How Michigan Ross Plans to Shape Business Education for the Next 100 Years

As the school celebrates its centennial anniversary, Ross Dean Sharon Matusik says the school is uniquely positioned to influence the future of business education.
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Published on June 12, 2024
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  • The University of Michigan Ross School of Business celebrates its centennial anniversary in 2024.
  • The past century has seen Ross become one of the country's preeminent business schools.
  • Dean Sharon Matusik tells BestColleges that Ross is uniquely positioned to shape the future of business education going forward.
  • Ross' vast resources and university-wide collaborations allow it to stay on top of current trends.

The University of Michigan Ross School of Business is celebrating its centennial anniversary at a pivotal time in business education.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies are rapidly reshaping the business landscape. Businesses and students alike are embracing sustainability to combat climate change. Student needs are changing, with a greater demand for flexibility following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ross Dean Sharon Matusik told BestColleges the school is well-positioned to not just tackle those challenges but to shape the future of business education as it heads into its second century.

She said that Ross' pioneering focus on action-based learning, coupled with its numerous centers in areas like leadership and entrepreneurship, helps the school.

It comes down to connecting the academic world to the business world, Matusik said in the interview.

Here's how the top-tier school plans to impact the next hundred years of business education.

A Hundred Years of Change

When the University of Michigan opened the doors of its business school in 1924, Calvin Coolidge was president, the nation was emerging from a deadly influenza pandemic, the Great Depression was still years away, and business education was in many ways still in its infancy.

Business schools began to launch in earnest in the late 19th century, but the first master of business administration (MBA) program wasn't established until 1908 at Harvard University.

Ross' first century saw its emergence as one of the country's leading business schools.

This includes the work of William A. Paton, who helped forge the modern field of accounting, and an evolving degree landscape. The school has been particularly influential in emphasizing business's potential for positive societal change — a point that more business schools are embracing.

Matusik said the idea of using business to build a better world has been a North Star for Ross. She also identified four main pillars that both defined Ross' initial 100 years and will continue to serve the school going forward:

  • Action. Ross has long practiced action-based learning, or learning by doing. That means getting students real-world experience during their education so they can hit the ground running after graduation. Real-world learning experiences are increasingly in demand among business students.
  • Impact. Matusik said Ross emphasizes making both an economic and social impact in business. The Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Environmental Management Institute, founded in 1996, has for nearly three decades tackled environmental challenges as a collaboration between Ross and the School for Environment and Sustainability.
  • Excellence. Matusik said the school recently analyzed where Fortune 1000 CEOs got their degrees and found that Michigan came in at No. 5. If that figure is narrowed down to only undergraduate degrees, Michigan is the top, Matusik said. People here strive to be their best, Matusik said.
  • Community. Matusik noted the strong bonds that University of Michigan alumni have. She's traveled widely to alumni events across the globe since taking the helm at Ross in 2022 and said she's been struck by the Go Blue culture.

Leading in the Next Century

Business education in 2024 is vastly different than it was in 1924.

Schools are grappling with the rapid emergence of AI, incorporating science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) into their curricula, and responding to student demand for sustainability education.

All of these points are areas where Ross can lead the way in business education, Matusik said. Ross' position as one of the country's leading research universities, coupled with its already strong programs and opportunities for students, positions it to shape well-equipped future business leaders.

Matusik said it all comes back to Ross' long-standing focus on action-based learning. She said Ross is focused on not only preparing students to excel in a rapidly changing business environment but also having them consider ethics and social responsibility.

I think society demands that businesses be mindful of the larger impact and power that they have, Matusik said.

Ross recently added an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) concentration to its MBA program, complementing its already robust sustainability initiatives like the Erb Institute and reflecting student interest in sustainability.

The Erb Institute isn't Ross' only highly specialized focus area. The school boasts a number of institutes focused on innovation, leadership, finance and accounting, entrepreneurship, operations, and international business.

While other top business schools have no undergraduate programs and are distant from their respective campuses, Matusik noted that Ross is located at the heart of the University of Michigan and has long-standing partnerships with other divisions within the university like the College of Engineering.

Ross offers numerous dual degree programs in high-demand areas like computer science to prepare students with both business leadership skills and relevant skills for their careers. She also noted that Ross activities and clubs — like its high-pressure Leadership Crisis Challenge simulation — are open to the whole campus.

We're trying to leverage the breadth of campus through dual degrees, through majors and minors, and through individual courses, Matusik said.

The school has also embraced flexibility in its rigorous curriculum.

Matusik said one silver lining from the pandemic was a push to deliver high-quality educational content in a flexible way. Ross has debuted several digital studios to help faculty build online curricula and give students a strong online experience.

It also means that Ross can further expand its already worldwide reach.

We can create degree courses that are hybrid, that are all via technology, Matusik said. It gives us a lot of degrees of freedom in terms of meeting the students where they are.

Matusik said looming global challenges aren't going to be solved by one narrow area of expertise. They demand an interdisciplinary approach. She also underscored the importance of continuing to support Ross students once they've graduated.

We're very committed to keeping connected and elevating the success of our graduates at all stages of their career, Matusik said.