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In defense of new Mendoza policy

| Wednesday, February 3, 2016

I would like to provide our readership some additional insight on the University’s undergraduate admissions practices for the Mendoza College of Business. First, the Mendoza enrollment target was established by University senior leadership in consultation with College Deans and the Enrollment Division in early 2014. Current first-year students are the first class impacted by this policy. Second, the University believes the enrollment target and internal transfer process provides ample opportunity for exploration and, in some cases, creates better opportunities for discernment for all Notre Dame students. I will provide background on both.

We had more than 4,200 business applicants last year and we were able to offer all but 33 admitted students entry into the first-year program with pre-approval for business as sophomores. The students indicating business as their intent are completing exactly the same application as everyone else. It should also be understood that any student enrolled as a first-year student with a pre-approved admission to Mendoza is free to select any other major at any time, just like they have in the past.

Among the nation’s top universities with an undergraduate business program, Notre Dame ranks first in the percentage of degrees conferred to students studying business at over 27 percent. The new enrollment target maintains Notre Dame’s ranking in the percentage of degrees conferred and stabilizes enrollment at about 27 percent of the undergraduate student body. While all of the best undergraduate business programs have an admissions cap in one form or another, we believe that our implementation is the fairest to students.

At Notre Dame, we ask that high school seniors indicate an intended course of study. If that course of study is business, we have asked them to provide an alternative intended course of study. If there is not room for a student with a primary intent to study business at Mendoza, we have the flexibility to offer students admission at Notre Dame to pursue their alternative intent. Students like this can always attempt to gain admission to Mendoza through our internal transfer process. No other university with a top undergraduate business school provides this freedom. Consequently, students not admitted to another university’s business program are denied admission to that university.

Limiting positions in fields of study has been practiced in the past and will continue to be evaluated in other fields in the future if circumstances require. This is part of a normal enrollment management practice that essentially all universities follow. As it relates to Mendoza, growing enrollments in the college were challenging two priorities. First, as one of the top undergraduate business programs, Mendoza needs to protect the quality of its classroom experiences. Mendoza leadership believed that forecasted growth trajectories would have strained the quality of the Mendoza education. This needed to be managed and protected.

Second, there was a desire to ensure that all undergraduates continue to have access to courses offered by Mendoza as part of their entire educational experiences. This directly benefits all students by infusing these courses with a greater diversity of experiences and thoughts. Without an enrollment cap, most opportunities for non-Mendoza students to take classes offered by the college would have had to be eliminated.

It is true that students not pre-approved for Mendoza have to apply for internal transfer instead of just electing to make the change, but we believe there is value added by the formal process. We all know that first-year students learn a great deal during the first semester. They come to better understand their talents and interests as well as the opportunities that exist within different fields of study. Students benefit from the counseling and resources from our staff in the College of First Year of Studies as well as the upperclass students in residence halls to obtain a more sophisticated understanding of their options.

It is incumbent on the student to think why he or she wishes to major in a business field rather than pursue business as a career while majoring in a broader area of academic interests. Both paths may lead to the same destination after graduation. The internal transfer process requires students to think and articulate, “Why Mendoza?” If selected, the student has until late March to make the decision, just like all other first-year students in the past.

Some of our most successful graduates involved in global business leadership roles were not business majors at Notre Dame. Many current top employers understand this and recruit all majors at Notre Dame. One of our most famous business majors isn’t exactly practicing business these days — Nicholas Sparks, a world-renowned author and movie producer. Students should be very excited about the quality of the Mendoza College of Business, but they can be equally excited about the prospect of dynamic careers through other avenues of educational experience at Notre Dame that will still lead them to leadership roles in business.

It is important in the discernment process to actually discern who you are, what really motivates you and what is truly rewarded in the real world that is outside of cliché thinking that is all too dominant in colleges today, even among collections of the brightest students at competitive universities. We should not confuse our desire to make any decision we want with the importance of making more informed choices. The process now requires more discernment and on the same time frame as it has in the past. The limited number of spaces requires all of us to think more and assert that thinking. That in itself is a healthy outcome.

Don Bishop
Associate Vice President of Undergraduate Enrollment
Feb. 2

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.


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