Accountancy #1, Finance #5, College of Commerce #7. These are the most recent undergraduate rankings from U.S. News & World Report. How do we manage to stand up so well to the competition? There are several good explanations including excellent faculty, but surely one of the most compelling is the outstanding student body we attract. Commerce freshmen enter the University of Illinois with excellent SAT/ACT test scores, second only to engineering.

The standards for entry to our doctoral programs are increasingly stringent, resulting in an intentional decrease in the size of these programs as befits a shrinking job market. The MBA program, on the other hand, through deliberate strategy, has grown considerably in recent years, without loss in quality. There are now nearly 600 students in this program. The college also has a master's program for foreign students in each of our four major disciplines. These programs have been growing steadily in size, and considerably in quality. Our Executive MBA, also highly ranked nationally, has had a similar experience.

In addition to being bright, Commerce students also evidence other traits that we call "character." With over 90 percent of the undergraduates coming from Illinois, Midwest friendliness is one welcome attribute, and they seem to share the Midwest work ethic.

Although Commerce students work hard in our academically demanding programs, they also participate in numerous extracurricular activities where they develop many intangible qualities that lead to success in business and other endeavors. There are twenty-four student organizations in the college, and many more across campus. These organizations frequently require students to apply the knowledge they learn in class. Functioning like mini-laboratories, these groups allow students to develop leadership ability and test organizational skills while interacting with a diverse group.

Seven years ago, all the Commerce student organizations banded together to form the Council of Presidents. Presidents of each club meet once a month, along with club advisors and college administrators, to discuss issues of interest to students and the college. This group also takes the initiative on several college projects, most notably the college's Annual Awards Banquet and Commerce Quad Day.

Individual organizations provide a variety of services to the college, campus, and community. For example, in coordination with the Placement Office, several clubs organize the two Commerce Career Fairs held each year, where students and prospective employers meet informally to talk about job opportunities. The college service organization, Commerce Council, underwrites the cost of December Graduation and provides the key personnel for the spring convocation ceremonies. Students contribute to the college and campus in many other ways, both individually and through Commerce groups. For example, their participation helps the college be a leader in blood donations. Students are also represented on many college and campus committees, thus helping to shape policy.

The primary role of a university today, as in the past, is to educate students. Student interests and quality greatly influence the process and its success. At Illinois we are privileged to have a long history of attracting outstanding students. They perform well while enrolled and after they graduate go on to become leaders in business and other activities across the state, nation, and around the globe. One class follows another; each has its own cast of leaders and workers but each is of high quality and promise. The superior performance of our students is the reason employers continue to recruit on campus in growing numbers, even though the market has become increasingly tight.

A professor at Harvard, another institution rumored to be blessed with good students, once commented that "we do our best to do as little damage as possible to them along the way." Our goals are a bit more ambitious, and, judging from the success of our alumni, we must be doing something right. Although this is a big university, within the college we try to be like a family. Our alumni are fiercely loyal, and current students feel the same love for this university that has characterized the generations before them. In fact, for the last three years, upperclassmen have been calling prospective freshmen to answer questions about life at the big U. They are enthusiastic salesmen.

We are thrice blest with our students: in their ability, their work ethic, and their willingness to share with others. We are most grateful, both for them and to them.


Howard Thomas, Dean and James F. Towey
Professor of Strategic Management

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