Opportunity for business students in new honors program

Sean Keister

The College of Business Administration at Sacramento State is gearing up to launch the new business honors program, designed for the most competitive students in the region.

Beginning in the fall of 2012, the honors program will prepare its most capable students to become highly-qualified managers through what they describe as a cross-functional, integrated program.

Sanjay Varshney, dean of the College of Business Administration, created the new business honors program along with Russell Ching, who oversees the graduate program.

They want to focus on training top students to fill managerial opportunities, all through what they say is a challenging business curriculum that emphasizes cross-functional integration in enterprise planning, problem solving and decision making.

Varshney is ecstatic that the program is coming to fruition.

“This is your example of innovation,” Varshney said. “It is very different than what we have on the books right now.”

The program does differ from the standard business program by integrating concepts rather than separating topics. However, the students will still be required to declare a concentration in fields such as accounting, entrepreneurship, and marketing, among others.

According to the program guide, in these groups, the students are taught to brainstorm, plan, propose and present alternative solutions to the scenarios they are handed. It is through these methods that the program hopes students will provide thorough analyses in problem- solving scenarios and build team skills and camaraderie.

The College of Business Administration is already highly acclaimed, as it is one of 500 schools in the world that the Association to Advance Collegiate of Business gives accreditation to, an honor of which Varshney is particularly proud.

“I’m thrilled that we have been part of that group since 1963, when there were only around 100 colleges included,” he said.

Erik Bjerke, junior business major, thinks adding this to the school of business is an excellent idea. He said he feels it would help students stand out once they leave Sac State.

“They should have done this a while ago,” Bjerke said. “I’m surprised it took this long because business majors consist of such a large percentage of the student body.”

Varshney said that while the standard business program is already well designed, the honors program is specifically designed for the outperforming and highly motivated students.

In the midst of getting the honors program under way, the College of Business Administration is now making progress evaluating the curriculum on the existing business programs in areas such as concentrations and courses, Varshney said.

When the program goes into effect next fall, the introductory group will consist of 25 to 30 students. It is required for students entering the program to have a 3.9 grade point average or higher, guaranteeing the business honors program will host the top students in the region.

“It seems too exclusive, being that it is a brand-new program,” Bjerke said. “If they lowered it to even a 3.7 GPA, it would be more reasonable.”

Since there would be so few students participating in the program, Varshney and Ching set the GPA standard high to keep the program competitive amongst high-ranking students.

The group would complete the program in four semesters, beginning in the foundation course, then traveling to the integration course and finishing in the practicum seminar.

“This program enables the outperforming students to get a higher value for their education exploring Sacramento State’s business program,” Varshney said.

Bjerke said this type of program will bode well for those looking for a high-paying career who might not have such a great opportunity coming out of the standard business program.

“To say you went through the honors program is definitely something worth noting on your resume,” he said. “Especially in the capital, which is such as a major region for business.”

Ching said that one of the goals is to create a special atmosphere in which students thrive.

“We hope to give them an extraordinary learning experience that will really help them with their careers going forward,” Ching said. “It will springboard the most highly motivated students to their professional aspirations.”

Both Varshney and Ching said they want to bring a higher profile to Sac State through this program.

“This program may alter the reputation of the school nationwide,” Varshney said. “This will put us on par with the top business schools in the nation. Students as good as the ones going through this program are the same type who would be looking to go to Stanford or Harvard.”

Bjerke said he agrees and thinks the program will have a more immediate local impact that will keep Sac State competitive.

“It might put them in a better position to compete for students against UC Davis,” Bjerke said.

Varshney and Ching are happy to see the program become a reality after so much effort.

“I’m ecstatic,” Varshney said. “All of this powerful energy is in the face of a lot of challenges, including budget cuts.”

Ching said the program will propel students into positions that are often reserved for Ivy League graduates.

“If one of our students became an executive or an entrepreneur of a company that took off,” Ching said. “That would be the ultimate measure of success for us.”

Sean Keister can be reached at [email protected]