Gabelli made progress on each of these fronts in 2011-2012, with notable gains in further incorporating applied learning into the curriculum, expanding global opportunities at Rose Hill and abroad, and rationalizing and broadening the four-year personal and professional development sequence.
Academic Excellence and Applied Learning
Pedagogically, the business faculty is committed to producing a high-achieving student body by engaging students in applied learning. No matter what the academic discipline, the learning experience is more meaningful when students see how their textbook lessons can be applied in the marketplace. Gabelli encourages its faculty to blend theory and practice in innovative and engaging ways. Examples include writing a business plan for an entrepreneurial venture in the freshman Ground Floor class; solving a specific marketing challenge for the sophomore Integrated Project; writing an honors thesis about female hedge fund managers or pro-social online lending; funding, importing, and selling Kenyan artisan goods; acting as consultants for Bronx nonprofits; and engaging in corporate internships. Across the board, the Gabelli School’s emphasis on applied learning has spurred faculty to make the most of Fordham’s location in the business center of New York City.
The union of applied learning and increased rigor finds a natural home, and showcase, in the Gabelli School of Business Undergraduate Research Program. This year represented a defining moment for original student research with the first Gabelli Undergraduate Business Research Conference. In addition, four times as many students as last year were chosen for the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, and one presented his work at a prestigious conference in Poland. With the continued publication of the undergraduate student research journal and the acceptance of student-written papers to national peer-reviewed journals—two this year—the school is establishing Fordham as a center for serious academic inquiry and groundbreaking investigations in business.
None of this academic improvement at Gabelli would be as meaningful if not for the second component of its larger vision: education for the advancement of society. Students learn that shareholder value is not an end in itself and that business exists in a larger political and ethical context. Through academic experiences, community participation, lessons from guest lecturers and more, students come to understand that if all they have done is improve the bottom line and walk away with additional profit, they have not fulfilled the promise of a Gabelli School of Business education.
All students in the integrated business core take a rigorous course in business ethics that not only asks them to consider how they would handle real-life ethical challenges, but also helps them to understand major philosophers’ theories that can provide guidance in addressing these difficult questions. A new lecture series exposed students to the stories of businesspeople who made the right decisions—whistleblowers who uncovered fraudulent activity at Enron and in Bernard Madoff’s investment business—and the stories of those who learned tough lessons because they did not, including an MCI executive convicted of white-collar crime.
Social justice is a topic that Gabelli students discuss and experience at every level of the curriculum. The new sustainability minor challenged students to find ways to conduct business in a manner that would not only avoid harm to future generations, but also advance business objectives. Related curriculum initiatives are underway: the school developed a course called Spirituality, Fair Trade and Social Justice, and faculty and administrators will work together to investigate an expansion of the Fair Trade/Microfinance program.
Abroad, the school invested in the growth of the University’s London Centre, which has the capacity to serve a wide range of students: Gabelli business majors, students from other Fordham colleges who are pursuing a business or marketing minor, and students from other universities for whom Fordham could be a gateway to study abroad. This year’s greatest milestone was the planning of specialized fall-semester accounting and marketing coursework that will allow more Gabelli School students to choose London and still complete requirements toward their major. Enabled by new academic partnerships, Gabelli School students may now direct-enroll at the London-based institutions of Westminster College, University of Roehampton, and City University. Enabled by new corporate and alumni partnerships, Gabelli School students in London have greater access to mentors and to internships.
Meanwhile, at Rose Hill, the Gabelli education became more global even for students who do not study or travel abroad. All academic areas integrated new internationally oriented lessons and discussions. Study tours—conducted this year in China, Italy, and Switzerland—more closely tied content to their corresponding Rose Hill courses.
Personal and Professional Development
It is through a four-year personal and professional development program, in coordination with management and other coursework, that Gabelli students come to understand what constitutes leadership.
The personal and professional development sequence is one of the best reflections of the Gabelli School’s commitment to Jesuit values. A thematic four-year sequence serves all students headed into all business fields. The program is not about finding a job, but rather about finding meaning: if a student graduates feeling that he or she is exactly the same person he or she was upon arrival, without any growth or change, the school has failed.
Each phase of the program cultivates a specific outlook or value. One of the most crucial is self-awareness, which allows students to choose a career that will inspire them and take greatest advantage of their strengths. It is only then that they will truly have the potential to make a difference. Cultivating self-awareness begins in freshman year. An advising program for freshmen has been updated and improved to make this process more effective. Another of the program’s most important elements is imbuing students with the desire to serve others. The later parts of the sequence were enhanced this year to help students reflect on how their careers might help society in a broader context and to meet alumni and others who already are engaged in those kinds of efforts.
Each of the Gabelli School’s objectives in academic excellence, globalization, personal and professional development, and pedagogical innovation aim to improve the student experience and to enhance the school’s reputation among peer institutions. As such, progress toward these goals should contribute to an improvement in rankings.
Gabelli’s ranking in Businessweek improved this year from 52 to 49. Hidden in these numbers is the total number of schools ranked. Given that the total number of colleges and universities included rose from 113 to 124, the Gabelli School’s position improved from the 46th percentile to the 40th percentile. In the academic year to come, three committees—the advisory board, a committee of faculty and staff, and the student dean’s council—will implement strategies to improve the school’s standing even further.