The Wisconsin School of Business (WSB) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison is bringing career customization at scale to its more than 4,300 students. Career development services and curriculum have been innovated and expanded to offer students an individualized path to success—all while setting WSB up to be responsive to an ever-evolving business world. What began as three programs with standard career development services has developed into three expanded programs offering access to 40+ formal pathways, a dozen badges, and new career tracks built around in-demand fields like data analytics and technology. The result is that every student can define their personalized route to success in business.
“The intentional shift to modernizing and expanding our scope of business programs makes them more relevant to the world today and makes students better prepared to enter the modern business world,” says Vallabh “Samba” Sambamurthy, WSB’s Albert O. Nicholas Dean.“These tools not only help us stay ahead of the curve in the rapidly evolving education landscape, but also allow our students to tailor their learning experience to their unique interests, skills, and goals.”
WSB’s modular curriculum is designed to provide practical and theoretical knowledge, preparing students for careers in emerging fields like sustainability, inclusive leadership, tech, and AI. Business Badgers are trained to connect the dots that others miss, bringing a passion for business-minded thinking to every endeavor. They are integrating a desire to respond to society without compromising their success or values.
“We know that students are interested in marrying their passion with a business degree,” says Melissa Leffin, director of career engagement for WSB’s undergraduate program. “Our goal is to challenge the conventional definition of business success and inspire students to pursue their passion beyond their major. By offering a more flexible approach to curriculum and career development and encouraging this exploration during their educational journey, we equip students to lead through change as business evolves.”
Undergraduate career pathways help students find success
Through the Career Forward program, undergraduate students can explore 44 career pathways like technology consulting, product management, corporate risk management, supply chain planning, corporate finance, and marketing analytics and insights. These specific pathways provide students with a clear roadmap for their education, guiding them through the courses and experiences they need to succeed in their chosen field. Each path includes personalized career support coaching and help connecting students with alumni, employers, and other professionals who can provide guidance and opportunities.
Students can expand their network and connect to alumni, employers, and other professionals through unique student experiences like job shadowing, career treks, career fairs, and global programs. Treks are intentionally designed company visits in the Midwest or as far as New York and Austin to give students a taste of careers in fields like tech or consulting.
“I participated in the Spring 2023 career trek to Chicago on the marketing and consulting track, and I am exploring opportunities in the sports business/management industry,” says Corinne Wright (BBA ’25). “I loved our visit to the Chicago Bulls. We got a tour of their facilities and front office at the United Center and got to hear from a panel of speakers across a variety of business functions.”
One of Career Forward’s main objectives is to provide every student with an opportunity to succeed, no matter their business background. The holistic student support model includes a career coach, an academic advisor, and career pathway consultants within the academic departments. The school has intentionally hired pathway consultants out of industry to help inform career preparation and grow employer partnerships for each pathway. Even with exponential growth in its undergraduate program, the school aims to keep its advisor-to-student ratio low so that students receive consistent individual guidance.
“As the Wisconsin School of Business grows, we recognize that many undergraduate students enter a professional business school with vastly disparate experiences,” says Leffin. “WSB has implemented processes and initiatives to help make experiences like career treks, global programs, and participation in student organizations more accessible to everyone.”
Undergraduate students hit new career placement records
WSB’s world-class business education gives students the strong academic foundation and real-world skills to launch impressive careers upon graduation. Undergraduate students from the Class of 2022 set a new benchmark for post-graduate success, as highlighted by the data below:
And the efforts are paying off in a big way. Undergraduate students from the Class of 2022 set a new benchmark for post-graduate success with 95% job placement within three months of graduation, more than 60 jobs in consulting—a rapidly emerging field, and an average starting salary increase of $7,000 for WSB grads.
Redesigned graduate portfolio empowers students to tailor their careers
WSB is continually upgrading its graduate portfolio to include new and redesigned programs that keep pace with changing market demand and provide students with flexible, innovative degree options—from the new one-year Master of Science: Business Analytics (MSBA) program and full-time MBA with specializations, to a revamped professional MBA that takes working professionals to the next level.
Specializations and specialized tracks within the master’s programs provide a deeper focus and expertise, allowing students to hone their skills in specific areas. Examples of specializations include data analytics, real estate, and supply chain management. The MSBA program has specialized tracks in digital marketing and digital risk, while the master’s in real estate offers four tracks: core real estate, private equity investment, applied real estate investment, and affordable housing, all providing comprehensive education, networking opportunities, and training in the chosen field.
The Wisconsin Full-Time MBA allows students to choose one of eight specializations to tailor their MBA experience to their specific career goals and interests. Within each specialization, they also have access to a range of career pathways, and they build experiences in the program that allow them to continue building up their résumé in a way that is tailored to their future career.
“The MBA program has always been known for its rigorous and comprehensive curriculum, but now students have even more flexibility in choosing the courses that are most relevant to their career aspirations,” says Enno Siemsen, associate dean of the MBA and master’s programs.
MBA students are also coached by industry mentors and work directly with companies through consulting projects to gain hands-on expertise. For example, students could manage stock portfolios, real estate securities portfolios, or market research for top companies.
“The first company-run class I had was with Intuit with an emphasis on collaboration across different functions,” says Luke La Salvia (MBA ’24). “Interacting with other MBA students from the tech strategy and product management specialization in a problem-solving context was great preparation for what it’s going to be like working on projects during our career.”
The Wisconsin Professional MBA offers its curriculum through a 50/50 hybrid delivery, giving students flexibility in how and when they consume course content while also allowing them to benefit from the rich experience of in-person learning and collaboration. The flexibility and focus on specific business disciplines through eight unique badges allow students to curate the degree to optimize their career success. Badges are available in business analytics, real estate, customer insight, financial insight, global business, social responsibility, strategic growth, and strategic innovation.
“I found that having three interrelated classes [for each badge] helped me to broaden my understanding of the topic,” says Natalie Steffes (BBA ’11, MBA ’24), director of content planning and analysis at The Walt Disney Company. “It’s helpful that we can trace through-lines throughout the classes. For example, in the customer insight badge, we worked with The University Bookstore as a client for all three classes, which was such a great learning experience, getting to analyze their business from different angles. It was a really rewarding experience.”
Customizable curriculum and experiential learning are just some of the many ways in which the school is empowering students to define their paths to success. With career coaching, an in-house mental health professional, access to a broad network of industry partners, and more than 46,000 alumni, students have holistic support and all the tools they need to succeed in any career in any industry.
Whether students are just starting their academic journey or are looking to take their careers in a new direction, WSB has the resources and expertise to help them reach their goals.
Media Contact: Leiah Fundell
Wisconsin School of Business
University of Wisconsin–Madison