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Business Schools Recruit Poets, Philosophers, and Scientists

Schools afford students with liberal arts backgrounds new opportunities to hone their business acumen.

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Only students without prior business experience are allowed to apply and the bulk of students are younger and have relatively little work experience of any kind. "The idea is to provide our students with the business background to allow them to go into their chosen field—even if it's nonbusiness—but to have that managerial experience that will allow them to advance within their profession, or to switch their focus to business," Portocarrero says. 

According to the NCAA, only about 1 percent of college athletes are able to pursue careers as professional athletes. To help the other 99 percent find work when their playing days are over, Wake Forest's Reinemund claims he has reached out to athletic directors at several schools in hopes of recruiting student athletes, who make up a relatively high proportion—an estimated 10 percent—of Wake Forest's program. He seeks them not for their athleticism, but their leadership potential. "Unfortunately, there are a lot of great athletes who aren't going to make it to the pros," he says. "By the time they graduate, they have a good education, great leadership, but they don't know how to apply it." 

[Read about improvements in the M.B.A. hiring market.] 

Tahirah Williams was one such athlete. A senior on the University of Connecticut's 2009 national championship women's basketball team, she had aspirations of playing overseas and eventually in the WNBA. However, after consulting with family, she saw the importance of starting a career off the court sooner rather than later. Some friends tried to steer her toward broadcasting, but she claims her heart wasn't in it. 

A communications science major at Connecticut, she landed in the management program at Wake hoping she'd be able to make inroads into the corporate world, and credits the network of career counselors and professors who helped guide her through a difficult, and unfamiliar, business curriculum. After graduating from Wake Forest's program in 2010, Williams landed a job at Frito-Lay, where she manages a five-member sales team. While her four years at Connecticut were subsidized by her athletic prowess, she had to take out a loan to cover Wake Forest's $40,000 tuition and additional living expenses. "That was really, really tough," she says. "The money I took out was an incredibly large amount, but I'm glad that I did it. I see it is an investment in my life." 

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