Monday, April 9, 2007

Individualizing Education: Creating A More Interesting College Experience For Everyone

The University of Southern California is constantly changing and implementing new programs. Over the past few years, most of that change has been for the better, substantially increasing Southern California's prominence throughout the country. This positive change, however, has not kept USC from remaining open to all sorts of suggestions on how their methods can be improved. In trying to make the University as prestigious as possible, they have been taking advice on various aspects of academia through a program called the Dean's Prize for the Enrichment of Student Academic Life; a program that allows students to speak out on how they feel Southern California could be improved. One of the main points in USC's strategic plan of 2004 is to "shape educational programs to meet the needs of qualified students through pedagogy, instructional technology, curricula, admissions, and support services," and they are using this program to do exactly that. With that said, I would like to use this post as a means to give my recommendations on how I think the Marshall School of Business could improve their undergraduate program.

The Marshall School of Business, shown above, offers a lot of opportunities not available in most universities throughout the world, but I cant help but think how much room for improvement there still is. Most of the classes I have taken throughout my three years in Marshall have been interesting and helpful. However, there are a few classes I have taken that I have found to be not only uninteresting, but also not applicable to my current career preference. The course list for the undergraduate business program includes a set of 5 prerequisite courses and 10 required core courses, not including general education programs required by the university. It is utterly impossible for every course required by the business program to apply to every student, and because of this, I feel that a lot of the courses required are wasted on uninterested students.

My proposition for the undergraduate business program is a more student oriented course list, the goal of which being to make each individual's time in Marshall as interesting and thought provoking as possible. This list would include most of the required subjects already found in USC's course list, but would also give students an opportunity to choose a certain amount of courses prior to their senior concentration. There are a number of options that could be more applicable to some students than taking Finance, a second Accounting or Statistics course, and a third Economics class, etc. Rather than having to take these classes, the school could offer speaker series, internships, or even allow students to take classes under different parts of the university. All of these options could make the college learning experience much more interesting for each individual in the undergraduate business program.

After two summers of internships, I can speak from experience in saying that internships provide much more practical and useful information than any course offered at Southern California. If credit were given for interning, students would be more willing to work during the school year, thus gaining more career-oriented knowledge. Rather than force a student to take a class on a topic they will most assuredly never use again, allowing students to take part in internships for credit could allow each individual the opportunity to learn a great deal about their specific interests in a new environment, as is shown in the picture to the right. Speaker series are another great way to learn about different aspects of the business world, and would be very interesting and informative means of education for college students. Learning about the lives of successful businessmen in all aspects of life could educate students on topics not normally discussed in a classroom. This could be broken up into a number of different industries, possibly introducing the senior concentrations, and could give students a glimpse into a future career in each part of the business world better than any class ever could. These are only two options, but there are a lot of different courses or programs USC could offer in order to individualize undergraduate business education.

I am under the impression that the reason the undergraduate business program has such a wide array of courses required is to give each student a quick look into as many career paths as possible. Requiring so many courses does exactly that, however, I believe that this idea has been taken to an extreme unnecessary in order to obtain their initial goal. For example, giving a student the opportunity to take an internship with a marketing firm rather than being forced to take a third Economics course would be more interesting, informative, and much more practical for that student. Introducing this system into the business program would not be detrimental to the program; students with no current career preference could still take the wide array of courses currently required. Individualizing each student's education in Marshall would give every student the ability to make his or her four years at USC as interesting and career-oriented as possible.

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