Reimagining the Business Major

DePaul’s refreshed bachelor’s in business curriculum is energizing and engaging career-minded students

Pictured from the Drift Team (L to R): Shivani Patel (at podium), Suzanna Linek, Omar Hatamleh, Ethan Brock. [The fifth member, Arshdeep Singh, is not pictured.]

Business students (L to R): Shivani Patel (at podium), Suzanna Linek, Omar Hatamleh and Ethan Brock pitch their business idea, a resale shop called Drift for DePaul students, at the Driehaus Cup Competition. [The fifth  team member, Arshdeep Singh, is not pictured.]

This spring, a temporary thrift store will pop up on DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus. Called Drift, the store will be filled with clothing and accessories donated by students, for students, in an effort to support pocketbook-friendly, repurposed fashion.

Fittingly, students designed and pitched the thrift concept last fall at the Driehaus Cup, a new business competition within the Driehaus College of Business. Business major Ethan Brock says he never imagined he’d be planning and running a business, especially during his first year of college.

“Everybody has ideas. But making it come to life is a different thing,” he says. “So this project has definitely forced me to change the way I look at things.”

In fact, that understanding of business principles isn’t just the goal of the Driehaus Cup, which caps off the new course, BUS 101: Introduction to Driehaus, Fundamentals of Business & Entrepreneurial Thinking; it’s the focus of the redesigned core curriculum of the Driehaus College of Business’s Bachelor of Science in Business (BSB) program.

The new core is the culmination of years of planning and discussions that started in 2019, when the college’s undergraduate curriculum committee first came together to imagine the ideal education for the modern business major.

Management Professor Jaclyn Jensen, a member of that committee who is now associate dean of student success, says the updated curriculum, which includes four new interdisciplinary courses, is designed to offer students more opportunities for community, connection and career-readiness.

“It was time to update the core to make sure that we were delivering a modern and refreshed experience to our students that aligned with what employers are seeking today,” says Jensen. “And also to get them connected to their experience as a business student sooner than they have had in the past.”

The New Core

From the moment they set foot on campus, students now get a deeper understanding of what business is and whom it serves, says Associate Professor of Marketing James Mourey, who is faculty coordinator of BUS 101 and also served on the curriculum committee. “Business is about uncovering human needs that are unfulfilled and finding ways to create products, services or experiences that fulfill those needs,” he says. “So at the end of the day, it’s fundamentally human.”

Starting with BUS 101: Introduction to Driehaus, Fundamentals of Business & Entrepreneurial Thinking, all first-year and transfer students learn about core business fundamentals and glean a better understanding of disciplines such as accounting, economics, finance, hospitality, marketing and management. The second half of BUS 101 teaches students about the entrepreneurial mindset — something Driehaus College of Business is known for.

That’s where the Driehaus Cup comes in. In groups, classmates develop business ideas and compete in the signature pitch competition, which is sponsored by Morningstar, the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center at DePaul and Protiviti. Finalists from each section advance to take the stage of the Lincoln Park Campus Student Center and pitch their idea before a panel of judges and an audience of around 300, competing for scholarship prizes and bragging rights for the Driehaus Cup trophy.

“In any given quarter, there are over 50 new business ideas that are coming out of the course,” says Jensen. Past ideas have included a water bottle that monitors intake, a continuous glucose monitor that doesn’t make disruptive alarms and a food delivery service that brings orders to specific seats at a sports or event venue. “It tells students the value of being in a place where the learn-by-doing philosophy is true through and through,” she says.

BUS 101 also aims to help students make the most of DePaul. Every week, students watch a video called “The Driehaus Difference” that highlights services and supports on campus, such as where to go to get help with writing, how to learn more about study abroad and how to go about getting an internship. In fact, Mourey, who has taught at DePaul for nearly 10 years, says he’s seeing students think seriously about internship and career opportunities earlier than ever.

“What I see now is my first-year students are landing internships or have their resume and their LinkedIn page polished and ready to go,” he says. “That’s game changing for career trajectory.”

Three other classes also make up the new core curriculum:

  • BUS 102: Business Analytics gives students the tools to understand evidence-based decision making, says Jensen, and it’s something that is top-of-mind for employers these days.
  • BUS 103: Business for Social Good explores how enterprises can help people and the planet, while also making a profit. “The course is oriented around big, sticky problems that organizations face today and how the different business disciplines can help address those exact problems,” says Jensen. “It’s also aligned with our mission at DePaul around doing good and doing well.”
  • BUS 202: Business Technology teaches students about the latest technologies that successful businesses use, such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, and prepares students to adapt to future innovations.

Looking ahead

It’s the first year for the core curriculum revamp, but so far, it’s receiving rave reviews. Jensen says that student evaluations have been extremely positive. Anecdotally, Mourey says he’s hearing students talk excitedly about signing up for study abroad trips and joining networking groups, such as the professional business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi.

Business major Suzanna Linek, a junior transfer student who recently completed BUS 101, is one of those students. She joined Delta Sigma Pi after learning about it in class and feels energized by the possibilities. “The opportunities are endless and a great stepping stone to so many connections and great experiences,” says Linek.

One of those opportunities is Drift, which Linek is working on with Brock. After the two students and their teammates presented the concept in the Driehaus Cup, judges and students told them they loved the idea. So they decided to pursue it. They secured funding from the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center and began collecting donations for a series of pop-up events around campus before the school year ends.

In time, Brock says the team hopes to open a physical store on campus and employ student workers. It’s been laborious, but Brock says he’s learned a lot about himself and what’s possible. “It’s a lot of work right now, but as it comes to life it feels more and more rewarding and just goes to show the number of things that I can accomplish thanks to the resources and programs provided for undergrad students in DePaul’s business programs.”

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