Broadening Their Horizons

Students Give High Grades to Summer Business Certificate Program

When she graduates from UConn next year, senior Nicole McDonald ’16 wants to use her communication-design major to make the world a more beautiful place.

But she also wants to be able to negotiate a fair contract with clients and have knowledge that will help her if she decides to start her own company.

“If you want to have a career in art, you really have to understand business,” said McDonald. But because her art classes are offered in three-hour blocks, she had trouble squeezing in the business courses she wanted.

This summer she and 14 other students enrolled in a new, intensive summer offering—the UConn Business Fundamentals Certificate Program. They earned 10 credits through courses which included: “Legal and Ethical Environment of Business,” “Managerial and Interpersonal Behavior,” “Workplace Readiness,” and “Business Information Systems.”

In addition to their classroom lessons, students made visits to The Travelers and Stanley Black & Decker to discover more about those businesses, and to ask executives there for a myriad of business advice.

The new program was extremely successful, said Kelly Kennedy, a School of Business career development instructor and coach, who organized the certificate program. “The students were given a great grounding in business fundamentals.”

One student wrote, “It was a like a boot camp for my career!” Another said, “It was super tough and I’m extra proud of myself.” Many students said they thought the certificate would increase the value of their bachelor’s degree and enhance their resume.

The program allowed McDonald to complete her 15-credit business minor. Without it, she fears, she would have had to stay in college an extra semester.

“This was a much less expensive option,” said McDonald, of Madison. “It was an unbelievable program. I loved it.”

Kennedy said the cohort attracted primarily upperclassmen from a variety of fields.

“The workplace of 2020 is going to require people to understand the fundamentals of how business works and what their place is in it,” Kennedy said. “In any field, you’re going to have to understand not only your skills but how you can apply these skills to a company’s overall success.”

Experts predict the norm will be short-term work and consulting, and that employees may find they have to “reinvent themselves” time and again.

“Combining the strength of their majors with a sprinkling of business knowledge gives these students a huge advantage in entering the workforce,” Kennedy said. “Our goal was to broaden their horizons and to take what they already know about business and create synergies that will ignite the possibility for career success. We wanted them to understand how important those concepts are in the workplace.”

Because the cohort was small, students received personal attention in everything from resume preparation to communication and networking strategies, she said.

In recent years, the School of Business has recognized an increasing demand for business knowledge from students in other disciplines, said Associate Dean Larry Gramling.

“Students want to prepare themselves to be as marketable as possible when they graduate and often having a concentration in business augments other majors,” he said. “The UConn Business Fundamentals Certificate program really gives these students a great chance to experience our business classes and help them consider their career opportunities.”

All students who successfully completed the program earned a certificate from the UConn School of Business, which is one of a few AACSB-accredited schools to offer a summer program. Plans are already underway to offer it again next summer.

“When transitioning from college to career, students need to think and act like an entrepreneur, with themselves as the product,” Kennedy said. “The more workplace readiness tools we can give our students, the better.”

UConn students interested in next year’s summer program should contact Kelly Kennedy at 860-486-2315 or


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