Context

Now entering its second year, this project has brought together Franklin & Marshall College, Bucknell University, and the University of Pennsylvania to integrate the liberal arts in undergraduate business education. The project looks at ways to build a “two-way street” between the liberal arts and business, with business students cultivating the capacity for innovation and creative problem-solving in the business world through the liberal arts, and liberal arts students benefiting from perspectives on entrepreneurship.

Each institution is incorporating liberal arts content and enhancing liberal learning through curricular or course revisions as appropriate to each school’s institutional context.  For the purposes of the proposed project, “liberal learning” comprises four critical dimensions: analytical thinking, multiple framing, reflective exploration of meaning, and practical reasoning. The efforts of this heterogeneous collaboration—an interdisciplinary department at a classic liberal arts college, a pre-professional management program on a liberal arts campus, and a prestigious business program at an Ivy League research institution—exemplify how to combine liberal arts content, skills, and pedagogy with business education across all levels of the undergraduate curriculum and in a variety of institutional contexts.  

 

 
"Business may need new stories if it genuinely wants to be sustainable. Dance has something to teach us about creativity in organizations. Applying corporate law rules without a larger sense of justice means many of business’ stakeholders will be left behind.”
– Jeff Nesteruk, Professor of Legal Studies, Franklin & Marshall College.
 

 

Some Early Lessons

The campus partners are working to foster more reflective, intentional, and substantial incorporation of liberal arts modules and courses across the undergraduate experience of students majoring in business. There is value in business students learning business concepts in classes outside the business program by taking course work in disciplines as varied as Art History, History, and English. These central concepts include the tradeoffs between profits and ethics, globalization, and the ways business is integrated in societies. At the same time, interaction with faculty and students from business can change how those in the humanities and social sciences understand business.

Franklin & Marshall College
Franklin & Marshall’s overarching motivation is to enhance the ability of students who graduate with majors in Business, Organizations, and Society (BOS) to generate innovative and creative solutions in the business world and beyond. In the first year of the project, the faculty from BOS and the liberal arts have experimented with a mix of curricular arrangements. For instance, they have developed linked “collaborative courses” with common readings, exercises, and guest lectures, with the initial pilot involving students enrolled in the BOS courses “Business of Food” and “Marketing” interacting with peers enrolled in “Literature and the Anthropocene” (English) and “Politics and Media” (Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies) respectively. The BOS department has also started to cross-list courses offered by other departments as part of building a roster of “curricular pathway exploration courses” that enhance students’ critical thinking skills and ethical outlook. The courses piloted with liberal arts and BOS students in the first year included “Commodities and Commerce in Latin American History” (History) and “Learning to See: History of Art and Architecture in the Western Tradition” (Art). Finally, BOS requires integrative capstones for all its graduating seniors and is laying the groundwork for cooperatively designed modules to be embedded in these experiences. For instance, the capstone on "Sustainability and Innovation"(BOS) will draw on "Compositional Improvisation" (Dance), while the capstone on "Law, Markets, and the Corporation" (BOS) will draw on "Law, Money, and Meaning" (Political Theory). 

Bucknell University
The primary goal of Bucknell’s project is to explore individual habits that contribute to creativity and innovation. A course is being offered spring semesters of the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 academic years composed of twelve modules created and led by faculty from Bucknell’s College of Arts and Sciences and focused on developing intellectual virtues, such as hyper awareness, embracing ambiguity, failing forward, and empathy. These modules are aimed at fostering the kind of creative confidence that would not only serve students well in the world of work but would equip them to be active citizens free from dogma. The modules are expected to be incorporated into the Markets, Innovation, and Design major, as well as other coursework offered at Bucknell’s College of Management. 

University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School 
The University of Pennsylvania is trying to understand how much of the current Wharton undergraduate curriculum incorporates liberal learning at various stages of the student experience and make explicit the tacit use of the skills associated with liberal arts pedagogy and content (such as literature, poetry, drama, philosophy, history, or art). Wharton is currently in the midst of transforming its signature MGMT100 course for first-year students into a series of four modules spread out over four years as Wharton 101 (Freshman Gateway), 102 (Sophomore Oral and Written Communication), 103 (Junior Teamwork and Interpersonal Dynamics), and 104 (Senior Capstone). While the decision to transition MGMT101 predates the Teagle grant, the change is informed by work emerging from the Teagle-supported project, such as organizing the modules to cultivate multiple framing, analytical thinking, practical reasoning, and reflection and drawing on liberal arts content, particularly narrative, as well as pedagogy.

Some Early Lessons

While the project is still very much underway, a number of lessons were learned during the first year: 

  1. Shorter, individualized meetings to recruit faculty and to address their questions about the project can be more effective than larger gatherings, which are often difficult to schedule. 

  2. When it comes to developing collaborative classes and modules, it is best to allow the individual faculty to follow their interests and for their collaborations to develop organically. At the same time, there is an important role for departments and administrative units like the provost’s office to play in supporting the work. For example, since Franklin & Marshall is using the cross-listing of courses offered by other departments as part of its strategy to strengthen the liberal arts foundation to the BOS program, there needs to be strong cross-department coordination so BOS students have an intellectually coherent experience. As a practical matter, scheduling of those courses needs to be managed to ensure that both BOS and other majors get access at the appropriate time as they move through their undergraduate studies.

  3. The campus partners find the need to develop a common language and/or themes (e.g., narrative, ethics) that make the inter-institutional collaboration coherent and more influential while simultaneously providing flexibility for individual institutions to work on their part of the grant. This is especially important in a project that brings together faculty from a broad array of disciplines who have different conceptions about the purpose of business education.