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Business is booming: major growth, two years later

Data Courtesy Office of Academic Advising Robert Heeter / Thresher

By Adam Leff     8/30/23 12:17am

Move over, engineers — there’s a new major in town. According to the Office of Academic Advising, 26.7 percent of new students are interested in the business major, surpassing all other potential majors.

Although a business minor previously existed, most students interested in a business undergraduate degree would have been forced to design their own major or take the slightly different Managerial Economics and Organization Science major within the social sciences division. This changed in 2021, when the undergraduate business major officially debuted.

Rice’s business program has long been respected, administrators say. Natalia Piqueira, the director of undergraduate business programs, pointed out that the Jones Graduate School of Business offers a master’s degree in business administration, and the undergraduate business minor was well-regarded even before the major was made available. The business major has grown quickly since its debut in 2021. Now, it is the largest major of interest for the incoming class of 2027, surpassing the traditionally popular computer science and mechanical engineering majors. 

“The possibility of a career that’s fulfilling and that they want to do and the fact that the program is solid and rigorous and we have a reputation … I think these are the main reasons [for the growth],” Piqueira said.

Piqueira said that the demand for a business degree program for undergraduates has always been present. 

Data Courtesy Office of Academic Advising Robert Heeter / Thresher

“The business minor has always been very popular. I think about 9 percent of our entire class is a business minor on average,” Piqueira said. “I think the demand was there, it’s just that they didn’t have that option. From my conversation with students, I have several of them in other majors who said, ‘If I could, I wish I could have taken a business major, but it didn’t exist when I was here.’”

Patrick Batsell, a Hanszen College sophomore, said he transferred to Rice partially because of the business major. 

“I am interested in the business major in general because for my future job path, I would like to break into either investment banking or consulting,” Batsell wrote in an email to the Thresher. “As for Rice business, I’ve always wanted to go to Rice and was planning to apply under [economics] or [mathematics] … Since there is now an undergraduate program in business, I just went with that.”

Matt Lawrence, another new business major, focused on the opportunities the business major would be able to afford him.

“The program cultivates our leaders of tomorrow,” Lawrence, a Duncan college freshman, wrote in an email to the Thresher. “With the undergraduate business major at Rice University, I believe many doors will open for me, setting me ahead of the competitive atmosphere brewed in the financial industry.”

Piqueira also cited the flexibility of the major as one final reason for its popularity.

“You can still do other things. You can still do art or history or political science classes and computer science and whatever [you] want, because the program allows [you] to take courses outside of the major,” Piqueira said.

In response to the growth of the business major, new staff has been brought on to teach additional sections of core classes. Courses which are normally spring- or fall-only have added sections to allow more students to take required credits.

Piqueira expressed hope that the growth continues and that the major remains popular in the future so that students can experience the programs the business school has to offer.

“We’re assuming that this growth is here to stay,” Piqueira said. “I think it’s good for everybody. It’s good for Rice, it’s good for us, it’s good for the students. It’s more options.”

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