New summer course gives overview of business to non-majors

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | June 25, 2012

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Students in Goizueta Business School's pilot Summer Business Institute participate in in a leadership exercise. Photo by Robin Dunn.

As a college student, Laney Tucker is the first to admit that she doesn't have much experience in pitching ideas for new entrepreneurial business ventures. 

Strategy? Finance? Market analysis? Though interesting, it's a world beyond the academic curriculum the rising Emory senior has focused upon as a double major in International Studies and Spanish.

But sitting in a classroom at Emory's Goizueta Business School recently, Tucker found herself immersed in those very topics, eagerly pitching an idea for a California-concept juice bar as part of a new three-week program designed to give non-business majors a meaningful look into the business world.

This marks the pilot year for the Goizueta Summer Business Institute (SBI), an intensive, six-credit curriculum that offers rising juniors and seniors in Emory College of Arts and Sciences a concentrated lesson in business fundamentals — exposure that could help their own careers down the road, says Andrea Hershatter, senior associate dean and director of the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program.

The first class has attracted 15 students from a variety of mostly social science backgrounds. Though non-business majors have always been able to take business courses at Goizueta Business School, the SBI program presents "a deeper, more intellectually robust immersion experience," Hershatter explains.

"What we sought was an overview that would help Emory College students understand language, fundamentals and foundational core ideas, to help them see how to apply their intellectual passions with an overarching knowledge of business, and to understand it at a level that prepares them to make a meaningful contributions to a wide variety of organizations," she says.

"I believe it builds beautifully upon Emory's liberal arts foundation," she adds.

A business vocabulary

Like Maymester, a compressed academic term being offered for the first time this summer at Emory, the SBI presents an intense, three-week format. Classes meet five hours a day, Monday through Friday, from June 4 through June 22. Students earn a both course credit and a certificate of completion.

The program is divided into two courses. From 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the focus is on academic business fundamentals and foundations of management; from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., students engage in professional preparation, exploring networking and negotiation skills, resume workshops, interview and career coaching, and business etiquette.

Lectures draw upon a rotating panel of Goizueta's top faculty members, who address topics within their own area of expertise. A final project allows students to employ their new insights into the functional areas of business to propose a venture of their own design.

That appealed to Ilana Freedman, a rising senior majoring in sociology and African studies, who was drawn to the class to expand upon what she admits was a nearly non-existent business vocabulary.

"One of my siblings is a business major and my dad's a businessman — when they talk business my eyes kind of glaze over," she admits. "I thought this would be a good way to supplement my knowledge."

In fact, the class has already paid off: In the quest to secure an internship later this summer, Freedman reports that two employers were excited to discover that she was enrolled in the institute.

While business-intensive summer programs have been growing in popularity among U.S. colleges, many are intended as a final steppingstone to help launch undergraduates into professional careers or MBA programs, says Hershatter.

Emory's SBI program is different, she adds, attracting an assortment of students, including international studies, economics, political science, film and language majors. And in the process, it has opened some eyes.

"I'm doing social science stuff — economics and political science — and wanted something foundational in the business world, " says Ian Saccomanno, a rising Emory junior.

"This has been like a crash course with business people who know what they're talking about, and it's kind of inspired me to consider going into business for myself."

Building upon student passions

Though an intensive summer program had long been considered at Goizueta Business School, its recent creation was motivated primarily by student needs and interests, according to Hershatter, who worked with Assistant Dean Libby Egnor and Vice Dean of Programs Robert Kazanjian in planning the institute.

The goal: Find students who are passionate about other intellectual arenas and seek to complement their education with business knowledge.

"We saw Emory College students who didn't necessarily want to pursue a BBA (bachelor of business arts degree) but did want to be conversant in the fundamentals of business," Hershatter says, adding "it is not intended to be a substitute for the BBA program."

As the institute grows, Hershatter believes that it will also strengthen the school's capacity to generate incremental revenue during quiet summer months — an outcome that answers a university-wide challenge to look for creative new sources of revenue.

This summer, another benefit has emerged: the classroom experience has provided an intriguing sampler for students still considering academic options.

"I think what I'm really gaining is familiarity," says Freedman. "I really don't know what direction I want to go with a career. It's awesome to have an overview to figure out what I like and what I don't."

Tucker, who's also been weighing post-graduate options, finds the class already shaping her decisions. "There have definitely been a few realms in the business world that have sparked my interest — marketing would be great, potentially advertising. I'm not positive yet."

"But I think they've done a great job with this," she adds. "I always wanted an overview, a broader understanding. I'm finding something I really like."