Business is booming at Stevens' business school, the Howe School of Technology Management. The school has added four new majors in the fall of 2012 and hopes to double its enrollment within five years.
According to Associate Dean Ann Murphy, the school had several reasons to add the new majors, including feedback from students and employers, and a desire to see both the school and Stevens grow.
“The expansion is a natural evolution of where our undergraduate business programs have been heading,” Murphy said.
The Howe School currently has almost 250 students. Murphy said she wants the school to double that number to 500 within five years, and reach 800 by 2020. She said the school's growth is meant to match the university's goal of boosting its total enrollment of 2,600 to 4,000 by the end of the decade.
Until this semester, the Howe School had two majors – Quantitative Finance and Business and Technology. The addition of four new majors – Finance, Information Systems, Management and Marketing – was sparked in part by the decision two years ago to offer concentrations within the 11 year-old Business and Technology major.
“As that program evolved we put into place business concentrations,” Murphy said. “All the students in the program used to follow the same study plan but in the last couple of years they were given the opportunity to specialize in a particular business area.”
Murphy said the students liked the new concentrations.
“This was wildly popular among the students,” she said. “We offered them four or five different concentrations. We made it optional at first and they all opted for it. Every single one of them.”
Murphy said that the students felt that the concentrations would help them focus on their career interests.
“We got a lot of feedback that it was very helpful for them as they entered the job market,” Murphy said. “It also seemed to be attractive to prospective students. Employers seemed to comment that it made some sense to them too.”
Once the Howe School recognized the popularity of the concentrations, it began the process last year of creating new majors out of them.
“Students were saying we'd like more, we want more depth,” Murphy said. “So we said maybe the time has come where we should expand our offerings to actually have majors in these particular business domains.”
Each of the new majors have four parts: courses specific to each major, plus a Business core, a Liberal Arts and Science core, and a job-oriented, hands-on Practice core.
Murphy said the Howe School is using the traits that make Stevens famous to design the new majors.
“The focus is on leveraging technology for business success,” she said. “We don't want to develop just mainstream majors. Although the names of them are aligned with what you might see at another university, we're going to be different in having a technological edge to them that they don't have at other places.”
Murphy said that the Practice cores will enable the Howe School to continue and expand its relationships with employers. For example, last year a team of students devised a plan for MTV to integrate its multimedia content.
“The Practice core is the ability to practice or apply the material, the concepts, all the things that [students] are learning throughout their time at Stevens.” Murphy said. “It's very hands on. In many cases we'll match them up with actual organizations which have real problems that need solving.”
Murphy said the Howe School plans to create 20 to 30 new courses overall for the four new majors over the next three to five years. She said the school will rely on its current faculty and new professors to teach the courses. Over the past year the school has hired one non-tenured and four tenure-track professors, and will look to hire more soon.
“I find my colleagues to be more than eager to contribute to the program,” Murphy said. “They've already done a lot in the way of developing the curriculum.”
Professor Winter Mason has helped shape the expansion and said he is excited about what the growth of the Howe School means for Stevens as a whole.
“I think it could have a lot of impact on Stevens, as it takes advantage of the expertise of a diverse set of faculty members,” Mason said.
Murphy said that as the Howe School expands with new majors it recognizes the need to help students understand their options. This semester it has launched a new student and faculty support center, open Monday through Friday on the Babbio Center's third floor, to answer questions students might have on degree requirements, study plans, forms and other issues.
“We're putting in place an infrastructure to make this a very welcoming place for students,” Murphy said. “One might worry when you have a lot of growth that there won't be enough attention paid to individual students. However, we're focusing on being student-centric. The decision to start the majors and put in place the support center is all about what can we do to serve our students best.”