Business school to up STEM offerings with two new majors, redesigned degree next year

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Officials said the added majors in the business school will make graduates more marketable.

The School of Business is the latest school to up its STEM offerings as officials look to grow the proportion of undergraduate majors in the field to 30 percent.

Starting this fall, students from any school will be able to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in business, business analytics, information systems or finance as school officials work to convert all of the school’s programs into STEM degrees. Officials said the change aligns the business school’s curriculum with a job market that increasingly requires business hires to come to firms with skills related to technology.

Business school Dean Anuj Mehrotra announced two new STEM-focused degree programs – a Bachelor of Science in Business Analytics and a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems – in an email to business school students earlier this month. He said officials will hold three town halls in April to discuss the updates with students.

“After attending a town hall, students can schedule a meeting with their adviser for further assistance,” Mehrotra said in the email.

He said international students enrolling in the two new programs will be eligible to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion optional practical training, a period of temporary employment in a position related to the student’s field of study, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website. The email adds that students graduating in fall 2021 or later will have the option to remain in their Bachelor of Arts in Business degree program or switch their degree to a Bachelor of Science designation.

Shivraj Kanungo, the associate dean for undergraduate programs in the business school, said the different designation and new majors will provide students with new skills that will prepare them for success in the job market.

“These degree programs, which focus on much sought-after technology and analytics skills in anticipation of changes in the business environment, will better prepare students for success,” he said in an email. “They complement other GW degrees with their applied focus on businesses and organizations.”

Kanungo said officials will market the new STEM degree programs in business analytics and information systems toward students who hope to pursue careers related to web and mobile technologies, operations and marketing. He said school officials implemented the changes after hearing feedback from the school’s advisory council members and corporate sponsors.

The business school is the latest academic unit of the University to convert its flagship degree to a Bachelor of Science degree. Elliott School of International Affairs leaders introduced a Bachelor of Science in International Affairs degree for students last academic year to make it easier for students in the school to double major in a STEM discipline.

The business school’s decision comes as officials seek to increase the ratio of undergraduate STEM majors about 10 percentage points to 30 percent of the student population, in accordance with the University’s next strategic plan.

Kanungo said the degree change will make it easier for both students in and outside of the business school to double major in a business-related discipline. He said officials chose to open up the school’s majors to all students after observing feedback from a “shifting” marketplace that demands a more cross-disciplinary background from students.

“These enhancements and additions to our undergraduate degree programs and the extensive focus on needed professional skills will help differentiate our students in the marketplace,” he said.

Faculty said the change indicates that the school’s curriculum remains flexible and is adapting to new demand for different skills among firms.

Donna Hoffman, a professor of marketing, said the new degree change has prompted the marketing department to update its course offerings to reflect the new STEM designation. She said she will begin teaching a special topics course called AI and Marketing Strategy in spring 2021 in light of the change.

“Marketing is a dynamic field and we are always updating our courses to meet the challenges of the changing environment,” she said in an email. “But with the added emphasis of STEM, we are all looking to strengthen those components in our courses.”

Hoffman said the new STEM-designated degrees will help students stand out professionally as well.

“The STEM certification options will give a major boost to GW students’ job prospects in different areas of business because across the board employers are telling us they want to see stronger analytical skills from their job applicants,” she said.

Kathy Frey, a professor of management, said the additions were a “natural” step for the school because the study of business has become more quantitative and increased focus on data analytics and technology.

She said officials are sending a message to students and faculty in the business community that the school’s curriculum must include STEM coursework to ensure the school’s continued success.

Frey added that the business school’s rise in national rankings in recent years indicates that the “innovative” curricular changes made by Mehrotra, the school’s dean, and associate deans are placing GW ahead of its peers at “recognizing and delivering on needed change to business education.”

“Will having something in a Bachelor of Science instead of Business Administration make a real difference in the minds of recruiters, or people reading LinkedIn? Maybe not,” she said. “But does this indicate a general direction of the university toward growth areas? Yes, it does.”

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