Georgetown Undergraduate Business Program Prepares Students for Success
Whether she’s meeting with students over (now virtual) bagels or expanding experiential learning opportunities, Patricia Grant spends her time ensuring that the Undergraduate Program at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business prepares students to achieve personal success while also serving the common good.
Grant, who is the senior associate dean for the Undergraduate Program, recently took the time to answer some questions about the program’s innovations, its focus on DEI, and building a lifelong community of students and alumni.
The Undergraduate Program at Georgetown McDonough seems to be in a constant state of innovation and evolution. What is driving this momentum?
For me, it’s important to address short-term issues like coping with the pandemic, but with an eye on the long-term success of our students and our program. We have added numerous offerings to our well-being initiatives over the past year, adapted to virtual teaching and advising, and expanded our alumni engagement in a virtual world.
At the same time, we have continued to make curricular enhancements to our program, including expanding experiential offerings. Our students gain real-world experience through national and global case competitions, where they take what they are learning in their classes and apply them to complex business challenges. In fact, just this month our undergraduate Venture Capital Investment Competition team took the top prize in the global competition. It also is a requirement of our First Year Seminar program to compete in a case competition where students offer business advice to help a local nonprofit organization solve a real-world challenge. We also have students working with real-world clients on projects through programs like our Steers Advisory Services program in real estate.
Georgetown also is known for its global reputation, and our undergraduates have numerous opportunities to experience the borderless nature of business first-hand. At McDonough, we offer three signature summer global programs — in Barcelona, Oxford, and the Asia Pacific, and the university provides opportunities for students to participate in more than 70 other study abroad programs. We also have invested in the Undergraduate Global Social Internship program that connects students to nonprofit partner organizations abroad so they can develop their business skills while also contributing to a social cause. Finally, we offer a Global Business Experience elective, where undergraduate business students consult for an organization abroad, and then travel to the country to present their findings to executives. Of course, our global programs have looked a little different during the pandemic, but we are eager to enter a post-pandemic world where travel becomes possible again.
We also have increased our opportunities for students to engage in meaningful academic research. Our Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship expanded to include over 30 students last summer who conducted academic research under the mentorship of a faculty member and then presented that research to our community. Additionally, we launched a Senior Honors Thesis Program in 2019-2020, where students gained credit for conducting academic research that had the potential to be published in an academic journal. That program continues to flourish and enhance the learning lab that our curriculum embodies.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has been top of mind for many universities and businesses this year. Can you share your thoughts on how Georgetown McDonough is advancing inclusion and belonging within the school’s community and culture?
Together with my colleague, Michael O’Leary (senior associate dean for executive custom programs and teaching professor of management), I am the co-chair of the school-wide DEI Standing Committee. This is an initiative of our Dean’s Office that seeks to reflect on our DEI practices and implement solutions to strengthen our community moving forward. We are in the process of implementing new initiatives, including appointing a Director of Underrepresented Minority Student Support who will work across our undergraduate and graduate programs.
Within the Undergraduate Program, we continue to strengthen our diversity offerings. We have an active Business Undergraduates Invested in Leadership Development (BUILD) initiative that is focused on providing an intensive business and development curriculum for incoming students to maximize their success as they transition into college. Additionally, our Smart Start program is a partnership with PwC to equip a diverse pool of first- and second-year students with the tools for academic, personal, and professional success. Participants are mentored by peers and alumni who work at PwC.These programs are each part of a decade-long investment in DEI within the Undergraduate Program.
Georgetown prides itself on its commitment to cura personalis, or care for the whole person. How does that manifest in the undergraduate business program?
First, we are committed to our students’ mind, body, and spirit. So, in addition to ensuring they receive the best academic experience possible, we also focus on their overall well-being. Our new Initiative on Student Formation and Well-being includes a range of activities, from Wellness Wednesdays programming to meditation sessions to academic engagements.
We also pride ourselves in our lifelong connection to our alumni. Many schools talk about the initial career statistics for their graduates, focused on employment six months after they graduate. But, I love seeing where they go from there. What are they doing five years from now? Who is making a difference in the world? Who has gone back to school or engaged in entrepreneurial activities? How are they putting into practice what they learned at McDonough?
By maintaining our connections with our graduates, we have built a robust alumni community that remains engaged with the school and our students and programs. For example, our PILLARs program invites alumni and parents to be guest speakers in our classrooms, offering real-world experiences and advice to our students. This program began before the pandemic, but participation has skyrocketed in the virtual environment, providing us with a new set of best practices to continue expanding our student-alumni connections. Our Undergraduate Career Development Center also has seen record participation by alumni on both our Host-a-Hoya one-day job shadowing program and in our Hoyas Helping Hoyas initiative, which asks alumni to share job, internship, and mentoring opportunities with our students.