Five years ago, it might have seemed unrealistic that the number of incoming first-year students for the 2022-23 academic year would not only exceed all expectations but also include the largest percentage of underrepresented students in Whitman history. The hiring of 23 faculty members, along with several key positions related to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEI&A), corporate relations, admissions and the student experience might have been hard to imagine. Incorporating a new undergraduate major, multiple interdisciplinary programs, and scores of new experiential learning opportunities, internships and strategic partnerships that are getting Whitman students into of some of the largest and most well-respected companies in the world might have been wishful thinking. And the idea of doubling the professional budget for faculty research, causing a rising profile among research institutions and programmatic rankings that have increased, in some cases by double digits, might have seemed unreachable. But all of this has been achieved at the Whitman School of Management — in just the past five years.
These accomplishments and many more began under the leadership of former Whitman Dean Eugene Anderson, who led the School from 2017 to mid-2022. Anderson has returned to his native Pittsburgh to become dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration. With a leadership team committed to positioning the Whitman School for continued growth and student success, while also creating a welcoming environment for all, Anderson set out to create the business school of the future. And, while a change in leadership took place in July 2022, the progress that has been made over the past five years has continued without missing a step.
“Whitman will continue to move full speed ahead,” says Interim Dean Alex McKelvie, who has been a part of the School’s Roadmap to Whitman’s Second Century strategic plan since its inception. “The many accomplishments we are seeing are a credit to the outstanding efforts of our former dean, our leadership team, faculty, staff and many others within our community who have worked diligently together over the past five years to ensure that Whitman is on an upward trajectory, and that will most certainly continue.”
“I am humbled and honored to continue the work started by Dean Anderson and so many others who saw a whole new level of potential for the Whitman School five years ago.”
— Interim Dean Alex McKelvie
McKelvie has been an integral part of the Whitman School since joining the faculty 15 years ago as a professor of entrepreneurship. He has served as the chair of the Department of Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises and, for the past four years, was the associate dean for undergraduate and master’s education before being named interim Dean.
“I am humbled and honored to continue the work started by Dean Anderson and so many others who saw a whole new level of potential for the Whitman School five years ago,” says McKelvie. “While we are pleased by the level of success we have seen so far, we are not done yet; we will keep moving forward.”
Recent Rankings Reflect Accomplishments
One proof point of Whitman’s success can be seen in its rankings, many of which have risen considerably over the past five years. This spring, Whitman’s undergraduate program received its highest-ever ranking from Poets&Quants and this fall, Whitman saw a double-digit jump in rankings from U.S. News & World Report. The Whitman School’s MBA program also saw a double-digit increase from Bloomberg Businessweek, and U.S. News & World Report gave Whitman its second-highest ranking ever.
“We are gratified with this latest evidence of the impact of the outstanding programmatic work Whitman has completed over the last few years,” says McKelvie. “While rankings are just one indicator of success, given the variety of data sources used in tabulating these different rankings, the key message is that Whitman is clearly moving in the right direction. And these accomplishments further reflect the great team effort of the staff and faculty at Whitman to increase the status of the School among its business school peers.”
Enrollment Surges, Whitman’s Profile Rises
When the 2022-23 academic year began, the Whitman School welcomed the largest incoming class in its history with 626 first-year students and approximately 90 transfer students, 150 more students than originally anticipated. This is nearly 29% more than last year’s record-breaking 486 students and far ahead of the 448 who began at Whitman in the 2018-19 academic year. There are not only more students but more academically competitive students, as the average GPA of this year’s incoming undergraduate students rose from 3.74 to 3.80 this year, the highest it has been at Whitman.
29% increase in incoming students
3.80 highest ever GPA of incoming students
29.3% students of color, up from 27.8% in 2018
47% undergraduate females, up from 37% in 2017
“This enrollment increase didn’t happen overnight but is a reflection of the escalation of success over time,” says McKelvie, noting that the School saw a 40% increase in applications to almost 7,000 and has worked strategically with Syracuse University’s Office of Admissions to create a diverse and highly competitive student body.
This year’s incoming students also include the most underrepresented minority students and females in the history of Whitman, further evidence of Whitman’s commitment to DEI&A. Students of color increased from 27.8% in 2018 to 29.3% in 2022, and underrepresented minorities rose to 17.6% in 2022, compared to 15.2% in 2018. Females make up 47% of the undergraduate student body this year, in comparison to 37% five years ago.
“Every business school’s goal is to increase its number of underrepresented students, but we understand that people need to be able to envision themselves here,” says Lindsay Quilty, assistant dean for undergraduate programs. “Whitman made a concerted effort, for example, to make sure that new and potential students see a strong female presence on campus, that students of color have the opportunity to speak at our events about their experiences here, to continue using some of the virtual tools we needed during the pandemic to our advantage, and to assure that anyone interested in the Whitman School can get a glimpse of how they might be genuinely welcomed into our community.”
While opening the doors to Whitman’s largest class this fall was a great accomplishment, it did have its challenges. “The No. 1 focus for me was ensuring that not one student felt like we were overenrolled,” says Quilty.
To that end, Whitman ensured that individual class sizes did not increase. Whitman welcomed a new faculty member to work with first-year students and act as a Goodman IMPRESS house mentor. Another academic advisor was hired, and the Career Center added an additional full-time career advisor. Whitman also welcomed an IMPRESS program coordinator. These new hires ensured that students continued to feel supported.
Whitman’s residential master’s degree programs have also been on the rise, with an enrollment increase of 35% from fall 2018 to fall 2022. The latest incoming class is made up of 71% international students and 29% domestic students across its full-time degree offerings. According to Christopher Wszalek, executive director of graduate admissions and student recruitment, this year’s cohort has 161 graduate students across all programs. In comparison, there were 119 graduate students in 2018. The largest group this fall is comprised of those studying for a master’s degree in business analytics. In addition, the MBA cohort has seen its average incoming GPA rise from 3.32 in 2018 to 3.68 in 2022 with an average work experience of 44.4 months, compared to 33.5 months five years ago.
“The No. 1 thing that former Dean Anderson and Interim Dean McKelvie (in his role as associate dean) did for our master’s programs was an intentional investment to grow and manage our admissions staff more efficiently to give us a better yield and more dynamic incoming student cohorts,” says Wszalek, who noted that the staff grew from one member to four, including his current position. “It is a challenging marketplace out there, but I believe that the increase in staff has impacted our ability to effectively reach out to every applicant with a more personal touch, and that has made the Whitman School stand out.”
In addition, achieving the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) designation for the curriculum of the MBA program and all but one of the master’s degree programs in 2021-22 has proven to be a big draw, particularly amoung international students. STEM designation allows students to work in the U.S. for three years, instead of one, following the completion of their degrees.
According to Wszalek, Whitman’s master’s degree programs are prioritizing an increase in underrepresented candidates and have also changed some admissions requirements so that those without an undergraduate degree in business or related areas are not necessarily excluded from consideration.
All of these efforts have put Whitman’s master’s degree programs on a course for growth and have improved the academic strength of the class, impacting not only numbers on campus but also the quality of job placement and higher salaries.
Safety and Health Through the Pandemic
The increase in enrollment, along with other accomplishments of the past five years, are particularly outstanding in that they happened during unprecedented times — a global pandemic, something McKelvie says is “surely the biggest challenge we have faced.” Despite these obstacles, the pandemic did not diminish student interest in the Whitman School — as evidenced by this year’s incoming class — or the overall retention rate.
“Whitman pivoted to deploy outstanding virtual coursework, while offering flexibility to students when it mattered most. We felt confident that our son would continue to experience excellent academics and programs, while staying safe, whether it was an early semester at home or later as students returned to campus.”
— Parent Karen Black ’90 (VPA)
In March 2020, the Whitman School, along with the rest of Syracuse University, was forced to pivot to online instruction with only a few days’ notice as the country started shutting down due to COVID-19. Leadership, faculty and students worked together to quickly adapt to these unpredictable circumstances. Through it all, the greatest priority was simple: the health and safety of students. Despite the fear and the challenges, parents and students wanted as much of the normal college experience as possible to remain in place, according to McKelvie, but they also wanted protocols demonstrating that the Whitman School and Syracuse University were making every effort to keep students healthy and safe while continuing their education.
“We did exceptionally well in comparison to some of our peer schools through empathy, kindness and support for one another,” McKelvie says, noting that, overall, Onondaga County (where the University is located) and New York State, in general, were much more conservative than other areas of the country in terms of COVID-19 protocols. “It was about doing the right thing at the right time. As we eventually transitioned back to campus, I think parents and students felt more comfortable knowing we had an environment where testing was prioritized and readily available and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control were strictly followed.”
Parents seemed to agree. “We have been impressed with the Whitman School from the moment our son took his first tour, so it was not a surprise to us when Whitman and the University demonstrated the highest standards for handling all aspects of health and safety related to the pandemic,” says Karen Black ’90 (VPA), the mother of Nathan Black ’23. (Karen’s husband is James Black G’81 James Black G’81 [EDU], G’96 [EDU].) “Whitman pivoted to deploy outstanding virtual coursework, while offering flexibility to students when it mattered most. We felt confident that our son would continue to experience excellent academics and programs, while staying safe, whether it was an early semester at home or later as students returned to campus.
Even flagship programs like Whitman on Wall Street were quickly reimagined into meaningful virtual opportunities when it was not safe to travel. We truly appreciate all that Whitman has done to continue to advance its outstanding programming to students under an umbrella of health and safety.”
DEI&A Efforts and Building a Community Welcoming to All
In 2018-19, the One Whitman Council, a group tasked with clarifying the tenets most important to the School community, developed five core values — integrity, inclusion, collaboration, innovation and excellence — for Whitman. One that was strongly emphasized was inclusion. In doing so, Whitman made a commitment to “strive to be a student-centered community that is supportive of all,” while also emphasizing an effort to be “open-minded and engaged” in encouraging diverse backgrounds and viewpoints.
“Whitman has grown and become more strategic with a vision of building a more diverse, equitable, accessible and inclusive environment. This goes beyond visible things like race and gender and tries to make the Whitman community welcoming to all, regardless of background or beliefs,” says McKelvie. “While the significant shift is noticeable, in truth, our goal is for it to not be noticeable anymore. Rather, being an exemplary and modern global business school means that working with people of different backgrounds is fully engrained in everything we do.”
Whitman has been working on a strategic road map that connects its business strategy and DEI&A strategy to create a pipeline to more diverse professional organizations and yield more students of color into its master’s programs. It has developed scholarship programs to recognize students doing their best to improve the School and has been more conscious of elevating role models from all backgrounds. Overall, it has made an effort to ensure that every Whitman student is offered equal opportunities to succeed.
“I believe the culture we are fostering must start at the top in order to become a more inclusive, belonging community and ensure that leaders can see to it that…anyone who walks through the doors of the Whitman School see and feel that effort.”
— Diane Crawford, executive director of institutional culture
One important part of this effort was the creation of a new position in 2019: executive director of institutional culture. Diane Crawford holds this inaugural position with a mission to seek new ways to expand DEI&A efforts, which not only serve underrepresented students and students of color but also reach out to potential students. Two such programs include Future Leaders, which Crawford spearheaded to provide resources to Syracuse City School District students to help them prepare for the college admissions process; and DiversityEdu, learning sessions that help current students, faculty and staff build a new lens through which to better manage bias and assumptions. DiversityEdu was piloted at Whitman before being rolled out to the entire University community.
“I believe the culture we are fostering must start at the top in order to become a more inclusive, belonging community and ensure that leaders can see to it that staff members, faculty, students and anyone who walks through the doors of the Whitman School see and feel that effort,” says Crawford.
Whitman has also worked to expand its definition of DEI&A to include initiatives that ensure first-generation college students and their parents are aware of all of the opportunities available to them through Whitman and Syracuse University; encourage more women to try majors that have historically been male-dominated in the business school culture; identify alumni as mentors and role models; outline pathways to make experiential learning opportunities financially possible for more students; and make sure no barriers prevent any student from fully participating in the Whitman community.
“I do not think our work will ever be done in this area,” says McKelvie. “We have the clear expectation that everyone at Whitman has the ability, knowledge and approach that is welcoming to all, as well as an understanding of the benefits of our multiple sources of difference. A modern business school ensures that multiple perspectives are heard and understood, just as in industry. As the world keeps changing, our students need to be equipped to better understand why and how people might look, believe, act or prioritize differently.”
Lessons Learned In- and Outside the Classroom
Many of the gains made over the past five years included efforts to “future-proof our learning goals,” according to McKelvie. Creating the business school of the future meant prioritizing having students learn the latest technology and being exposed to best practices in the current business world. While some of this happens in the classroom and through partnerships with other schools across campus, other goals are best achieved through a variety of experiential learning opportunities and internship experiences — and these have already started to result in higher-value placements for Whitman graduates at some of the world’s top companies.
A New Undergraduate Major Focusing on Analytics
One step in that direction has been the recognition of the need to function in a data-driven world. Today’s employers are looking for candidates with data science or analytics experience, particularly those who not only can make sense of data but also use that information to build business strategies. To that end, Whitman added an undergraduate major in business analytics in 2020, which has quickly become one of the most popular majors. In addition, individual courses incorporating data-based knowledge are being offered across several majors, including finance, supply chain management and marketing. The new undergraduate major is a further reflection of Whitman’s curricular emphasis on data and analytics and complements a popular master’s degree in business analytics that welcomed its first class in 2017.
“Putting analytics and data at the forefront was an important accomplishment within our undergraduate programs. It is our obligation to ensure that Whitman students have the skills and knowledge they need to secure competitive placements and be work-ready once they move into the business world, and data skills are now front-and-center on recruiting firms’ wish lists,” says McKelvie.
Gift Sparks WIRE Initiative, Making Certifications Accessible to All
In spring 2022, as part of the Goodman IMPRESS Program, Whitman launched its Whitman Industry Readiness and Excellence (WIRE) initiative thanks to funds from a $1.25 million gift from Kenneth Goodman ’70. As one of the many initiatives that are part of the Goodman IMPRESS Program the WIRE initiative allows students to pursue specialized and industry-recognized certifications — like ARGUS, Google Analytics or Microsoft Power BI — free of charge. Many would cost from $100 to $600 if students had to pay.
According to IMPRESS Program Manager Kari Morrow, Whitman students were often reluctant to pursue these specializations due to cost. Thanks to WIRE, the opportunity is now open to everyone — from first-year to graduate students, who only need to explain why and how a particular certification will be beneficial to their learning and career plans. Although the program is in the early stages, there have already been over 100 applicants to date, and Whitman is continuing to get the word out about this opportunity. These certifications are seen as valuable by recruiting firms and WIRE therefore helps students to be even more attractive in the workforce.
Interdisciplinary Degrees Broaden Whitman Offerings
Another goal of the Whitman School has been to provide both its undergraduate and graduate students with the interdisciplinary skills they need to be more marketable and more engaged citizens on campus, in the workplace and in the community. This effort has been a part of Engage Syracuse, aimed at broadening the School’s offerings of dual and/or joint majors and degree opportunities, while also building academic partnerships with other colleges and schools across the University or located nearby.
The list of opportunities has grown to nearly two dozen. Three of the most recent involve partnerships with the Syracuse University College of Law, the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and SUNY Upstate Medical University, which borders the Syracuse University campus.
The purpose of dual majors and interdisciplinary degree programs is “to make education more relevant, novel, multidisciplinary and valuable for students,” according to McKelvie. “Too often, business schools tend to operate in silos, but we are creating community partnerships and programs that attract students who might not otherwise think of Syracuse University or the Whitman School, but are drawn in by the unique, rich and diverse experiences we have to offer.”
For example, the 3+3 Whitman/Law Joint Degree allows Whitman undergraduates to complete a degree in any business major in three years and then add a law degree from the Syracuse University College of Law. The first cohort of Whitman students was enrolled in fall 2017 and began law school in fall 2021. This demanding program requires condensing a business degree into three years, sitting for the LSATs during sophomore year and starting law school in what would otherwise be the senior year of undergraduate studies. Whitman students are given conditional acceptance into the College of Law and must still meet the criteria for law school admission.
Both the Whitman School and the College of Law see this joint degree program as a way to allow students to understand critical concepts of law that are necessary to conduct business and function in a regulatory environment. Whitman and the College of Law have successfully collaborated before, offering a joint online J.D./MBA since 2019, the first of its kind in the nation.
In addition, Whitman recently launched two dual major programs with the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Leveraging the national reputations and strengths of both schools, these dual majors — a master’s degree in public administration combined with an MBA or a master of arts degree in international relations combined with an MBA — embrace various aspects of politics, government, international relations and business that develop students into tomorrow’s leaders who possess a combination of multidisciplinary skills. Both programs are streamlined so all requirements can be completed in approximately two years including summers; this is expected to help attract highly qualified and diverse students to these offerings.
Another collaboration is the MD/MBA program with SUNY Upstate Medical University, which began in fall 2022 as a pilot program in which students can earn an MBA and a medical degree in five years. The program accepted three students into the pilot this fall who have started their MBA at Whitman. They will complete much of their business degree during the 2022-23 academic year and the following summer with a practicum focused on health care-related business. Medical school will start in fall 2023.
The Whitman School and SUNY Upstate Medical University are eager to see the pilot program succeed and plan to fine-tune it so additional students can take advantage of a combined experience that allows medical professionals to have a deeper understanding of the business aspects of health care.
Focusing on Corporate Partnerships
Having partnerships with big businesses and influential alumni is also critical to Whitman students. To that end, Whitman established a new position in 2020, the director of corporate relations, to allow one person to focus strictly on growing relationships with companies willing to work with the Whitman School in various ways.
“I do not work with the students as much as I work for the students in an effort to find opportunities for them,” says Sara Garvey, the director of corporate relations. “A lot of corporate partnerships start with an alumni connection and that, in turn, opens up doors for us from there. Many of our alumni worked closely with the Career Center in their Whitman days, and it was life-changing for them. So they want to give back by mentoring, taking on an intern or bringing on a Whitman graduate as an employee.”
Through alumni and other strategic connections, Garvey reached out to many companies in New York City and has extended her reach to other markets as existing relationships expand into new geographical areas and are willing to take that Whitman relationship with them.
Since this position was created, job placements have gone up significantly for Whitman undergraduates and MBA students. According to Garvey, 91% of MBA students who graduated in 2022 were employed within 90 days of graduation — setting a record — and the undergraduate rates are on pace to match or exceed Whitman’s recent record of 96% job placement after graduation.
“Experiential programs give our students the chance to try things and personalize their Whitman experience. It is an opportunity to help them develop career readiness and possibly turn an experience into a job offer at some point.”
— Erin Draper, director of experiential programs
“We’ve not only increased job placements, but we have increased the number of high-value job placements,” Garvey says. “I was talking to an alum recently who said, ‘It is pretty impressive to see the amount of Orange on Wall Street these days.’ That tells me we are moving in the right direction for our students.”
Experiential Programs, Internship Opportunities in NYC
Experiential programs have become of particular importance to a Whitman education. Students at the Whitman School have always had access to the offerings of the Syracuse Abroad program, but in the past five years, specific student experiences have been developed that bring them to some of the world’s largest business centers. Whitman has made it a priority to focus on New York City as a primary location for valuable student opportunities.
In an effort to target and expand experiential programs for students, Whitman created a new position in 2022: director of experiential programs. Erin Draper joined the Whitman School in the role in February, working to formalize opportunities that already exist, and to develop other programs and experiences that take students out of the classroom and expose them to the possibilities a Whitman education can provide.
“Experiential programs give our students the chance to try things and personalize their Whitman experience,” says Draper. “It is an opportunity to help them develop career readiness and possibly turn an experience into a job offer at some point. It is also a chance to raise the visibility of the Whitman School with some of the larger, influential companies, so they’re eager to seek out our graduates when they are looking to hire.”
The School has relaunched the Whitman Semester in NYC Program, primarily for undergraduate juniors; it is designed to help students secure high-placement internships at top firms like Goldman Sachs and the Big Four accounting firms. The program also allows students to stay on track for graduation by earning course credits with a combination of work, classes and co-curricular activities that also give them a taste of professional life in New York City.
Whitman’s leadership has not lost sight of the responsibility to make such opportunities — both in- and outside New York City — equitable for students. To that end, Whitman recently established the Internship Opportunity Fund, made possible by an anonymous alumni donor to assist students who might not otherwise be able to afford the costs associated with living and learning in a large and expensive metropolitan area.
“We have been working to address the equity issues some of our students have when they secure internships in large, expensive cities, as we are eager for all of our students to have as many chances as possible to spread their wings,” says Assistant Dean for Advancement Christopher Crooker, noting that internships are required for undergraduates and encouraged for graduate students.
In addition, the Whitman School continues to offer a multitude of internships and experiential opportunities like the Fetner Real Estate Program, held in the summer in New York City; shorter group trips such as the Whitman on Wall Street program, which introduces students to a variety of top firms and Orange alumni; events and experiences planned in other business centers from Boston to London; and opportunities on campus that bring in alumni to speak, mentor and judge events like the Panasci Business Plan competition and the Orange Tank pitch competition.
Expanding Faculty, Funding for Research
Keeping the Whitman School on an upward trajectory requires the experience of both seasoned faculty and junior faculty who bring with them diverse areas of expertise, new research and an overall enthusiasm for teaching and learning.
Over the past five years, the Whitman School has hired 23 faculty members across departments—four in accounting, three in entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises, five in finance, five in management, and four in marketing (which includes supply chain management). Two new faculty teach in required courses shared across the School and therefore don’t officially belong to a department.
Of those, nine are new tenure-track research faculty positions partially funded by the University, according to Michel Benaroch, associate dean for research and Ph.D. programs. “These hires are a reflection of our effort to strengthen certain areas by infusing a diverse level of research into our day-to-day activities,” he says.
Eight of the new faculty positions include five research-cluster hires under a University wide initiative to strengthen research across campus, two signature hires in the Department of Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises and two additional hires.
“We are really excited about the new faculty we have added — bright young faculty with the potential to collaborate with other faculty members in Whitman and across Syracuse University,” Benaroch says, noting that many bring expertise that will benefit Whitman students on cutting-edge topics like fintech, women in leadership, sustainable investing, blockchain and more.
Benaroch is equally pleased with the significant amount of funding that the Whitman School has devoted to faculty research.
“There is no question that there has been a major change in the amount of funding available,” he says. “It has almost doubled over the past few years. This has provided faculty access to new and innovative data sets necessary for empirical research in business. In fact, working with Syracuse University Libraries, we have been able to double the number of databases our faculty can now use, giving them the ability to initiate new, innovative studies.”
“Funding is the means through which the School expresses its strong commitment to research,” says Benaroch. “Over the past few years, the Whitman School has shown a new level of commitment to research. There is now a great culture of funding which, in many respects, matches what highly ranked business schools make available to their faculty in terms of research dollars.”
Also, the School has committed to allowing faculty to dedicate more productive time to research by supporting concentrated teaching schedules, funding summer research projects and other opportunities deemed necessary to produce a continuous output of relevant and important research.
This has resulted in almost 50% more articles published in some of the top-tier journals, as well as more visibility on editorial boards, as journal editors and as expert commentators in the media. All of this has given Whitman a more high-profile presence as a leading research institution.
Benaroch also notes that the past five years have seen an improvement in Whitman’s Ph.D. program, stemming from the faculty putting notably more time into mentoring Ph.D. students.
“Every Ph.D. student in the program has a mentor, and while the program’s enrollment has actually decreased, the quality of the program has improved,” he says. “We are keeping the program sized to fit the faculty size, which is producing stronger Ph.D. students who go on to research institutions as highly ranked as Whitman or better.”
Five Years…and Counting
These accomplishments are more than a list of successes. They are a testament to five years of hard work, innovation, an entrepreneurial spirit and a commitment to bringing change and a wealth of experiences and opportunities to all students, faculty, alumni, donors and everyone else committed to the success of the Whitman School.
“The Whitman School is on the rise, and, while it is satisfying to look at all we have accomplished, we have no intention of slowing down or being content with what we have already achieved.”
— Interim Dean Alex McKelvie
“The Whitman School is on the rise, and, while it is satisfying to look at all we have accomplished, we have no intention of slowing down or being content with what we have already achieved,” says McKelvie. “We are grateful for the vision and transparency that began under the direction of former Dean Anderson and has been supported over the past five years by so many who have worked tirelessly as a Whitman community to ensure that these efforts will benefit not only today’s student body but also those who will follow them for many years to come. It is my sincerest wish and intention that we continue together full speed ahead on this pathway towards becoming a premier business school of the future.”