After years of anticipation, planning and hard work, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) received the long-awaited accreditation for its undergraduate business program in the Applied Economics and Management (AEM) department earlier this month.
The Jan. 9 accreditation, awarded by the American Assembly for Collegiate Schools of Business-International (AACSB), now places Cornell alongside the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business as the only two accredited undergraduate business degree programs in the Ivy League.
“It was confusing for students in the past to have a business degree in the school of agriculture,” said Prof. Edward McLaughlin, applied economics and management and associate chair for the business program.
“Now [the AEM program] will be ranked among national business schools. We are confident that it will be in the top ten very soon,” McLaughlin said.
Administrators at the AEM program decided to seek accreditation three years ago when the AACSB made fundamental changes in its philosophy toward undergraduate business programs. According to Andrew Novakovic, E.V. Baker Prof. of agricultural economics and chair for the AEM program, the changes made by the AACSB were more compatible with Cornell’s commitment to a well-rounded education.
In 1993 and 1994, the AACSB altered its requirements so that at least one half of all business courses must include general education courses.
“We have always thought of ourselves as different from a traditional [business] program,” Novakovic said. “Our philosophy is to provide courses that span business disciplines [and also] to encourage a more general liberal education.”
The department made several changes in order to meet AACSB standards of accreditation.
“We were told to either ‘shed students or gain resources’,” Novakovic said. “We got exceptionally high marks for quality of curriculum and teaching but we needed more faculty and program support.”
They hired five new professors to decrease the faculty-student ratio and an additional two will be added within the next two years. The department has also increased its publicity in order to attract more prospective business majors to the program.
“Our goal was to form a general business program that could be distinguished from the school of agriculture, but we didn’t want to limit the number of students who wanted to take our courses,” McLaughlin said.
According to Novakovic, the immediate benefits of accreditation can be seen through interaction with prospective students.
“Conversations with prospective students will be much shorter now because of the external validation that accreditation provides,” Novakovic said. “We no longer have to answer questions about the program’s location in the school of agriculture … that is now a moot point.”
Administrators have already seen an increase in the number of applications to the program, which they say will most likely increase the selectivity of the admissions process in upcoming years. While the number of applicants are increasing, the number of admitted students will remain the same. Students who have traditionally looked at national top-tier business schools may now place Cornell higher on their lists, according to Novakovic.
Now that the goal of accreditation has been reached, the AEM faculty is working on ways to further improve the program.
Hiring new faculty members has greatly enhanced the program’s ability to conduct research in addition to teaching. “The attention of our faculty was diverted heavily to teaching and we are now trying to create more of a presence in the research community,” Novakovic said.
Long-term goals include the renovation of classroom facilities and the creation of a stronger marketing campaign to further publicize the program around the country. According to McLaughlin, the program’s philosophy of “continuous improvement” does not end at accreditation.
“Yes, we are now accredited,” he said. “But no, our work is not over.”
Archived article by Meghan Barr