Economic interests again draw students


January 07, 1991|By Michael Enright | Michael Enright,Special to The Sun

The only thing better than a little media attention to reverse the fortunes of a struggling enterprise is a lot of it.

The armed forces reported a significant increase in would-be recruits at recruitment centers after the release of the blockbuster military film "Top Gun" several years ago, and gymnastics schools popped up like mushrooms overnight in the United States after the dynamic display of Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut in the 1972 Summer Olympics.

But that same media attention can have its downside when the limelight turns into a harsh glare of scrutiny, as is the case in the business world these days.

Real estate loans gone sour have many banks teetering on the brink of collapse, insider-trading scandals have rocked Wall Street and brokerage houses have fired thousands -- and all the while the economy slouches toward a recession.

But if you think the bad news on the economic front has tarnished the image of academic business programs, think again.

Many local business educators say the number of people applying to their schools today is as high as it ever was and, in some cases, even higher.

"I think a lot of people are evaluating their options very closely and saying to themselves that this may not be a bad time to go back to school," said Mark Freeman, director of the MBA and MS programs at the University of Maryland's business and management school.

Indeed, it seems the current economic climate has produced students with a more sober and realistic vision of what awaits them after graduation, according to some local university business teachers and deans.

What has changed most between the business education of the 1980s and 1990s, many local business educators said, is the need for diversity in university studies.

In the boom days, students could get by with just a basic business education, learning the ropes of accounting, management and sales techniques. But today, business officials say, a global economy and a shrinking domestic one make it imperative that the business student understand and appreciate more of the world.

"Employers don't want a guy with garters on his sleeves doing debits and credits all day," said Dr. Sam Barone, dean of the school of business and management at Towson State University.

Business officials agree that it isn't always easy to convince young students, whose interests and talents may lie in number-crunching, that it's important for them to take a few upper-level English and language courses.

Dr. Patrick Martinelli, a professor of marketing and finance at Loyola College's Sellinger School of Business, says the most interesting development he has seen in the field of business education is the increased enthusiasm for courses on business entrepreneurship.

Dr. Martinelli offered a class on the subject last fall and said he hoped to attract 10 students. But he had to close the class when the attendance figure swelled to 30.

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