So Far This Cycle, This B-School Has Seen A Dramatic Upturn In Apps

Dean Martijn Cremers, Mendoza College of Business. Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame

Poets&Quants: How are things looking now that you’re almost a year into your term as dean?

Martijn Cremers: So it’s still the middle of the year. Our new approach, I think, is going to take two or three years to be fully put in place. So our marketing team is still implementing some of our strategies. But so far, we have seen a very significant increase in the interest in our accredited programs across the board.

That includes our MBA program. In our MBA program, for example, I think the last numbers I have are from last week and there we were up over 35% in applications. That is not enrollment yet. But we all want to increase enrollments that much. But we’re up 35% in admissions in general. We’re very, very pleased.

Some of the other changes that you’ve made or talked about since becoming dean, those are pretty popular things I imagine. How are you feeling about where you’re at this point in your tenure?

Well, I’m still in my first year, so I’m still in many ways figuring out what it means to be a dean, if I can say that. But I’m excited. And I love how directional and collaborative this is. I think we’re making progress in what I think of as the key ways in which we want to implement the Three C’s. They are three elements that are three promises we make to our students.

One is that we want them to be integral leaders. That means we need to teach business in an integrated way. I think we’re making real progress toward that. That’s a longer-term objective. But for example, maybe think of a triangle, or a triage. So you have the business disciplines, and on the one hand, we ask whether we can integrate that with analytics, big data, and AI. On the other hand, can we integrate that with the focus on the inner person? So more humanities, ethics, perspectives.

And we have already been doing that. We’ve always been doing some of that. But can we be more intentional about that? A simple example: Next year we’re going to add a required Fundamentals of Coding course for all of our business majors, irrespective of the major. That’s a major undertaking. It means we have to teach this new course to over six hundred business majors a year. We’re going to need hard work to get that done. And we’re hoping to start that in the spring of 2021, where the incoming first-years would start that course.

The point is not to make all of our students into engineers or expert coders. It’s more that they need to understand the new language of business. We think that already today, all major strategic business decisions will be informed by big data, analytics, AI. So we need to prepare our students for that.

A lot of schools agree with that. It’s not an uncommon view.

I think there’s a big trend towards analytics. And what we have been doing — and I think we have been successful at — is we started a couple of years ago a business analytics major that’s been successful. A while ago we started a master’s in business analytics. And we are expanding that. So now the next step is to really integrate it across all programs and across all majors. So that’s really new.

And then the next step after that will be to create — within Finance, within Marketing, within Accounting, etc. — a kind of track or concentration where students can take and concentrate in their discipline on analytics. We want to do the same for our master’s programs, for example our Master of Science in Accountancy. Next year we’re hoping to add a significant number of courses related to analytics for the MSA students. In the MBA we already have a lot. So that’s one example.

And will Business on the Frontlines be part of this as well?

I think about this as a more general bucket of experiential learning. It’s often in experiential learning that the students can see very directly how business and the world co-exist. Experiential learning is also always very team-focused. And so it’s the second C — it really forces the students to cooperate within the team, and also with a partner — with the firm or organization that they’re working with.

For our students, and certainly for undergrads, those situations are often the first time that they are in an environment that is very different than a classroom. Where there is ambiguity — much more than you can, in any full sense, do in a classroom.

And so experiential learning is a key objective as well. As you know, Frontlines is our main experiential learning component in the MBA. This year already, we have 56 students in Frontlines, up from 25 last year. And next year, we’re not sure yet, but we’re hoping to go to between 75 and 100. Our goal is that Frontlines becomes a central part of our MBA, really for all of our MBA students in some way, likely in different formats. And that we create more flexibility in how students participate in the experiential learning of Frontlines.

Our community is our greatest strength. I suppose we’re generally fairly small, and so students actually get to know each other. I think we probably need to invest a bit more in our facilities and making sure that we take care of our students. But I think we generally have a very good place here.


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