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Major Change

by Stacie Walker

Rice Business launched an undergraduate business degree last year to meet popular demand — which is only growing.

Interest in undergraduate business education has swelled in recent years, including at Rice Business, where the school’s 15-year-old business minor was growing in popularity year after year. Last year, to meet student demand, the school launched an undergraduate business major — and the demand shows no sign of cooling.

As of this school year, 79 students had declared the undergraduate major and the first class will graduate in 2024. And it’s increasingly popular with incoming students. 


“This doesn’t factor in students who may or will decide to change their majors at some point. This is going to be huge,” said Alex Butler, the Rice Business finance professor who led the faculty committee to create the new major.

Undergraduate courses are taught by the same faculty as the MBA classes, said Natalia Piqueira, a finance professor and the director of undergraduate business programs.

“We are seeing strong demand for deeper business education from our current and prospective students. Now Rice Business can deliver undergraduates the same high-quality degree programs we have always delivered to MBAs, MAcc and Ph.D. students,” Rice Business Dean Peter Rodriguez said when the major launched. “We strive to be a forward-thinking business school for the next generation of global leaders.”

Nuts and Bolts

The degree plan, approved in spring 2021, has two concentrations: finance and management. “The structure is very similar to what an MBA looks like, and the program reflects the values of the faculty,” Butler said. “Students have seven core courses that mirror quite closely what our MBA core looks like, and then they do a deep dive into their areas of interest. While imposing the structure of discipline, we want to give students the opportunity to curate their own learning.”

The new program was created by a faculty committee with representatives from marketing, accounting, strategy, finance, organizational behavior and communications. “Most of us on the committee have teaching experience in our undergraduate business minor program that’s been going since 2007-2008, and we started by thinking about what we wanted the major to look like, what we wanted our students to learn, and how we wanted our students to have the flexibility to choose double majors,” said Butler.

The curriculum will give students the tools and the critical thinking skills they need to adapt to any environment, Piqueira said. The business minor, by comparison, includes six classes on the fundamentals of finance, management, leadership and communications.

Emphasis on Critical Thinking

Like other Rice fields of study, the business major is not a pre-professional major. “This is a deeply intellectual major with the same scholarly underpinnings of our other disciplines,” Butler said. “We are staffing courses with professors who are tremendous scholars in their fields, including Yuhang Xing, who has published top articles on derivatives, asset pricing and volatility; and Kevin Crotty, who is one of the up-and-coming scholars on all things asset pricing.”

To gauge and generate interest in the curriculum, Rice Business offers information sessions for prospective undergraduate students each month, and those sessions fill up quickly. “We see a lot of interest from high schools,” Piqueira said. “There is a lot of excitement about the program.”

Learn More about the Undergraduate Business Major


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