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Forward-Thinking: WSB Launches Flexible, Bold Curriculum Amid Changing Business Landscape

The school’s commitment to excellence in undergraduate education yields four new courses and a customizable roadmap for student success

By Wisconsin School of Business

April 1, 2024

One woman standing and pointing to a screen, one man sitting and looking at laptop, and another woman sitting with icons of a group of people, light bulb, and a gear surrounding her

Business today is at an inflection point. Globalization, disruptive technology, corporations reimagining and reframing their vision of success—this intersection of challenges and opportunities requires new skills, knowledge, and mindsets.

In an evolving landscape, it’s critical to learn how to connect the dots others don’t always see. With a bold reimagining of its undergraduate program, the Wisconsin School of Business is preparing its students to lead where there’s no blueprint.

Learn how the improvements to career advising, curriculum, and instruction will equip students for the realities of a changing business landscape.

  1. Preparing undergraduate students with real-world career paths, not one-size-fits-all majors.
  2. Launched in 2021, the Career Forward program shifted the value proposition from majors to career pathways, expanding students’ horizons to an infinite number of emerging roles.
  3. Reimagining the undergraduate curriculum with flexibility and innovation in mind to develop agile, holistic leaders.
    • Students can weave 12 majors, six certificates, and Business Badger Badges together for a curriculum designed to meet their current needs and future plans.  An information systems major paired with a consulting certificate, for example, signals that a student has both business acumen and hard skills to succeed in technology consulting. Similarly, a student pursuing a marketing major with a certificate in digital studies is well positioned to pursue careers in analytics and insights or lead generation and content strategy.
    • Introducing human-centered design into the curriculum, facilitating innovation and creative opportunities for students to connect with an entrepreneurial mindset.
    • Augmenting the robust catalog of analytics coursework, increasing students’ ability to manage and synthesize big data.
  4. Increasing investment in experiential learning.
  5. The expanding hands-on, semester-long learning program will challenge students to solve a breadth and depth of complex problems from modern corporations.

Integrating new topics, new mindsets

In the spirit of continuous improvement, WSB modernized the undergraduate curriculum to prepare students to compete on the global stage.

“Business professionals will need a broader framework than what traditional business education has offered,” says Brian Mayhew, Arthur Anderson Alumni professor in the Department of Accounting and Information Systems and associate dean of WSB’s undergraduate program.

“What will differentiate future undergraduates is the ability to synergize technical skills with their human abilities to design, create, innovate, and apply informed judgements to critical business decisions.”

Beginning in fall 2024, WSB will begin a gradual rollout of four new two-credit undergraduate courses, designed to refine students technological, ethical, and innovative skills to lead in an increasingly complex business landscape.

Reimagining the undergraduate curriculum with flexibility and innovation in mind to develop agile, holistic leaders.

Sustainable Capitalism

Students will examine the interplay between business, governments, and civil society. Coursework will take a system-level view to explore the role of this interplay in managing free markets and balancing the wellbeing of firms with the wellbeing of society and the natural environment.

Human Centered Design and Business

The course looks at basic principles and business processes—like understanding the customer experience—and explores approaches for building these elements into a product or service. It will be delivered in partnership with the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s School of Human Ecology (SoHE) design group, a recognized driver for design thinking and innovation on campus and beyond.

Cloud Based Analytics

An extension of the cloud-based analytics curriculum used in WSB’s popular MS in Business Analytics program, students will learn how to work within the cloud including organizing data, running analyses, and different methods of managing big data.

Integrated Strategic Leadership

A capstone course, Integrated Strategic Leadership introduces experiential learning at scale, helping integrate the mastery students have achieved through the business core curriculum and putting that knowledge into action through cross-functional teams engaged in experiential learning projects working directly with companies.

The reimagined curriculum reflects the technological advances and social and ethical challenges students will encounter as business leaders.

“A number of leading business schools have started developing system-level classes like this one and I am excited that WSB is part of that forefront. For the past two or so decades, much of the teaching on corporate sustainability in business schools has focused on how firms can drive operational changes to become more sustainable,” says Ann Terlaak, associate professor of management and human resources, who designed and will also teach the Sustainable Capitalism course.

“These changes are good and necessary, but it has become clear that they are insufficient for meaningfully addressing today’s sustainability challenges. For that, business also needs to drive systemic changes. And for that, business leaders need to comprehend the system. This is exactly where the Sustainable Capitalism class comes in. It will equip students with an understanding of the larger system within which business operates and the role that business plays in making this system more sustainable.”

Supporting a holistic student experience

During their time at WSB, and in conjunction with this new curriculum, students will also benefit from a flexible range of co-curricular, high-impact experiences that immerse them in real-world business settings. These experiences, which include corporate treks, study abroad, case competitions, and student organizations, not only help them continue to customize their experience, but also gives them hands on practice. “These changes and the increased flexibility that comes with them is about creating customization with purpose for students,” says Mayhew.

Building on this range of applied learning experiences and the new Integrated Strategic Leadership course, students will benefit from an increasing number of immersive leadership experiences, and WSB plans to continue growing these offerings for students.

An outline of Bucky Badger's head with the words curriculum, experiential learning, and career forward surrounding Bucky.

This increased flexibility along with changes to the curriculum were implemented by looking at the full student experience, so as students find their paths into business, they’ll also be supported by a 360-degree network of support services including academic advising, career development, and success coaching that helps them flourish and develop an intentional path through the program.

“Our support model helps student thrive. Everything they need to succeed is here, they just need to activate it. The goal is to gradually help our students learn how to identify and access the resources they need when they need it most. We want to help them build a sense of self-reliance and we need to offer these services at scale,” Mayhew says.

The bold new curriculum along with this full student experience will allow WSB to do what it does best: Prepare the next generation of business leaders. In a time when change is the only constant, WSB students are writing the story of what comes next.