Drive for Continual Improvement

By Bruce Beans
Photography by Gordon Wenzel
Fall Winter 2021 Issue


Only the top 5% of the world’s 16,000 business schools earn AACSB accreditation. First accredited in 1993, Susquehanna shares that honor with other notable university business schools and is one of just nine private, undergraduate-only business schools that has earned the distinction.

“The AACSB accreditation is the yardstick by which all quality business schools are measured,” says Matthew Rousu, business school dean. “To achieve it requires a tremendous commitment by our faculty to provide our students with the very best educational opportunities — from innovative classroom teaching methods to valuable real-world experience — and in turn hold our students to the highest standards in business education.”

The reaccreditation process is conducted every five years. Susquehanna’s James Pomykalski led the effort through his role as reaccreditation and continuous improvement coordinator. “Anybody who has been to business school knows what AACSB accreditation means and understands that the level of expectation placed on our students is much higher,” he says.

Global Internships

Susquehanna’s business school was specifically commended for its guarantee of an international internship for its students — including opportunities to complete an internship in Australia, England, Italy, Germany, New Zealand, Singapore and Spain.

Building upon the school’s long-standing semester abroad London Program, the international internship initiative was launched. Students had been interning abroad for years, and that number grew to 60 students from the class of 2020 — the same year the business school first guaranteed students an international internship.

Two months after that guarantee was announced in January 2020, the pandemic scuttled the in-person international internships scheduled for that summer. However, many of the school’s overseas business partners, from Fortune 500 companies to start-up businesses, soon agreed to remotely take on 44 SU student interns. “I don’t know of any other school that pivoted to virtual international internships so quickly,” says Rousu.

Women’s Leadership

The review committee also commended the business school for its work creating the Women’s Leadership Symposium for business students in 2015. The initiative, which seeks to address societal disparities in terms of pay and leadership positions in the workforce for women, offers female students career treks to major cities, job-shadowing experiences that connect them with Susquehanna alumni, access to professional conferences and opportunities to secure summer research, internships or other experiential learning.

The initiative’s yearly symposium has proven so successful that — thanks to the financial support of several alumni, including Signe S. Gates ’71, chair of the SU Board of Trustees, and Dawn G. Mueller ’68, vice chair — it is now open to all female students at Susquehanna, regardless of their major.

“It empowers our young women by connecting them with phenomenal alumnae in their intended industry,” says Emma Fleck, associate professor and head of the Department of Management and Marketing. “Networking is so powerful for young women. When they can see it, they can be it.”

Sarah Derrick ’18, who majored in luxury brand marketing and management, agrees. “With fewer women than men in my business classes, the symposium was a good way for women to connect with other women and feel empowered to take on leadership positions — not only in the workplace but while still in school, in our classes and other Susquehanna groups,” she says.

Courses and Connections

Since 2017, the percentage of business students who return as sophomores has increased from 81.5% to over 90%. One factor: delaying more challenging math courses, such as statistics, for a semester or two for incoming students whose strengths may not be mathematical.

AACSB encourages faculty members to continually think about how to improve the student experience. For example, the school assesses what students are learning in their courses to make sure that, following graduation, they have the skills they need to succeed in the workforce. So, during the past five years, in addition to making tweaks to existing courses, the school added a management principles course for sophomores and another on data-driven decision-making.

The business school is also launching new, interdisciplinary minors. The professional sales minor, which includes courses from both the business school and the Department of Communications, began in fall 2020. The courses are taught by Michele Welliver, an assistant professor of communications at Susquehanna who has more than a decade of professional sales experience in radio and television, and Darrell Wilson ’78, an adjunct professor of marketing with more than 40 years of sales experience.

“Professional selling skills are beneficial for any Susquehanna student because they can be used in business, in the nonprofit sector, government and more,” says Fleck. Started in 2021, a new sustainability management minor combines business and environmental science courses. Fleck and Rousu developed the curriculum with Katherine Straub, interim dean of the School of Natural and Social Sciences.

Straub notes that a lot of EES majors join consulting firms where they must handle clients, budgets and accounting. “With a growing number of corporations attempting to be part of the solution to climate change, the field is exploding,” she adds.

When Rousu meets with prospective students, he stresses that studying business at Susquehanna University is a one-of- a-kind experience that combines a top-flight undergraduate business education with the liberal arts.

“Studies have shown that graduates of liberal arts colleges and universities earn more throughout their careers because a liberal arts education helps you learn how to think in all sorts of different ways and approach problems from different angles,” Rousu tells students. “I know accreditation sounds boring, but it assures you that you’re going to be ready to take a top job when you graduate.” 

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