September 23, 2004

AEM Ranks 14th In U.S. News Report

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A September report released by U.S. News & World Report ranked Cornell’s Applied Economics and Management program as number 14 out of 430 accredited undergraduate business programs across the nation.

This report marked the inauguration of AEM into the magazine’s ranking system. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the MIT Sloan School of Management and the University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business topped the list.

Edward McLaughlin, the Robert G. Tobin Professor of Marketing and director of the Undergraduate Business Program, explained the methodology behind the rankings. “They are based upon one attribute only: reputation of the school to the deans of other business schools.”

To compile their ratings, U.S. News & World Report asked deans of all 430 business programs to rate peer schools on a simple one to five scale. Cornell fell short of the 5.0 acme by 1.1 points, trailing close behind Indiana University, University of Illinois and Washington University in St. Louis.

McLaughlin said that because AEM was a relatively obscure program to many peer reviewers, the department was “proactive in developing materials to send to the deans and in promoting Cornell’s program at national conferences, where Cornell faculty met with other professors and presented speeches on a variety of topics.” He added that the new 40-member advisory board, composed primarily of Cornell alumni, has “done a lot to communicate with the other deans about the quality of students and faculty at Cornell.”

AEM entered the playing field in January of 2002 as a result of its recent accreditation by the International American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business. The board, which is composed of a panel of deans from leading business schools, evaluated Cornell’s business program on numerous fronts and presented several directives for change, including one for the department to either reduce its student body or to increase its faculty size.

In the past four years, AEM has hired nine new faculty members, two of whom are full professors. Although introductory classes contain 200-400 students, McLaughlin pointed out that hiring an additional nine professors for intro marketing or financial accounting is not feasible. Instead, he said, the department tried “to find the best instructor possible” and added that these introductory classes were “a survey to prepare students for upper level classes, where the department has reduced class size by about 50 percent.”

Prof. William Lesser, chair of applied economics and management, discussed other merits and drawbacks of Cornell’s business program. The strength of the department, he said, lies in its quantitative approach to teaching.

“Ours is an analytical program, which positions students well for the future,” Lesser explained. He added that a third of AEM graduates go on to careers in finance or financial consulting.

“However, compared to business programs like U. Penn’s Wharton, the AEM program is smaller than many. Larger business programs have a depth of courses that we can’t offer,” Lesser said. Still, in the past few years the department has added 30 new courses to its curriculum.

“This report can only be good news for the students; it will give them a sense of pride. The rankings are an external recognition to the quality of education of AEM and Cornell,” said Janelle Tauer, director of communications for AEM.

Lily Teng ’07 echoed Tauer’s sentiments: “Cornell has dedicated many resources to making AEM what it is today. Our ranking is really impressive.”

Besides bolstering student confidence, the rankings are likely to draw in more employers. According to Kevin Malchoff ’74, chair of the undergraduate business advisory council and U.S./Canada group president of Rich Products Corp., “More employers will be looking to Cornell now that AEM is on the radar screen. In the past two years, our company has hired two Cornell students, and they are doing great.”

“A world-class business program will attract top students, leading scholars and research funding,” McLaughlin added.

As for the future of AEM, McLaughlin said, “it is possible and likely a donor will have enough confidence and excitement toward Cornell’s program to make a contribution important enough to create a named business school.”

Archived article by Xiaowei Cathy Tang
Sun Contributor