USC will push its undergrad business school students to broaden their horizons under a recently announced major curriculum revamp.

Starting in the fall, students at the Marshall School of Business will be strongly encouraged to take more classes outside the core business curriculum and to study abroad.

James Ellis, Marshall School dean, said it’s the largest curriculum overhaul in eight years, and reflects the increasing need for diverse skill sets and more international experience among future executives. A task force of 30 faculty and staff spent the last year developing the overhaul, talking to students, faculty, corporate recruiters and looking at changes other business schools have been making.

“We are calling this breadth with depth,” Ellis said. “We want our Marshall students to be better prepared for careers that they choose and to be better prepared for what’s out there in the world today.”

The biggest changes will be taking place in the undergraduate program, which has 3,500 students enrolled in its current academic year. Students will have 60 percent more electives to choose from outside of the business school curriculum – ranging from biology to film classes. They will also be able to choose a minor concentration outside the business school.

“If you want to be an entrepreneur in the biotech field, it’s important to get some biology training as well as training to manage a business,” Ellis said.

Marshall is also promoting a spring-break foreign travel program for freshmen in efforts to get more students to sign up.

“This will give freshmen a chance to see what’s going on globally and to be more open to taking a semester abroad in their junior year,” Ellis said.

The program will also be offered to sophomores.

The most notable change for the graduate program is an earlier start date, designed to better prepare students for corporate recruiting. Instead of late August or early September, Marshall’s graduate program, which has nearly 2,000 enrolled students in its current academic year, will now begin in early August.

Ellis said that corporate recruiters start hitting the campus in late September and early October to fill internships for the following summer.

“Starting in early September is not enough time to prepare our students for these very important interviews, so we’re moving up the program start,” he said.

There will also be a more intense focus on international business, he said.

Since the last major curriculum overhaul eight years ago, Marshall has seen four deans. As a result, no one had enough time to begin a major revamp. Ellis took over as dean in 2007.

The changes under way at the Marshall School are the biggest of any of Los Angeles County’s major business school programs. Only minor changes are being planned at the postgraduate Anderson School of Management at rival UCLA. Among them is the launching of a dual-degree program with the school’s Chilean partner, Universidad Adolfo Ibanez.

The Graziadio School of Management at Pepperdine University this year launched an entrepreneurship concentration of six courses for its M.B.A. students. The program started at the Malibu and West L.A. campuses in fall 2009 and spread to the Irvine campus this spring. The aim is to capitalize on the region’s reputation as a hotbed of business startups.

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