Feeding the Innovation Economy

Menlo College
Written by Claire Suttles

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Menlo College is an undergraduate business school with a strong liberal arts emphasis within a close-knit community of approximately 1,000 students. Graduates are well prepared for success in Silicon Valley – and beyond.
“Our alumni say Menlo College changed their lives,” says President Richard A. Moran. “We do what a college should do: develop the critical skills and creative thinking that students need to get a job in the 21st century. Even better, we innovate – and we ignite potential.” The private, non-profit college is AACSB-certified, and has been named one of the “Best Colleges in the West” by The Princeton Review seven years in a row, as well as “Best Regional College” by U.S. News & World Report for the last five years.

Menlo offers just five majors: accounting, finance, marketing, management, and psychology, and complementary studies in such programs as human resources, real estate, sports management, and more. “We are focused,” Dr. Moran explains. “Each of the majors relates to business, and all of them lead students into successful careers. We have exceptional academic faculty, and we complement them with the engagement of the strong entrepreneurial community around us. Our students develop entrepreneurial thinking, which makes them prime candidates to be successful in the surrounding Silicon Valley. In fact, we like to say that Menlo feeds the innovation economy!”

Menlo also has a global reach. “Our students come from all over the world,” says Dr. Moran, “they are attracted to Menlo to learn the practical arts of business, such as marketing and finance, but also leadership, team building, project management, business writing, and public speaking.”

Offering the business focus allows each department to receive the resources and attention necessary to build stellar programs. In addition to an academic business focus, students must take two years of liberal arts education, ensuring that they are well rounded and well educated.

The college lies in the heart of the world’s tech industry, creating a unique niche for the business-minded institution. Located in Atherton, California – known for its abundance of Google executives – Menlo takes full advantage of Silicon Valley’s innovation and entrepreneurial opportunities. “Our location truly is a unique, competitive advantage for Menlo College,” Dr. Moran remarks. “We are not the only ones to recognize the value of our location; other colleges are setting up study programs in Silicon Valley because they want to do what we already do.”

One important advantage of operating within Silicon Valley is the rich internship opportunities. “A unique requirement of graduation at Menlo is the completion of a business internship, which may be taken at one of the many companies and incubators with which we have partnerships,” Dr. Moran reports. “And an internship means that you work at Google or Apple or Facebook or Twitter or at tomorrow’s new idea company, and you have a legitimate experience that will help you in the business world.” Menlo’s central location means that all of these internship opportunities are in the student’s backyard. “We had two students who had internships at Facebook, and they rode their bikes to the corporate headquarters. Silicon Valley is far flung – all the way from San Francisco to San Jose – but we are right in the middle.”

The college makes sure that students are matched with the best internship for their talents and goals. “Our staff works with students based on their individual career interests, and helps them figure out how to get an internship,” Dr. Moran says. With so many top-notch companies in the area, students are able to choose a niche internship that is just right for them, from a sports management opportunity with the San Francisco 49ers to marketing-focused tasks at AdLift.

Both the employer and the college closely supervise internships. In addition, Menlo students take a class that is focused on the “softer skills” needed for success on the job, from learning how to maintain productivity to dealing with difficult work situations.

Menlo’s internship program benefits employers as well as students. “Silicon Valley companies are always looking for talent, so it works both ways,” Dr. Moran points out. “Employers like the notion of internships because they can test talent before they actually hire anyone.” Menlo students live up to the test. It is not unusual for them to receive a job offer at the end of the internship they take before they even start their senior year in college.

Their small, close-knit community is one of Menlo’s foundational assets. While Menlo’s students are focused on securing a successful career path, they also enjoy the classic college experience. “Our students are between the ages of 18 and 22, they live on campus, they play sports, and they are involved in campus life. The sports and other activities in which they engage are as good as it gets: championship varsity teams and over 40 clubs that encompass the wide-ranging interests of our diverse students. They do all of the things that you see in the movies that college students do.” Students are required to live on campus for the first year, and after that most choose to stay. “That builds a community,” Dr. Moran points out.

Menlo’s population is diverse – 52% of the students self-identify as students of color. Seventeen percent of the students are international, hailing from 34 different countries. Over half the states in the Union are represented on campus, and 10% percent of Menlo’s students are from Hawaii. “A big part of the draw for Hawaii students and their families is that our campus offers a community,” Mr. Moran explains. “Everybody knows everybody and helps each other, and we attract a lot of students from Hawaii who want to come to the mainland for a small college experience.”

While Dr. Moran says that Menlo seeks “serious” students who are “focused on being successful,” the college also wants to help young people live up to their potential. Professors are supportive mentors who actively work to keep students on track. In Menlo’s tight-knit community, no student is allowed to slip through the cracks or fall behind. “More than once our professors have gone into [students’] dorm rooms and gotten them out of bed because they were determined to stop them from sleeping through class!”

Dr. Moran summarizes, “Menlo College continues to draw upon its ideal location to deliver a top-ranked business education within a strong, supportive community.”



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