Undergrad Courses to Gain Work Experience

Posted by: Francesca Di Meglio on July 2, 2009

By Francesca Di Meglio
When BusinessWeek recently asked undergraduate business programs what kinds of unique courses they were offering students who want to stand out with recruiters and get an edge in the job hunt, the response was overwhelming. Literally hundreds of e-mails arrived with lists of classes and programs from course catalogs across the U.S. The feature story about innovative undergraduate courses focuses on just a handful of the classes that are designed to motivate students and enhance their communication, decision-making, and creativity.

Many of the most sought after courses have a hands-on element because experience is something most recruiters want to see. Even those students who in this economy can not get an internship have something to talk about in an interview. “Lots of schools provide internship experience, but Kelley students get faculty-guided experiences working with firms,” writes Frank Acito, an associate dean of information technology at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. “This strong faculty guidance and feedback helps students employ their skills in the corporate world – and that’s what recruiters tell us they like about our students.”

Indeed, you need experience to get a job. Period. Class work has evolved to address that need for experience. Some of the courses sound like so much fun that it's enough to make just about anyone want to head back to school. Here are some more examples of courses that bring experience to students:

Business Simulation
At University of Tennessee, juniors can participate in a semester-long simulation that has them running a business – from the development phase to producing a product and paying employees. Business coaches guide students along the way – and often bond with students, says Ernest Cadotte, professor of Marketing.

An Artistic Sensibility
Students at the Argyros School of Business at Chapman University are required to take a course that focuses on artistic media, performance, and/or creative expression. The idea is to boost their creativity and provide them with a new way to think about the problems they’ll have to solve.

Role Models
In the new Social Entrepreneurs, Innovators, and Problem Solvers course at Cornell’s undergraduate business program, students analyze case studies of success in restoring the environment, resolving conflicts, curing diseases, overcoming poverty, and addressing other problems of social injustice. At the end of the course, students devise a plan for social innovation to solve societal problems.

Becoming a Leader
Many undergraduate business programs offer some sort of course or workshop to help students develop leadership skills – from becoming better listeners to nurturing talent. These courses often have students take numerous assessment tests to learn more about themselves, their strengths and weaknesses. Then, they have them take on projects, such as presentations or simulated networking events to get more comfortable with themselves. Each school has its own take and style on this kind of course.

Examples include the CalPoly Leadership Workshop, North Carolina State Leadership and Management class, and the Fordham Personal Leadership course. Educators say that students leave these classes transformed. “This course truly gives students a voice,” says Nancy McCarthy, an adjunct professor, who teaches Fordham’s leadership class. “Almost from day one, they take ownership of this class.”

Citizens of the World
New York University Stern School of Business (Stern School Profile) takes students to another country during spring break after having studied a foreign company in the International Studies Program (ISP) course. Many other programs offer similar chances to learn about global business and destinations abroad.

There are many more examples of innovative, unique courses. Tell us about other classes you’d put on this list by leaving a comment below.

Reader Comments

Jane Mall

July 8, 2009 12:40 PM

Northern Illinois Univerisity College of Business's Experiential Learning Center (ELC) provides opportunities for cross functional teams of select students to work as consultants for organizations such as Wal-Mart, McDonald's, Catpillar, and GEICO. Students develop project management, commuciation, and presentation skills. Since 2000 the ELC has completed over 70 projects involving over 400 undergrad and graduate students. Students interview and are hand selected to participate on a project team. Many organizations use this as a recruiting tool as it is a 16 week job interview. For more information visit www.cob.niu.edu/elc.

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