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Mendoza rejects ‘gates,’ external transfers

Karen Langley | Friday, March 3, 2006

As increasing numbers of students have decided to major in business during the past several years, the Mendoza College of Business has chosen to address rising interest by keeping Notre Dame students as its priority. While any Notre Dame student in good standing can choose to pursue a major in business – or any other academic areas – at any time, the College of Business is no longer accepting transfers from other universities.

Notre Dame students have always been able to transfer freely between the colleges, and that is not about to change. But during the past five years, the college has been cutting back on admitting transfer students from outside the University – and in the fall of 2005, the college admitted zero external transfers.

Dean Carolyn Woo of the College of Business stressed the cumulative effects of accepting external transfer students – a step that greatly increases an already large student population.

“We’re not obligated to take external transfers,” she said. “We should serve Notre Dame students before external students.

“It’s like carrying a 350-pound body on knees designed for 200 pounds. The wear and tear is eventually seen.”

The College of Business should definitely not grow larger, Woo said. At one point, the College graduated 30 percent of University students, though peer universities typically have 8 to 12 percent of their undergraduates enrolled in business, she said.

“There are so many majors in the University,” she said. “There is no reason all [the students] should be in business.”

In the fall of 2005 there were 1,543 sophomores, juniors and seniors enrolled in business, down from 1,806 in the fall of 2001.

Two years ago, then-University Provost Nathan Hatch met with Woo to discuss the possibility of enacting gates to admission in the College, requiring a rising sophomore to have a 3.0 GPA to enter, said Assistant Provost for Admissions Dan Saracino.

“That goes against the culture at Notre Dame,” Saracino said.

For now at least, it was decided that gates both can and should be avoided.

Woo echoed Saracino’s analysis, adding that this stance made Notre Dame unique.

“Almost all schools I know have gates to the business program,” she said, “If [Notre Dame] accepts students, they should have access to any major they want.”

Assistant Dean of the College of Business Samuel Gaglio agreed with Woo’s sentiments, saying there are “no ongoing discussions” as gates are “not appropriate for Notre Dame.”

“If you’re here at Notre Dame, the option to study business is yours,” Gaglio said.

Even if the University were willing to install gates, there would be no practical way to screen applicants for their majors without changing the structure of the First Year of Studies program – a well-established system that allows freshmen to explore various academic options.

“There are many subjects at Notre Dame that [incoming] students aren’t familiar with – like engineering and business,” Saracino said.

Applicants do notify the Office of Undergraduate Admissions of what they plan to major in, Saracino said, but 15-20 percent of students change their major between when they apply and when they register for class the summer before freshman year. More than two of every three undergraduates at Notre Dame change their major between application and graduation, with many changing two or three times, he said.

This is as true for business majors as for students in the other colleges, Gaglio said.

“We have a lot of students move into and out of the College,” he said.

The statement of intended major serves therefore as an aid to departments that might send information to incoming students, but plays no role in applicants’ chances of acceptance, Saracino said.

“An undergraduate education doesn’t teach you to be something, but to be someone,” Saracino said.

Saracino said career-oriented students who would like to explore other academic areas before pursuing a business career may still gain some business knowledge with extra spaces in their schedules.

“Students can [take business classes] as electives,” Saracino said. “There are other ways than actually majoring in business.”

While the College will always try to fill any openings in courses, Gaglio said students from other colleges may not always be able to take business electives, due to the already-maximized enrollment by business majors.

“We have to give priority to business students, as the courses are necessary to their degrees,” he said. “Any seats we have are available, but that is a limited number.”

Class sizes cannot be increased, he said.

“There is a pedagogical limit to the size of any class on campus,” he said. “It hurts the quality of the class if you go beyond that. We’ve put all our limits at that number.”

Gaglio said high enrollment in any courses stems from student interest in the material.

“Students should study what they love,” he said, quoting psychology specialist Anre Venter. “The courses we offer appeal to students.”

For those students to whom business appeals, there are many pluses to pursuing a business major at Notre Dame, Woo said.

“Business training is very broadly applicable,” she said. “All organizations, in order to be effective, require a certain organizational intelligence.”

And Notre Dame students will continue to have the option to choose Business, just as they may study Arts & Letters, Science, Engineering or Architecture, without admissions gates.

“We couldn’t be more convinced that what we have is the best system,” Saracino said.