Opinion: UCLA needs an official business major

by Ava Moser

For the past seven years, UCLA and UC Berkeley have held their places as the number one public universities in the country. According to U.S. News, Berkeley ranks number two in undergraduate business. USC, our infamous rival, falls at number eight. Where does UCLA rank on that list? It doesn’t. UCLA doesn’t have an undergraduate business program. Our idea of undergraduate “business” is offering economics and business economics degrees. These majors focus on micro and macroeconomics and their connection to the interaction of individuals and organizations in markets. Much of the coursework is theoretical, focusing on evaluating tables, charts and statistical analysis. The business economics major takes on the “business” title by offering two introductory accounting courses. Any student interested in business knows that accounting does not equal business.

Even UCLA admits that the business economics major does not replicate a traditional undergraduate business major curriculum. Instead it is “guided by the rigorous logic and integrative perspective of economics.” For students looking to pursue careers in investment banking, marketing, financial planning or portfolio management, these programs will not suffice. While economics is a practical, valuable area of study, an undergraduate business degree is versatile and incredibly relevant in this day and age. It aims to prepare students to enter the corporate world and secure jobs in industries like corporate finance and business consulting, multi-billion dollar industries in the state of California alone.

Nima Kamali, a first year student studying economics and political science, has a lot to say about the lack of business resources for undergraduates at UCLA. “Some of the resources I’ve used is honestly a lot of outreach to current students because there’s resources that are very hard to access if you’re not talking to the right people,” said Kamali. “I feel like a lot of the clubs, especially the more competitive ones like Bruin Capital Management, which I’m also involved with, are hard to get into which kind of gatekeeps the information.”

The frustrating reality for business students is that their peers who are interested in pursuing fields in STEM have an abundance of resources and faculty available to rely on for career advice while they must rely on each other to break into the industry. “The main way people are learning about business is through friends, clubs, and alumni,” said Kamali. He pushes for UCLA to centralize the information to make it available for all students. “For example, one really great resource would be a list of companies to apply to for freshman internships…I got that research from another student, not through a school club or school department.”

Kamali is currently preparing for his investment banking internship at KPMG this summer. While he was successful in landing the job, it wasn’t thanks to any faculty or resources at UCLA. “I cold emailed every local investment bank in LA and Santa Monica but I [also] had a lot of guidance from other students who got [those internships] in the past…but there was not a lot of institutional guidance.”

If there’s any doubt that UCLA can afford to establish a new academic discipline, consider our most recent endeavor: the UCLA Research Park. This past January, UCLA acquired L.A.’s former Westside Pavilion with a plan to transform the empty mall into a state-of-the-art hub for research and innovation. $200 million has already been allocated towards this project which is intended to be a $500 million investment by the time of its completion.

In a recent call to action written in the Daily Bruin, Chancellor Gene Block was quoted, stating that the estimated cost to start an undergraduate business program would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Considering the $200 million already allocated to the Research Park project, it’s clear that UCLA has the resources to fund this program. It all comes down to how we prioritize and allocate our resources. And UCLA’s priorities are clearly aligned with pursuing STEM-based pursuits. Undergraduate business has always and will continue to always take a seat on the backburner if UCLA continues on this trajectory. The question is, will we remain number one if students decide to go elsewhere to obtain their business education? Only time will tell.

Featured Image: Lecturer in Anderson School of Management gives presentation on quarterly data over the past 2 decades. The faculty offer invaluable guidance to students enrolled in the various programs. Photographed by Julia Gu/BruinLife.

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