Business school adds specialized finance degree

Correction appended

Students would be able to earn a bachelor of science in finance for the first time if the Board of Trustees approves the degree later this year.

Currently, students interested in the field must complete a bachelor’s in business administration with a concentration in finance, which adds extra general requirements.

The change is the first result of administrators’ efforts to add flexibility to the curriculum, allowing students to broaden their education with humanities courses or gain an edge in the job market with more economics or math classes.

Currently, business students’ four years are packed with requirements, making it difficult to double major in a field outside of that school. The new degree slices the number of general business administration courses finance students must take from 13 to three.

“We want [students] to have experience outside the business school and be able to do whatever they want to do,” assistant finance professor Min Hwang, who helped craft the new degree, said.

He said the school will only require students to concentrate in fields they prefer, leaving more time to take classes in other schools. The marketing department, which has 165 majors, could be next to start its own specialized degree, he added.

Finance is the school’s largest undergraduate concentration, comprising 240 students.

Business school faculty “almost unanimously” approved the 60-credit bachelor of science in finance degree at a meeting in December, Hwang said.

He said some hesitation from faculty revolved around whether students would want the degree instead of the traditional bachelor’s of business administration. The school will test the degree with about 30 interested students next fall, Hwang said.

Hwang said he did not formally solicit student opinion before recommending the change.

Matt Guarnaccia, a sophomore business major concentrating in finance, said the new degree was alluring and may seem more “legitimate” to potential employers.

“Being a finance major gives you a more solid educational background in finance than a business major concentrating in finance,” he said.

Enxhi Xhoxhi, a junior business major concentrating in finance, added that she felt the current slate of requirements has too much structure.

“College is supposed to be about having choices and getting exposed to new topics,” she said. “Personally, I really enjoy economics and would have liked the opportunity to take more economics courses and less general business administration courses.”

It is fairly common for business schools to offer B.S. degrees in finance. Schools like American, George Mason and Syracuse universities already grant them.

Robert Van Order, finance department chair, trumpeted the change, but said the B.S. degree will also add classes with more technical and math skills for students, which could be a potential turn-off.

“Students have to think first what they want to take. Not everyone will want to take the B.S. degree – in fact, maybe most won’t at first,” he said. “There’s a lot of work going into how to make a business degree work [and] balancing getting a job with a broad-based education.”

The academic focus falls in line with Dean Doug Guthrie’s drive for the school to integrate humanities and social sciences into students’ business education. The school has delayed the curriculum reform, pushing implementation dates back several times over the past two years as administrative posts in the office of undergraduate programs have shuffled and gone vacant.

Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou, who became associate dean for undergraduate programs last May, said it would be “premature” for her to discuss the degree because of the need for the board’s approval.

Mary Sette and Cory Weinberg contributed to this report.

This article was updated Jan. 25, 2012 to reflect the following:
Due to misinformation from a source, The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the Board of Trustees would vote on approving the new degree in February. It will not reach a Board vote until later this year. We regret this error.

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