Stephen S. Smith Center

Evidence of Need

The competitive landscape for undergraduate honors business programs both nationally and regionally is a crowded field favoring those institutions that can differentiate their "brand" through unique, distinctive program features that convince both students and parents that the honors program offers a superior undergraduate business educational experience leading to favorable employment and graduate and professional school opportunities. Academically talented undergraduate business students are recruited through academic scholarships and honors designations indicating a more rigorous course of study and academic achievement. Internship assistance and global immersion courses are desired features of undergraduate business honors programs as well.

The Smith Scholars Program - Minor in Political Economy achieves brand differentiation in the following ways:

  • A distinctive approach to the integration of the liberal arts curriculum into a rigorous, in-depth study of business.
  • The coherence of the Program - developed through a cohort approach and the ability of the Program's faculty to relate concepts and ideas to other Program courses that enrich a student's ability to understand context and connect ideas across academic disciplines.
  • The Program's pedagogy that develops a student's ability to decipher difficult and complex foundational texts, evaluate arguments through logic and critical thinking skills, and examine the objectivity and credibility of sources.
  • The minor in Political Economy that serves to integrate disciplines.
  • The Program's emphasis on classical rhetoric - the oral and writing ability to persuade through logic and analysis.
  • The funding of global immersion trips that focus on experiential learning.
  • The emphasis on philosophy and the examination of ethical choices and conduct, which is consistent with the Jesuit educational tradition and mission.
  • The research opportunities enabling selected students to engage in undergraduate research.
  • Program assistance through networking and guidance about internship opportunities, employment and post-graduate studies.

Data on Employment Market Trends

The Smith Scholars Program's unique curricular and pedagogic approach develops WCB students who possess attributes most sought after by employers in the economic environment ushered in by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The World Economic Forum's 2016 report, The Future of Jobs Employment, Skills, and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution cites the top 10 skills companies will seek in talent recruitment by 2020:

  1. Complex Problem Solving
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People Management
  5. Coordinating with Others
  6. Emotional Intelligence
  7. Judgment/Decision Making
  8. Service Orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive Flexibility

Other data corroborates these emerging market trends. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported in its 2016 Job Outlook Survey that employers favor recent college graduates who evidence the following: leadership (80.1%); ability to work in a team (78.9%); written communication skills (70.2%); problem-solving skills (70.2%); verbal communication skills (68.9%); strong work ethic (68.9%); initiative (65.8%); and analytical/quantitative skills (62.7%). These trends apply to technical fields as well. In a recent survey of IT professionals, 72% of respondents reported the need for hiring employees in technology fields with "soft skills" had increased in the past two years. Top "soft skills" sought after by this industry were: analytical thinkers (65%); good communicators (60%); troubleshooters (59%); strong integrity and ethical behaviors (58%); and ability to work under pressure (58%). Skills such as creative problem-solving eclipse core business competencies such as financial statement analysis as preferred attributes in employees, even in financial institutions such as banking.

Studies confirm that recruiting talent who possess these "soft skills" is challenging and the lack of candidates with these skills impacts a business organization's productivity. In a Wall Street Journal survey of approximately 900 executives, 92% stated that "soft skills" were "equally important or more important" than technical skills. 89% of these executives reported they have a "very" or "somewhat difficult" time recruiting job candidates with these attributes. A LinkedIn survey identified these sought-after "soft skills" to include communication skills, critical thinking, organization, creativity, and adaptability.