While business majors have long topped the list of the most popular degrees nationwide, the last few years have also seen a rise in the popularity of business minors. Schools like the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, the University of Arizona, and the University of Colorado Boulder all report their business minors are the #1 minor choice among undergraduate students — some by a landslide.
And it’s no wonder. Employers are increasingly looking at business minors as a way for their newly hired graduates to transition more easily into the business world – rounding out other specializations like computer science with knowledge of business fundamentals as well as professional skills in areas like communication and networking.
So how does a university go about turning their business minor into the must-have minor on campus? We sat down with Marie Pecoraro, the business minor program director at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder, to gain insights into the secret of Leeds’ success.
900% growth in 6 years
At CU Boulder, a business minor has become the minor to have among undergrad students. In 2013, the program had just 150 students. Today, that number is up to 1,500 – with at least 100 more on the waitlist each semester.
Achieving that growth was no accident. Under Pecoraro’s leadership, the program executed a multi-faceted action plan with the objective of making the business minor the most attractive minor on campus.
Strategy #1 – Enhancing the value of the minor itself
Before embarking on an awareness campaign, Leeds first took a look at how they could amplify the students’ experience as well as the value it would add to their employment prospects. The school added a set of non-credit, professional development resources to the program that every enrolled student would have access to. For example:
Career Readiness Certificate: a series of non-credit workshops and experiential learning followed by reflection that helps students understand how to best present themselves professionally – in the interview and on the job.
Career Treks: day-long field trips to area companies looking to connect with students drawn to their field, including company culture presentations, a site tour and information about entry-level positions.
Professional Mentorship Program: A nationally recognized program that partners students with business professionals, this option helps complement the classroom experience with professional skills and leadership development – as well as by expanding their professional network.
Strategy #2 – Messaging as to the “why”
The school then revamped their marketing materials to tap in to the motivations of today’s students.
Knowing that 66% of college students are not confident they’ll get a job after graduation, Leeds crafted marketing materials to be highly focused on how the program can make them more employable - even including testimonials from prospective employers:
“Zayo has partnered with the University of Colorado Boulder’s business minor program to identify uniquely qualified talent early in the process. At Zayo we believe having well-rounded talent ready for diverse projects at a fast pace is key to staying competitive. The business minor is helping to create a strong pipeline that fits our ideal candidate profile.”
– Zayo Group
The team also developed inserts specific to the colleges they were targeting for minor enrollment. This enabled the messaging to be even more relevant to the student reading it – explaining how a business minor could round out their specific area of study.
Strategy #3 – Partnering with influencers across campus
Perhaps most importantly, Leeds took the step to invest significantly in developing a strong rapport with cross-campus advisors. They targeted academic advisors, career advisors and niche program managers – essentially all the people whom students trust the most.
The school focused on educating staff on everything the students will have access to with a business minor – as well as how the minor can significantly benefit them after graduation.
To help foster the partnership, Leeds holds two events annually. In August, they host a full informational session on what’s coming up for the year so that the minor is top of mind as students arrive. And in January, the dean hosts an open house appreciation event, which includes a full tour of the school’s facilities. This event’s purpose is to let cross-campus colleagues know how much the school appreciates their partnership, which helps set Leeds up for more success the following semester.
As for the future, the school plans to parlay the minor’s popularity into even more program expansion. In addition, Leeds’ has begun to utilize Salesforce to track student trends and support campus retention efforts. In the next few years, they hope to matriculate up to 2,000 students, all the while anticipating that if their efforts continue, so will the program’s success.