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Rather than finding an area of specialization, students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn College of Business will have the opportunity to learn how to build their own business from the ground up with the new small business management major that will be introduced this upcoming fall.

The program will span a broad array of topics in business — focusing on all information a CEO would need to know — from human resource management to accounting.

In a press release, Karen Strandholm, the Strategy and Management Studies Department Chair at the COB, noted typical curricula for bachelor's degrees in business don't necessarily prepare students to establish their own startup.

“This curriculum is specifically designed for the small business environment, where workers must be flexible,” she said. “In a large corporation you can be specialized in your education, but that’s not really an option when starting or running a small business. We’ve also seen that larger employers are interested in graduates with this education because they’ll have a solid foundation in how business works, from entrepreneurial thinking to financial reporting.”

According to the press release, the college is implementing the major in response to popular demand.

Contracted by the COB, the Educational Advisory Board, which provides consulting services in the field of education, found regional employers' demand for employees with small-business expertise at an undergraduate level increased 57 percent just from 2014 to 2015.

In a message, Colin Meldrum, who recently graduated from the UM-Dearborn College of Business, said he thought in addition to being able to start your own business, expertise in that area could increase appeal to employers.

"I think it offers students the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage by having a unique major that lets them stand out from the average business school graduate," he wrote. "For future entrepreneurs it could be quite beneficial to major in something like that. Learning from experienced entrepreneurs could help encourage graduates to start their own business."

Becca Solberg, Business junior at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, agreed, saying she thought Ross School of Business could do more to facilitate small business ownership.

"Ross does focus a lot on finance in general," she said. "They bring in these huge companies for recruiting and stuff, and I feel like in my one year at Ross there wasn't much encouragement about starting your own business, so maybe some workshops or something around that would be useful. I mean we are learning the skills that could be transferred over to starting your own business, but I would say in general there's not much encouragement to make those strides."

Strandholm added that even if one doesn't end up starting their own business, the purpose of the major would give them flexibility down the road and a skillset that will be useful in any venture.

"There is something appealing about determining what is right for you and having the freedom to make that decision,” she said. “It’s also an education that you can use at any point in your career — starting out, deciding mid-career that you want to go out on your own, or after retirement. Knowing how to run a business is a valuable skillset to have.”

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