College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Certificate Program Introduces Business Skills to Scientists


A ten-week program offered by the College of Business gives graduate students in non-business programs a background in basic business structure.

“The program teaches students people skills, managerial techniques, and ethical behavior,” says Sandy Carroll, the head of the Certificate in Business Administration program. “It gives them a better idea of how an organization runs, and how they fit into the business.”

Many of the more than 40 students who enroll in the program are pursuing graduate degrees in the sciences. In a few years, many will be running research laboratories or administering grants. Business acumen and knowledge will help students in their future roles as well as providing valuable skills that employers look for when making hiring decisions, says Carroll. “Students already have the scientific background in their field. The exposure to business principles and practice gives them an extra edge,” she says. “The program teaches them concepts like customer analysis, cost allocation, and quality management.”

The semester-long program consists of ten, three-hour classes. Taught by tenured Business faculty, each session focuses on a particular performance area, such as managing technology innovation, leadership, or financial analysis. A lecture gives students an overview in topics such as management style, corporate culture, and new product decisions. Active learning methods are incorporated  to help students develop skills and techniques. “Leadership training, for example, incorporates a role-play activity where students conduct a performance appraisal like company executives,” says Carroll. “This gives them a feel for what to do in a management situation.”

Another important goal of the program is to teach students “soft skills,” or how to work with other people. “We are concerned with building up EQ, or emotional intelligence, by exposing them to teamwork situations in a business environment,” says Carroll.

The program, offered in conjunction with the Biotechnology Center, is constantly refining the topics to ensure the program is contemporary. “Recently, we added ethics and modified the accounting sessions to reflect financial issues facing today’s manager,” says Carroll. “All the modifications to the program are done in response to participant feedback, so we can be sure that the program best addresses the needs of the students.”

–Lane Song
November 2005

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UIUC College of Business