AURORA | Wells College students who want to make their mark in the business world can now major — and graduate with a bachelor’s degree — in business.
The 148-year-old college founded by financier Henry Wells, founder of Wells Fargo Bank and American Express, announced the new major this month after five years in the making.
The major offers a full course load of business theory, management, marketing, branding and experiential learning for those who wish to start a business, develop and market a product, or lead a socially conscious enterprise.
“Some students arrive focused on a specific career such as marketing, human resources, finance or international business, while others plan to become entrepreneurs or they would like to build business knowledge and skills that they can apply in their family’s business,” said Kevin Miles, director of the Sullivan Center for Business and Entrepreneurship.
Two years ago, the college approved a business minor. With the announcement earlier this month of the major, students have the option of combining their interest in other topics with the state-approved degree.
The business major maximizes offerings already in place at the college — work study in student cafe The Grind, Wells’ 4+1 MBA program with Clarkson University and an in-development program with Lehigh University, plus relationships with local Cayuga County businesses.
By the second semester of their sophomore year, students must declare a major. And, if they wish, Miles said, students may individualize the major — “in effect, customize their field of study.”
This year, the college anticipates as many as 10 percent of its graduates will leave campus with a business degree in hand, with an expected doubling of enrollment in the program in four years.
“It’s part of the entire Wells experience,” Miles said. “Students receive an excellent education at the school with a strong foundation in liberal arts and current business theory, and will develop skills required today by business.”
Opportunities exist for crossover classes with the Center for Sustainability and the Environment and the economics program, as well as international study.
“There are opportunities for studying abroad all over the globe,” Miles said.
The major requires students sign up for an internship, where they’ll gain firsthand experience in the day-to-day business world. With so many Wells alumni well-positioned in business, Miles said, students have a network in place to establish relationships with potential to extend past a semester-long internship.
“Internships are not limited,” Miles said, adding that he’s known students who’ve taken as many as five.
Students will take business classes in the multidisciplinary “innovation lab,” a bright, windowed room on Zabriskie Hall’s second floor. There, modular furniture moves easily to create collaborative work spaces as a ticker flashes a real-time feed of stock quotes on one wall while four clocks on another provide the time in financial centers around the world.
A three-part speaker series invites successful entrepreneurs to campus to discuss their careers. This semester’s first speaker is Laura Ornstein, coordinator of the New York State Sustainable Business Council, who will present the “Role of Business in Designing a Sustainable Economy.”
Creating positive social impact is a priority for many Wells students, Miles said, and the annual business idea competitionduring Entrepreneurship Week draws a large number of student competitors. For that week, students fine-tune business plans, interface with prominent guest faculty and tweak their communication skills before making final presentations for judges.
As many as 14 percent of the college’s entire student body participates, with approximately 70 percent of those being non-business majors, Miles said.
Program faculty actively involved in business are set to teach classes and include a corporate financial officer, a practicing business lawyer, a venture capital entrepreneur and an international business person. These individuals will “provide actual, current examples and case studies based on the current experience of the faculty,” Miles said.
“We’re always monitoring what’s happening in business,” he said of creating a dynamic theoretical perspective and academic curriculum.
“Wells students will develop the knowledge and build the skills required to develop a career in virtually any type of business that they desire. The experiential learning component of the Wells education provides a means through which students can explore specific careers or industries and through which they can begin to apply their knowledge and skills.”
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