Students said the School of Business’ transition from Bachelor of Arts to Bachelor of Science degrees this semester is providing them with more hands-on experience and technical skills.
Officials said the transition to B.S. degrees, which they announced in March, was a response to the job market’s increasing demand for STEM skills and would make it easier for students to double major in a business-related discipline. Business school Dean Anuj Mehrotra said the business school’s corporate council members, board members and alumni recommended these curricula changes and the overall move from the B.A. to the B.S. degree in light of the marketplace’s recent shift towards STEM.
“It opens up different types of opportunities for students, which may not be possible to get the same opportunities with just a business degree or just a degree in something else from GW, but the combination can be very useful,” he said in an interview.
Mehrotra said prior to the change, students admitted to the business school were not given specified majors but classified as pre-business majors until declaring a concentration as sophomores. He said a change in the University’s institutional data from 705 students who were categorized as “pre-business administration” majors last year to 228 this year was the result of the shift from a B.A. to B.S. degree.
Mehrotra said officials have received positive feedback on the changes. He said of the 205 current business students who started at GW in the school’s B.A. programs and have switched to the B.S., 132 are studying business, 27 are studying finance, 14 are studying business analytics, 13 are studying marketing, 11 are studying information systems and eight are studying accountancy.
He said allowing a student to enroll in a specified major ensures students a clearer pathway to completing their degree. He said partnerships and collaborations with other GW schools, like the 4+1 program that allows students to complete their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years, also allow for business and non-business students to customize their career ambitions and goals without the limitations of their primary degree.
Mehrotra said the change has allowed business school officials to work on developing new 4+1 programs for undergraduates in other schools in addition to ones for business students.
Of GW’s 12 peer schools, nine universities offer solely B.S. degree programs for business students, two universities offer both and one does not offer any business programs.
“The feedback that I have been getting is that people, especially from all the stakeholders in general, are really very proud of what we have done,” Mehrotra said.
Students said they appreciate the new opportunities for developing technical skills that the change provides. But some who were originally enrolled in the B.A. said officials did not effectively communicate the change to students, with some missing the June 15 deadline to change their major.
Ben Rosenstein, a junior double majoring in business economics and business analytics, said a B.S. may be more valuable than a B.A. for students looking to pursue business and finance jobs. He said students with B.S. degrees attract employers who are looking for applicants with quantitative skills in data tools like Tableau and an understanding of higher level math.
Rosenstein said while he wanted to switch to the B.S., he missed the deadline to do so because the only email from business school officials notifying students of the change ended up in his spam folder.
“I’m not saying this was the school’s fault as I could’ve certainly emailed a bit more and followed up and inquired to get more information, but genuinely there wasn’t a ton of communication and there certainly was not a lot of clarity of the process,” he said.
Hannah Merenstein, a sophomore majoring in business, said she switched her B.A. to a B.S. after talking with her adviser, who was the first to inform her of the change. She said she was motivated to switch because the new B.S. requires students to take fewer classes to complete their concentration, which allows them to take more electives.
Merenstein said the B.A. and B.S. degree options were “fairly equivalent” for her and offer equal advantages and disadvantages.
Evian Zhu, a sophomore majoring in information systems and technology management, said she switched to the B.S. because she wanted to study information systems, which was not available to students prior to the change. She said she wasn’t aware of the change until Srinivas Prasad, an associate professor of decision sciences, informed her and told her to find more information about the change.
She said the B.S. fit her interests and ambitions more because it would provide her with more professional knowledge in a specific field. She said while the B.S. focuses on hands-on experience and technical skills, the B.A. focuses more on conceptual knowledge.
“Normally, I know students have a lot of interest, but when they struggle between each choice, it’s hard to choose because they haven’t touched upon these areas before but they want to have a strong academic background and learn more,” Zhu said.