Implementing Academic Innovation


Annie McGowan // Office of the Dean

Learning has changed.

The physical place, the way students receive teaching instruction, and even the way a curriculum is planned is different than a mere decade ago. Annie McGowan, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs and Associate Professor of Accounting, was charged to update the Core Business Knowledge (CBK) curriculum with the primary objective of integrating the mindsets and competencies of the Mays strategic learning framework. Given the rise in the number of students who arrive on campus with significant credit hours, she also set out to provide access to fundamental business classes earlier in students’ academic careers, integrate learning, and prepare students for meaningful internships earlier in their academic career.

McGowan saw the need for the redesigned curriculum, and thought to herself, “Why don’t we connect the pieces between learning opportunities across business disciplines and student situations?” Accrediting bodies are moving in the direction of calling upon business schools to demonstrate the societal impact of undergraduate education. This is the perfect opportunity for Mays to leverage existing resources such as our Social Impact Programming to strengthen active learning within our curriculum.

To innovate an entire curriculum for 5,000+ undergraduate business students is no easy task, but McGowan formed a curriculum re-design committee consisting of faculty from each department and undergraduate advisors. The Texas A&M’s Center for Teaching Excellence also provided methodological guidance. Beginning in fall 2018, the group articulated the problem it was trying to solve, identified classes students often failed, researched best practices from across the campus and across the country, then met weekly throughout 2019 to design and present its ideas to department heads.

Ideas like investing more resources to make a tools course to teach excel skills a requirement were welcomed with open arms. Other ideas like making it possible for students to take Accounting 229 earlier have been considered but need additional adjustments. McGowan is confident the adjustments, such as adding an introduction to business and statistics courses at the lower level, will benefit students holistically.

“We may offer some of the innovative curriculum ideas for a targeted group of students who feel prepared for it, a boutique program within this larger program to test it out and learn.”

A boutique program opportunity within a Tier One Research Institution business school? Learning has changed indeed.