's 2012 Alumnus of the Year, Curth enjoys being a guest lecturer every semester, sharing insights about his professional work and helping the newest students become acclimated to the school.
"When I was a student, I took liberal arts in the first two years, and it wasn't until my junior year that I got to take classes in my major and really feel part of the School of Management," says Curth, a partner in the structured finance advisory services group at Ernst & Young in New York City. "Now, there's much more of an effort to reach out to freshmen and help them feel connected."
To further enhance the student experience, the school has ambitious plans for the future. With alumni support, an anticipated increase in state funding and some strategic curricular changes, the school is poised to rise in the rankings of the nation's top business schools.
NYSUNY 2020, the recently approved state legislation that allows SUNY schools to raise tuition and retain the funds, will fuel SOM's growth. Across campus over the next five years, the University will add a total of 2,000 students and 150 faculty members. This fall, SOM added 40 undergraduates, 10 graduate students and three faculty members to total 1,700 students and 36 tenure-track faculty. The school will grow in similar increments over the next four years to reach a total enrollment of 1,900 students by 2017.
"We want to grow but continue to enhance the quality of our incoming students," says Upinder Dhillon, dean and Koffman Scholar. "When we hire new faculty, there is a change in the dynamics of our faculty. They bring new energy, new ideas and cutting-edge research and teaching skills."
SOM has recently implemented curricular changes so students are well prepared to face challenges in the modern workplace.
Starting this fall, the MBA program offers three concentrations: accounting, finance and business analytics. Dhillon says he and his colleagues examined what skills are needed in the marketplace and found there is a demand for professionals skilled in business analytics.
"E-commerce generates a great deal of data that needs to be analyzed and interpreted," Dhillon says. "Firms want people who can convert data into information that leads to a strategic vision. The businesses we hear from say that they are going to hire our business analytics majors."
On the undergraduate side, the school has introduced changes to the sophomore and junior core curricula (S-core and J-core). Advanced Computer Tools within S-core will now become a three-credit course, up from two credits, and will provide an Excel curriculum that includes programming components and project management.
Also, any student will be able to take J-core if he or she has junior standing. In the past, a student could only take J-core after taking S-core, regardless of academic standing.
Taniel Chan '12, who advocated for this change while a member of the Student Advisory Board, says the flexibility will benefit students who are ahead of the game in earning credits. He says students will be able to determine earlier if they wish to pursue careers in finance, marketing, international business or organizational behavior. Taking J-core earlier can help students prepare themselves to work at firms that require this advanced level of knowledge and are open to hiring sophomores.
"I believe all students, regardless of credit standing, should have this option because the standing doesn't say anything about a student's performance in the course and should not be a limiting factor," Chan says. "It says a lot about the administrators that they are open-minded to listening to the students. [These changes] show that they want the students to have the most pleasant experience, one that will set them up as much as possible for a solid career upon graduation."
Already near the top of the Business Week rankings, there's not much room for SOM's accounting program to move up, although the school wants to further solidify its standing as a high-quality program. To that end, SOM is seeking a separate Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Business Schools (AACSB) accreditation for the accounting program. Two years ago, the school as a whole successfully went through the process to reaffirm its AACSB business accreditation.
AACSB will soon assign a mentor for the accounting program who will help the school go through its self-study process and prepare materials for final review. Dhillon expects SOM to encounter little difficulty and to receive a positive answer in about a year.
One development in the MS accounting program should certainly help the school's reputation: Starting in fall 2013, students can opt for a tax concentration by taking three 4-credit electives.
"We lose some students because we don't offer a master's degree or a concentration in tax," Dhillon says. "There's really not enough demand for the full tax MS program here, so we'll add a concentration. The accounting firms tell us they're fine with either option."
Already in the New York market with a 12-month Fast-Track Professional MBA program, the School of Management started an Executive MBA program in Manhattan in 2011. This allows students without undergraduate business degrees to earn an MBA in 18 months while working full time. About 20 students were in the initial cohort, and recruiting is taking place for the second class that will start in September 2013.
Alexandra DeMartino '09, MBA '10, is the program's New York-based administrative director and aggressively recruits for the professional and executive MBA programs. Following a year in which fewer students took the GMAT and applied to MBA programs, she was able to recruit 30 students, which makes this fall's professional MBA cohort one of the largest ever for Binghamton.
"This is a fiercely competitive market," DeMartino says. "Many of the prospective students who look at our program are also looking at places like Columbia and NYU. I work hard to make sure these students know our program is prestigious. The private schools charge a lot because their names hold a lot of clout. But because of our lower cost and high quality, our program delivers an incredible return on investment."
Going forward, the school will strive to innovate in teaching at all levels. To that end, Dhillon is actively engaging in conversations with students and faculty to solicit their ideas on how to improve the student experience in the classroom.
"This is part of our continuing improvement strategy," Dhillon says. "We want to continue to get better. No matter how good you are, you can always be better. We don't want to just look at best practices. We want to identify the next practices.