Business school near final leg of curriculum revamp

Plans to overhaul the GW School of Business’ curriculum are finally taking shape, an administrator in the college said last week, a year after the new curriculum was initially anticipated to roll out.

The school’s curriculum task force, which formed this summer, is collecting feedback from faculty and students on ideas like allowing students to major and minor in other schools.

Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou, the associate dean for undergraduate programs, said the team of faculty has spent two weeks speaking to department heads and will hold a student town hall Wednesday to talk about the new liberal arts-focused curriculum.

Changes could include creating a bachelor of science degree with the option of double majoring outside of the business school, and allowing business administration and accounting students to earn a minor from another school.

Bajeux-Besnainou, who started her position in April, declined to say when the curriculum could go into effect. Business school leaders revised the timeline for the project twice last fall.

“We’re living with a great curriculum. We’re trying to improve it as we can always improve it, but we want to take the time to do it the proper way,” she said last week. “My philosophy is really that I want to make it happen as soon as possible, but I’m not going to rush it just for that purpose.”

The original target date has been pushed back by other business school initiatives, like plans to redo students’ first year development courses and to fill Bajeux-Besnainou’s position. Dean Doug Guthrie said last August that the changes would be in place by this fall.

But school officials say the slower pace will help them piece together an academic reconstruction.

Bajeux-Besnainou said the most ambitious part of the overhaul would be putting together a more flexible curriculum that would allow students to enroll in multiple schools. Now, students follow a packed four-year course plan, allowing for only one or two non-business electives each year and including courses on ethics, foreign language and science.

Pradeep Rau, a marketing and international business professor on the faculty task force, said the changes help students excel in subjects besides business.

“I think we overspecialize to an extent and give students the wrong impression that they can be the CEO of a major company after they get their undergraduate degree,” Rau said. “The broader experience, the better.”

The curriculum changes are part of an agenda championed by Guthrie, who has also pledged to make the school more focused on how business can help society in an age of Wall Street corruption.

Making a more flexible undergraduate curriculum to allow for more double majors is also part of the draft of the University’s strategic plan, which was released Tuesday.

Bajeux-Besnainou said the committee would put together a framework for the business school that could fit into the University’s broader plans for a core curriculum, even though “we don’t know for sure where the University is going yet.”

She said the business school would allocate more funding for the undergraduate program to make these changes and hire new administrators. She declined to say how much was being reallocated to the program.

Using a chunk of those funds, the undergraduate program will add a new position: an executive director who will oversee both advising and co-curricular activities.

Although some professors said it is uncommon for business schools to allow undergraduates to have double majors and minors outside of their schools, both American University and the University of Maryland-College Park already do so. Georgetown’s business school allows students to minor outside the college.

Junior Usama Khan, who also works for the office of undergraduate programs, said the changes would be much-needed.

“I think it’s important for students to have many different options available to them,” he said. “Also, could you imagine how much fun it would be to have access to all the resources of both the business school and the Elliott school, or how powerful and job-marketable you could be with a dual business-engineering degree?”

Cory Weinberg contributed to this report.

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