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Rexamining college majors to target specific skills, experience: Rutgers-Camden business school offers multitrack majors to give their students more direction and prospective employers more information

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Students at Rutgers-Camden business school.
Students at Rutgers-Camden business school. - ()

Employers want to hire qualified talent, but the generic bachelor’s degree doesn’t necessarily describe what graduates are good at.

“A finance major is great. It sends a signal saying these kids have more knowledge in the subject of finance, but it doesn’t tell them specifically what is their area of expertise,” Dean Jaishankar Ganesh for Rutgers-Camden’s School of Business said.

Ganesh has overseen changes to Rutgers-Camden’s Business School’s approach to assuring students leave with an expertise and work experience. The changes are divided into three overarching ideas.

A multi-track major system, that adds definition to generic majors by providing students with a professional focus,  corporate affiliate program that provides internship opportunities with meaningful responsibilities and a responsibility scholarship that makes interning more accessible for students with part-time jobs.

Ganesh’s vision for the school is to provide more internships for more students. In the past few years Rutgers-Camden’s School of Business has doubled in size. In 2009 the school had roughly 900 students, today it was more than 1,850.

Over 45 percent of the student populace are transfer students, many of whom hold part-time jobs. The changes implemented by Ganesh are meant to assist those students.

Ganesh called the multi-track major the “genesis” of the school’s new approach.

“Two students from the same major could have taken some similar classes or some very different classes depending on the semester and what was offered,” Ganesh said.

The multi-track majors are meant to give students a career orientation so they know what they’re working toward, and employers have more information about they have learned.

At the same time, if companies are unaware of Rutgers-Camden’s multi-track system, students can always defer to the categorical major. For example, a finance major on the “financial analyst” tract could list a bachelor’s degree in “financial analysis” or simply “finance.”

The focus on multiple tracts for each major was a response to Rutgers-Camden’s conversations with corporate partners who were requesting students learn specific skills in particular fields. Rutgers is using those same partners to give students real work experience, not jobs that require going on coffee runs for executives.

Known as the Corporate Affiliate Program, Rutgers works with local companies to place students into meaningful internships. These internships are built off of the multi-track majors, by giving the faculty a direction for the best internship for each student.

Ganesh called the program a “marriage” of knowledge and skills, as it allows students to apply what they learned in the classroom to real world examples.

Francine Quenum, 24-year-old senior who interned at Subaru earlier this year said her experience working for the company proved fruitful.

“It was real job experience,” Quenum said. “It was numbers heavy. I was pretty much in excel spreadsheets all day, sometimes I’d join projects, or lead a project, or work with other people.”

Subaru has hired four Rutgers-Camden students in the past few years, including this year.

Matthew Giampetro, a former student of Rutgers-Camden student was hired full-time for Subaru in May after interning during his senior year. “I made probably 100 to 125 calls a day off of leads that came through,” he said. “I was controlling probably 10 percent of the sales for the whole dealership.”

Giampetro now works as a manager for Subaru and handles closer to 30 percent of all sales at his dealership and manages two other employees.

Subaru started taking on interns with more responsibilities a number of years ago after acknowledging that strictly summer interns weren’t the best use of their resources.

“A summer intern is more work for [Subaru],” Human Resources Manager for Subaru Marti Hartman said. “[The company] has to manage them for the whole summer and [they’re] not getting a lot of return for that.”

Subaru’s approach to interns is in line with what Rutgers faculty hope to achieve with student internship: hands-on experience that leads to an actual job placement.

The importance of an internship’s responsibilities is vetted by a faculty academic coordinator. These coordinators contact hiring managers about the details of the position and ensure students are given responsibilities that will build their skills. Additionally, students submit bi-weekly reports about the work they were assigned.

Rutgers-Camden’s “responsibility scholarship” is intended to assist those students, many of whom are transfer students, who hold part-time jobs to pay for tuition and expenses. In theory, the scholarship buys 20 hours of a student’s time based on hourly wages and provides that amount to them as a scholarship.

In practice, the scholarship details are based on each individual student. Some students work more than 20 hours a week, which the university would not pay for. Other students may have a job that’s is in line with their career path, so having them quit to attend an internship would be counterproductive.

“In a lot of cases a current job is not a career job, it’s just a paycheck,” Ganesh said.

Currently, the school is capable of offering 6 to 10 responsibility scholarships per year, but Ganesh said he plans to expand the program and allow for more students to take on more internships. He said he’d like the school to be able to coordinate with more businesses and grow the number of available internships to more than 200 per year, up from the current 100 to 120 internships per year.

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Arthur Augustyn

Arthur Augustyn

Arthur Augustyn grew up in Massachusetts and previously covered the video game industry in Los Angeles, city politics in Malibu, California, and local news in Bergen County before working at NJBIZ. He currently covers cannabis, government and tech.

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