By Andrew Faught
For more than 20 years, the McCombs School of Business has offered its ever-popular Business Foundations Program (BFP) to students in majors outside the school of business who want to learn the core concepts and fundamentals of private enterprise.
But in education, as in business, the devil is in the numbers.
"The program has always been oversubscribed, meaning we haven't been able to meet demand, and the classes are large — as in 300 students," says Accounting Professor Steve Limberg.
Cutting-edge relief is on the way. The school this week is unveiling a website announcing the arrival of the Business Foundations Program Online (BFPO), a Web version of the original effort that ultimately will serve unlimited numbers of students.
"This gives them the latitude to be less tethered to a location and time, which of course is the advantage of online courses," says Limberg, who for the past two years has worked with a team of 16 faculty members to develop coursework.
Students who complete the program will earn a business certificate that will tell employers they are versed in basic business tenets. It's an increasingly popular approach around the country.
About 40 percent of spending on formal career training is funneled into educational institutions, according to data from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, as reported by Time. Many companies, determined to maintain a competitive edge, are reimbursing employees for the cost of acquiring a verified certificate.
McCombs is a leader in the field, Limberg says.
"(BFPO) really uses the most progressive techniques out there. That was a requisite, and wisely so. This is not like your dad's correspondence course technologies. We're in a very select group that is pushing the envelope. The other part of this is that we're extending our expertise and academic reputation."
Online lectures will be given by faculty members who have developed support materials and review questions for students. There also will be presentations by corporate guests, including Gary Kelly, BBA '77, CEO and chairman of Southwest Airlines, and Tammy Romo, BBA '84, the carrier's CFO and senior vice president of finance.
BFPO will feature the latest learning sciences such as interactive learning modules, animated storytelling, and exam gamification.
"We have our protagonist, who is working her way through different decisions," says Robert Duvic, a distinguished senior lecturer of finance who helped develop a portion of the program. "She starts at a nonprofit and then works for a corporation and learns how to make decisions. We also have her advising her mother on how to plan for retirement."
Beginning in 2015, more than 100 students will be able to enroll in four of the six planned classes — business law, accounting, organizational behavior, and finance. Students also receive credit toward graduation. Additionally in January, the two remaining courses — information systems and marketing — will go into pilot.
This semester, the school piloted the program — offering partially Web-based classes to groups as small as 15 students — to identify any wrinkles before moving ahead with the effort, which was conceived by Dean Thomas W. Gilligan.
BFPO meets a clear need. Business is by far the most common field of study desired by students in both undergraduate and graduate programs, according to The Learning House. The same study shows that 36 percent of undergraduates enrolled in fully online programs, while 39 percent of graduate students did so in 2013.
To date, more than 175,000 students have participated in BFP. Its online partner stands to reach a whole new cohort of entrepreneurs and career advancers.
"In the past, if you wanted to go back to school, you'd quit your job and go get a master's," Duvic says. "Programs like this will allow you to work through these issues more efficiently. It doesn't require time away from your job. The big issue is making this rigorous so someone coming out of the program is going to know stuff as if we were able to sit with them in a physical classroom. Our reputation is based on the quality of the student we graduate. This course has to fit in with that."
Dean Bredeson, a distinguished senior lecturer in the Department of Business, Government & Society, helped to develop the legal environment of business course with department Chair Robert Prentice, a lawyer whose expertise includes corporate governance, regulatory oversight, and ethical decision-making.
Bredeson says it's critical that those in business be able to analyze issues "with a keener eye, or to see them coming a little further in advance" to avoid problems that could imperil a company.
"I think of my course as mostly teaching students how to play defense, as opposed to a course like marketing, which would have more of a play-offense angle to it," he says. "My hope is that students will become more aware of legal problems that can come up within companies and that they'll notice the kinds of things that tend to get a company involved in litigation. Then they can put a stop to it before a company is actually sued."
Bredeson says he's excited about the future of BFPO: "I always like to play around with the offerings, and this is certainly something that is new and different. It's a good quality product, and I'm optimistic it will be well-received."
Program developers, meanwhile, say BFPO should offer something for everyone. Everybody, after all, is a partner in some aspect of business.
"Unless you're a hermit in a cave killing squirrels and eating nuts, you're involved in this," Duvic says. "You have a house, you have a paycheck, you have a car. It's all decision-making. We're trying to get people to see how money connects everything."
The McCombs School of Business, also referred to as the McCombs School or simply McCombs, is a business school at The University of Texas at Austin. In addition to the main campus in DowntownAustin, McCombs offers classes outside Central Texas in Dallas, Houston and internationally in Mexico City. The McCombs School of Business offers undergraduate, master's, and doctoral programs for their average 13,000 students each year, adding to its 96,920 member alumni base from a variety of business fields. In addition to traditional classroom degree programs, McCombs is home to 14 collaborative research centers, the international business plan competition: Venture Labs Investment Competition (formerly known as "MOOT Corp"), and executive education programs.
McCombs is also the oldest public business school in Texas.
The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) was founded in 1883, and the university's School of Business Administration was established a few decades later in 1922. The school quickly grew, establishing a Master in Professional Accounting program in 1948 and offering its first executive education programs in 1955.
Effects of the 1990s technology boom and dot-com bubble were palpable in Austin, leaving the nickname "Silicon Hills" on the city. One McCombs School program that has capitalized on this is the Venture Labs Investment Competition, is the oldest operating inter-business school new-venture competition in the world. Begun in 1984, it has been dubbed the "Super Bowl of world business plan competitions." Also opportunistic was the creation of the school's first Management Information Systems degree in 1990. The MBA Investment Fund, LLC was also founded in 1994, becoming the first legally constituted investment fund run by Master of Business Administration (MBA) students and proving quite successful, with a 17.5 percent annual return to date. Additionally, in 1995 the college became the first to require students have an e-mail address.
On May 11, 2000, an auto dealership owner Red McCombs announced a $50 million donation to UT Austin. In his honor, the College of Business Administration and the Graduate School of Business were merged under the newly created Red McCombs School of Business.
In June 2007, AT&T pledged $25 million to the McCombs School towards the construction of the Executive Education and Conference Center. As part of the financial contribution, the center, which opened August 2008, will be named the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center for the next 25 years.
See also: List of University of Texas at Austin buildings
The McCombs School of Business is located in the heart of the University of Texas at Austin campus. The majority of the McCombs School is housed in a three-building complex called the George Kozmetsky Center for Business Education named after, philanthropist and former College of Business Administration dean, Dr. George Kozmetsky at the intersection of 21st and Speedway Streets. The McCombs School is bordered by Waggener Hall (the former home of the College of Business Administration) to the North, Gregory Gymnasium, and E. P. Schoch Building (one of the last overseen by campus master planner Paul Cret) to the East and is adjacent to Perry-Castañeda Library to the South.
The Business-Economics Building (now the College of Business Administration Building), opened in January 1962. It was the largest classroom structure on campus when it was built and housed the first escalator on campus. Today, it is home to the undergraduate programs at the McCombs School and the Bureau of Business Research. The building faces Speedway Street and unlike the majority of surrounding Mediterranean Revival Style architecture structures, most of the building is faced with brick.
In March 1976, Graduate School of Business Building opened next to the existing building facing 21st Street. Since its inception, the addition to the College of Business Administration Building houses the separate graduate MBA program. The addition was constructed in a rhombus shape to protect a grove of trees on the north side of the building.
Located on the southwest corner of the UT campus, the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center is a multi-function complex and hotel. The facility has multiple sized classrooms and breakout rooms, a 300-seat amphitheater, ballroom, three restaurants, and 297 hotel rooms. The center hosts all of the executive education programs for the McCombs School, including the Texas Executive Education and evening MBA programs. It is the first building to be built to the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Silver certification standards on campus.
A statue titled "The Family Group" by sculptor, and former UT College of Fine Arts professor, Charles Umlauf sits in the middle of McCombs Plaza at the southern entrance of the GSB Building.
In August 2012, the University of Texas System Board of Regents approved a proposal for a new $155 million, 458,000-square-foot Graduate Business Education Center to serve the McCombs MBA students. The new state-of-the-art building is scheduled to open in February 2018, and will be located across from the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center. This facility will be called Rowling Hall.
McCombs is made up of a total of 6,487 students (Fall 2017): 4,703 undergraduates, 1,687 postgraduate, and 97 doctoral students. An additional 6,450 undergraduates take coursework through the Texas Business Foundations Program (Texas BFP), described below, for a total enrollment of 12,973. All undergraduates classes are at the main campus in Austin while almost a fifth of postgraduate student classes are held outside of Central Texas in Dallas, Houston, and Mexico City.
In addition to traditional graduation routes, McCombs offers a five-year program where students earn their BBA and Master in Professional Accounting (MPA) degrees concurrently. The Texas BFP offers non-business majors the opportunity to grasp the fundamentals of business operations and minor in business while pursuing any undergraduate program at the University of Texas at Austin. Students in the Business Foundations Program take seven business courses (two lower-division and five upper-division) in addition to their existing undergraduate course work. Students who complete the program are capable of integrating their minor into their future career.
In Fall 2017, out of the 8,221 freshman applicants, 1,803 were admitted to the undergraduate program. Unlike most colleges & schools at the University of Texas at Austin and the university itself, McCombs does not accept spring or summer applications. Prospective students must apply for admission only during the fall semester. Both undergraduate and postgraduate applicants have similar admissions requirements. Applicants are evaluated holistically based on letters of recommendation, essays, transcripts, and a resume. MBA applicants however are encouraged to have at least two years of full-time work experience and are required to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). For Fall 2017, the McCombs school received just over 2,500 applications for the Full-Time MBA program whose class size is 265.
The McCombs School of Business awards the degrees of Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master in Professional Accounting (MPA), Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA), Master of Science in Finance (MSF), Master of Science in Technology Commercialization (MSTC), Master of Science in Marketing (MSM), Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD), as well as certificates upon completion of non-degreed Executive Education programs. Programs awarding doctoral degrees at the McCombs School of Business are divided in five academic departments, Accounting, Finance, Information, Risk, and Operations Management (IROM), Management, and Marketing. A sixth department, Business, Government and Society, was created in 2010 and does not award a doctoral degree.
Finance students are divided into six different specializations or "tracks." The Corporate Finance and Investment Banking Track prepares students for careers as associates of corporate treasury departments, as financial analysts for corporations or investment banks, and as management consultants. The Energy Finance Track prepares students for positions in project-financing, valuation, and risk management in the energy sector. The Investment Management Track provides students with a background suitable for starting positions as financial analysts with investment funds, investment banks or other financial institutions. The Financial Markets/Banking Track prepares students for various financial institution-related careers such as lending officers and financial analysts. The Real Estate Track prepares students for positions in real estate commercial brokerage and appraisal, mortgage banking, loan underwriting, real estate development and investment, and property management. Finally, the General Finance Track for students who do not wish to specialize in any area.
Business Honors Program (BHP)
Admission is based on high school class rank along with extracurricular activities, and is typically only offered to students in the top 2% of their graduating class. BHP courses are taught by some of the McCombs School's most experienced faculty. Emphasis is placed on class discussion and presentations, case study analysis, and the research of actual business decisions. Enrollment in BHP classes is restricted to students in the program, and has small class sizes (generally 30-45 students).
McCombs is home to over a dozen collaborative research centers focused on various business and investment sectors. Research centers are part of the academic departments and research information within that department according to the center's specialty.
Current rankings for McCombs School of Business programs:
5 U.S. News (9/17)
6 Bloomberg Businessweek (4/16)
1 U.S. News, "Best Bang for Buck" (Highest Salary-to-Debt Ratio)(7/16)
14 QS World University Rankings, U.S. rank (11/17)
17 Forbes (9/17)
17 U.S. News (3/17)
18 Poets & Quants (11/17)
18 Business Insider, U.S. rank (12/15)
20 Bloomberg Businessweek (10/17)
20 Financial Times, U.S. rank (1/18)
9 Poets & Quants for Executives (3/16)
11 Eduniversal U.S. rank (4/17)
15 Financial Times, U.S. rank (10/17)
17 Expansion (3/18)
18 The Economist (5/15)
19 U.S. News (3/17)
Working Professional MBA
10 U.S. News (3/17)
15 Bloomberg Businessweek (10/15)
MS in Business Analytics
2 QS World University Rankings (11/17)
3 Master's in Data Science (8/16)
6 TFE Times (10/17)
MS in Finance
6 QS World University Rankings, U.S. rank (11/17)
8 Financial Times, U.S. rank (6/17)
MS in Technology Commercialization
6 for Entrepreneurship, U.S. rank, Eduniversal (4/17)
12 Doctoral Graduates Produced (U.S. rank), Financial Times, Global (1/18)
11 Worldwide Business School Research Rankings, University of Texas at Dallas (2/17)
16 Faculty Research Publications, Financial Times, Global (1/18)
1 Accounting, U.S. News (9/17)
1 Accounting (Graduate), U.S. News (3/17)
1 Undergraduate Program, Public Accounting Report (8/17)
1 Master's Program, Public Accounting Report (8/17)
1 Ph.D. Program, Public Accounting Report (8/17)
1 Accounting Research, Global, since 1990, BYU Accounting Research Rankings (2014)
Undergraduate Specialty Rankings
1 Accounting, U.S. News (9/17)
1 Accounting, Public Accounting Report (8/17)
4 Marketing, U.S. News (9/17)
4 Supply Chain, Gartner, Inc. (8/14)
5 Finance, U.S. News (9/17)
5 Management Information Systems, U.S. News (9/17)
6 Real Estate, U.S. News (9/17)
6 Insurance, U.S. News (9/17)
7 Management, U.S. News (9/17)
7 Entrepreneurship, U.S. News (9/17)
9 Supply Chain Management/Logistics, U.S. News (9/17)
9 Production/Ops Management, U.S. News (9/17)
9 Quantitative Analysis/Methods, U.S. News (9/17)
19 International Business, U.S. News (9/17)
Graduate Specialty Rankings
1 Accounting, U.S. News (3/17)
1 Accounting, Master's Level, Public Accounting Report (8/17)
3 MBA Program for Hispanics, Hispanic Business (8/14)
3 Information Systems, U.S. News (3/17)
3 Best Campus Environment, Princeton Review (10/17)
5 Best MBA for Non-Profit, Princeton Review (10/17)
6 Entrepreneurship, U.S. rank, MSTC Program, Eduniversal (4/17)
6 Best Professors, Princeton Review (10/17)
6 Best MBA for Marketing, Princeton Review (10/17)
8 Entrepreneurship, Financial Times, (1/16)
8 Supply Chain, Gartner, Inc. (9/14)
9 Entrepreneurship, U.S. News (3/17)
9 MBA Employability, Poets & Quants (12/13)
9 Greatest Resources for Women, Princeton Review (10/17)
10 Best Classroom Experience, Princeton Review (10/17)
11 Financial Markets, Eduniversal (4/17)
12 Management, U.S. News (3/17)
13 Marketing, U.S. News (3/17)
13 Production/Operations Management, U.S. News (3/17)
13 Global MBA Programs for Latin Americans,AmericaEconomia (5/17)
14 Finance, U.S. News (3/17)
15 Supply Chain/Logistics, U.S. News (3/17)
16 Entrepreneurship, Princeton Review / Entrepreneur Magazine (11/17)
16 Corporate Finance, U.S. rank, Eduniversal (4/17)
20 Best Global MBAs for Mexicans, U.S. rank, Expansion (3/18)
See also: List of University of Texas at Austin alumni
Graduates from McCombs receive competitive salaries and are solicited by some of the best companies in the world. In addition, a huge advantage that McCombs graduates have is the fact that Texas has so many companies based in the state, as well as large regional offices of those based elsewhere. Given these companies look to hire MBAs regionally (for example, Oil & Gas Investment Banking Divisions), their first choice is naturally to recruit from the McCombs School of Business which, in turn, insulates McCombs graduates from the job market that other graduates are facing in markets where there is more concentration of top business schools (for example, New York)." Furthermore, despite the recent economic downturn, McCombs has continued to maintain a very high job placement for its graduates due to the booming Texas job market. Top recruiters at McCombs historically include PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan Chase, Credit Suisse, Dell, Citigroup, Boston Consulting Group, Microsoft, Chevron, and BP.
Alumni of the business school include:
As of the 2015–2016 school year, the McCombs School employs 192 full-time equivalent faculty. Jay C. Hartzell is the 12th dean of the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. He joined UT in 2001 after teaching at New York University’s Stern School of Business, and prior to his current role, he held several key administrative roles at the McCombs School. His most notable positions include his service as the Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Chair of the Finance Department, and Executive Director of the McCombs School’s Real Estate Finance and Investment Center. Dr. Hartzell holds the Centennial Chair in Business Education Leadership and the Trammell Crow Regents Professorship in Business. He holds a B.S. in Business Administration and Economics (cum laude) from Trinity University and a Ph.D. in Finance from The University of Texas at Austin. His research focuses on real estate finance, corporate finance and corporate governance.