Op-Ed: The merits of creating a new finance degree

Most finance majors share the same goal: a lucrative internship or job offer at a large financial institution. But at a non-target school for big banks, GW finance students are sometimes overlooked for summer internships.

This has changed to some extent over the past two years due to the work of the F. David Fowler Career Center and the launch of the real estate and finance mentorship program in 2010. Nevertheless, administrators and finance students are struggling to figure out how to make our students more attractive to high-profile banks.

The ongoing discussion in the business school is whether or not incorporating more liberal arts classes in the curriculum will make GW business students more appealing to future employers.

Clearly, both liberal arts and finance classes provide a unique educational experience. The former stretches the mind and teaches students critical thinking. And the latter provides students with practical skills used to create value for the firm.

For some students, college is about taking a variety of courses and exploring interests. Others believe college is about specializing in a field that will provide tangible skills which will in turn help them find jobs. I fall in the latter category, but it has become increasingly apparent to me that finance students need a background in both areas to be successful in today’s global work environment.

The idea to create a Bachelor of Science degree in finance is a step in the right direction. Finance students should be encouraged to take a variety of courses, such as psychology or African politics, as they have major implications for understanding financial markets. Additionally, these courses will encourage students to develop writing skills more than traditional business administration courses do. This knowledge will serve students well in the future when conducting equity research, organizing information for pitch books or summarizing Financial Times articles for superiors. I am confident that this new degree will be well received by the students who pilot the program.

However, the school must address the problems with the bachelor of business administration degree.

For example, there are too many core requirements that should either be consolidated or eliminated completely. Students are required to take 13 business administration classes that are incredibly repetitive. This is apparent in courses like Organizational Behavior and Management, Organizations and Society.

Business students also do not write enough. A simple solution is to increase the required number of WID courses for these students. By consolidating the number of required business administration classes, students would have the opportunity to take more courses in which writing is an integral part of the curriculum.

At the end of the day, it is unclear whether or not a specialized degree would improve one’s chances of securing the ideal summer internship. But what is clear is that a well-rounded educational background will provide students with the tools they need to make a lasting impression while on the job. And for that reason, I support the specialized finance degree.

Alexander Akel is a senior in the GW School of Business.

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