On the Value of Flexibility (and a curriculum that pretends to be just that)

Leonardo von Prellwitz '15

Leonardo von Prellwitz '15

By Leonardo von Prellwitz '15

Maybe the way our curriculum is structured has some deep eschatological meaning that escapes me. Maybe it’s just some Kafkaesque reflection of the byzantine labyrinth that is life, which school is training us for. But learning that you won’t graduate with a finance concentration after going through some of the hardest finance courses at Booth sure does sting.

The main culprit? Overzealousness, I guess. Apparently the course Advanced Topics in Corporate Finance does not count towards Booth’s Corporate Finance requirement and thus bars one from achieving a finance concentration. If you want to achieve said concentration you had better stick to the basics.

Now, while I’m only partially concerned about the concentrations, per se (I’d rather take courses that will make me wiser than courses that will fall into some narrowly defined bucket), this is mostly a question of principle. After all, we signed up for what was advertised as a “flexible curriculum.” However, there sure are many features of this curriculum that seem quite inflexible to me. And I know that this problem also affects many other students at Booth. Another second year student, Usman Maher, spent five years working in a hedge fund, holds a CFA, took six finance courses at Booth, and won’t get a finance concentration unless he takes Investments or a petition eligible course to replace it.

The problems with the structural inflexibility fall into three main categories: 1) Lack of choice in degree requirements, due to many being incredibly restrictive; 2) Disregard for advanced courses; 3) Electives in limbo.

  1. The Strategy function, which is required in order to graduate, has only three courses available in order to be satisfied. Three. That’s it. Only three options from a course list that has a dozen different possibilities of 39000 and 42000 level courses that should provide the same, if not more, knowledge than the three approved courses. The hills are alive with the sound of people complaining about having to take Competitive Strategy, but why is it that ostensibly reasonable alternatives such as Corporate Governance, Technology Strategy, Strategy Symposium or M&A Strategy are not valid towards a strategy requirement? I’m starting to think I need a theology class over at the divinity school to grasp the epistemological reality behind these requirements.
  2. Advanced courses are not petition-eligible for a requirement. Cases in Financial Management counts for the Corporate Finance requirement but Advanced Topics in Corporate Finance does not. Apart from the fact that the courses overlap incredibly, I’d at least change the title of the courses so as to make it less of a misnomer.
  3. I keep wondering why so many of the electives do not satisfy any concentration or requirement at all. They are just left there in limbo and will not aid you in your signaling efforts towards employers. I sympathize with those poor folks that took countless classes in Real Estate but don’t have these count towards anything. I mean, isn’t a Real Estate Investments class technically finance?

While this piece was written with a sardonic narrative voice, it’s all meant to be constructive. It is a crystallization of my wish for the school to move to a fully flexible schedule and not one that is only half-way there. Hopefully the flexible curriculum that was advertised to us one day truly will limber up and allow us to take unconstrained leaps of intellectual curiosity.