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Mendoza takes top spot in rankings

Joseph McMahon | Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Mendoza College of Business was named the top undergraduate business school in the nation for the first time in Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s fifth annual rankings, which were released March 4.

Notre Dame, which was ranked second in 2009, finished ahead of the business schools of University of Virginia, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Pennsylvania. The criteria include students’ response to teachers, SAT scores, recruiters’ responses to students and student-faculty ratio.

“Students boasting about the school’s commitment to ethics, Catholic beliefs and passionate professors helped land Mendoza in first place,” the BusinessWeek article said. “During an economic crisis that has left many young people unemployed, Mendoza also managed a strong showing in career placement, with 95 percent of grads landing a job offer within three months of graduation.”

Carolyn Woo, dean of the Mendoza College of Business, said the University’s top spot was “not a sudden event,” noting that the school had been ranked high in the past. 

“We never set out to excel in the rankings,” she said. “We were doing what we were doing before the rankings. The goal was not to win according to the criteria of the rankings.”
Woo said commitment to undergraduate education was the motivating factor for the College’s rise.

“What got us there is we are very serious about the education of our students,” she said. “If our students do their part we will do our part.”

Woo offered the example of the new Junior Research Challenge: Foresight in Business & Society course, which became a part of the required curriculum last year.

“As painful as the Foresight course is … it is really to give our students the skills to look at future issues and trends,” she said. “Our eye is always on the preparation of our students.”
Woo said the College’s effective and hardworking faculty, challenging curriculum and devotion to Notre Dame’s core principles helped the school receive high marks from students and recruiters.

“When recruiters rank us highly, they probably look at a couple of different things such as how well our students are prepared academically, people skills and ethical judgment,” she said.

In addition, Woo credited the entire Notre Dame experience, ranging from First Year of Studies to dorm life, as factors.

“We’re not trying to be different,” she said. “We did this because we want to be faithful to the Notre Dame mission.”

Woo said the commitment of director Lee Svete and his entire Career Center team were also vital in helping the College claim the top spot, as were the alumni who helped students find jobs.

“The alumni really stepped up,” she said.

However, Notre Dame is still behind its peers in a few of the items, including a high student to faculty ratio of 19 to 1, lower SATs and lower salaries for faculty members.

Woo said many of these statistical issues stem from Mendoza’s policy of admitting anyone who was originally admitted to Notre Dame.

“We found that students flourish as business majors,” she said. “Their skills and education background are highly valued.”

Woo has resisted the temptation to cap the number of students admitted to Mendoza, largely because freshman year GPA and SAT scores are not adequate measures of long term success.

“We are not going to change our policy of how we accept students just so we can be higher in the rankings,” she said. “Our mission is to serve people.”

Woo said she had more faith in the BusinessWeek rankings then similar systems largely because they exclude peer evaluations and are more objective.

“No rankings are perfect, but I have to say that the BusinessWeek rankings have more legitimate items than other rankings,” she said.

Nonetheless, Woo said she would never tailor Mendoza’s curriculum to the rankings.
“We were not trying to be number one,” she said. “We’re glad to be recognized as number one, but we have certain principles and commitments that we’re going to always keep.”
Woo said she doesn’t believe Notre Dame’s top ranking will lead to a glut of students applying to Mendoza.

“This is nothing new because we were number three and then we were number two, so it’s not like all of a sudden we became excellent,” she said. “I hope that people don’t come into the business school unless they are interested in business, but it could generate more interest.”

Woo said Mendoza’s top spot was representative of the University’s overall constant striving for excellence.

“This is a school to honor the Blessed Mother, and [University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh] once said, mediocrity is not the way we honor the Blessed Mother,” she said. “Everything we do, we should do it as well as we can. We did what we did because it is our mission.”