Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business was ranked No. 64 on the Bloomberg Businessweek magazine’s ranking of the nation’s top undergraduate business colleges, making 2013 the fifth consecutive year the college made the list.
The Orfalea College of Business moved up five spots from No. 69 in 2012. Orfalea College of Business Dean Dave Christy said this higher ranking has much to do with the quality of relationships between the students and faculty.
“One of the things I give students a lot of credit for is that this is really a partnership between the students and the faculty,” Christy said. “Cal Poly students are already so selective and they understand these things. They don’t want the university to slip behind and they want to hold us accountable.”
The Orfalea College of Business was one of only three public California business colleges to make the list, the others being University of California, Berkeley and University of California, Riverside. Four private institutions in California were also represented — University of Southern California, University of San Diego, Loyola Marymount University and Santa Clara University.
“Most of the schools that are ahead of us in the rankings are either private universities or the flagship state universities,” Christy said. “We hang very well and I’m proud.”
But Christy said he prefers not to overhype the few steps up the Orfalea College of Business has taken in the ranking.
“One of the things I don’t make a big deal about is moving a step up or down, because there’s so much noise in the system that it means we’re basically in the same place, and that’s not a bad place,” Christy said. “Where we are in the rankings means that we’re in a very, very attractive place.”
Instead of focusing on rankings and lists, Christy said he would rather focus on the quality of the school.
“I think that if you look at the data, our students are happier with their experience,” Christy said. “The quality of our students and the quality of their faculty have been rising.”
The college’s admission statistics speak to its position as well. According to Cal Poly’s Fall 2012 Census, 28.3 percent of first-time freshman applicants were admitted in Fall 2012, and only 10.3 percent of transfer applicants. These numbers place the Orfalea College of Business as the second-most selective of Cal Poly’s six colleges for freshman applicants, behind the College of Liberal Arts.
“I think selectivity is probably more important than the rankings in terms of the quality of the school,” economics department chair Steve Hamilton said. “The quality of any school depends on the quality of the students and the quality of our faculty.”
Hamilton said the ranking in itself is a draw for potential students.
“It’s good for exposure, and it’s good to draw interest among high school students and others wanting to study business at Cal Poly,” Hamilton said.
Christy said many factors influenced the Bloomberg Businessweek rankings, particularly emphasizing interviews with industry recruiters.
“Part of this whole ranking is that they interview our recruiters, and they’re very positive about the quality of Cal Poly students,” Christy said.
One of the things recruiters like about the Orfalea College of Business, according to Christy, is the fact that students choose an area of study before arrival at Cal Poly.
“Recruiters like it,” Christy said. “I think that comes from the curriculum and a lot of other stuff, especially Learn by Doing. Recruiters talk about Learn by Doing all the time.”
In addition to positive recruiter reviews, students of the Orfalea College of Business added their input by contributing to Bloomberg Businessweek’s data.
“Our students were very great about filling out the reviews from Bloomberg Businessweek, and I think that shows how proud they are in the quality of the school,” Christy said.
Business administration junior Melanie Ulrich said she thinks the Orfalea College of Business succeeds because of its community atmosphere.
“It feels more like a community of hardworking teachers and students all willing to help each other succeed,” Ulrich said. “I think we deserve to be on the list because of our emphasis on Learn by Doing and all the different individual and group projects we do.”
Christy spoke to the fact that so few public schools made the list, citing gaining resources for students as one of the hardships of public institutions.
“Some of it is that they’re swamped with demand,” Christy said. “I think that’s one of the big struggles, is getting the right resources.”
However, Christy also noted that Cal Poly was the only California State University (CSU) school to make the list.
“Our student quality is off the charts,” Christy said. “There’s no other CSU with students with the academic credentials of Cal Poly.”
The focus now, Christy said, is to maintain the Orfalea College of Business’ current quality.
“My first objective is just to not lose ground, and then we have to just maintain our standards largely with recruiters. It’s tough because one of our challenges is just continuously improving to maintain where we are,” Christy said. “In a ranking, to move up in the ranking, you have to hope that other people are asleep at the wheel.”
Christy said this can be done in part by maintaining the high standards for admittance to the school.
“I still want to be attractive to the very best,” Christy said. “This external ranking helps tell that story. None of this happens if you don’t have the student quality and the faculty quality.”