...with large student-faculty ratios and no lab equipment, business has historically been cheaper to operate than most departments. Cynics say many colleges are content. “At the big public universities, the administrations need us to be credible, but I’m not sure that they need us to be very good,” says J. David Hunger, a scholar-in-residence in the management program at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, in Collegeville, Minn. “They need us to be cash cows.”And lastly, as our Academically Adrift series highlighted, academic rigor is a definite issue. This graphic says it all.
But thankfully, the trend in undergrad business education seems to be in the direction of integrating more liberal arts into the business curriculum. IHE reports today on a Carnegie study that concludes
that a more concerted focus on teaching students a set of modes of thinking commonly associated with a liberal arts education – analytical thinking, exploration of issues from different perspectives, reflective exploration of meaning, and practical reasoning -- can greatly improve business education.
The puzzling thing for readers of this blog is why this discussion keeps happening. As Chris has pointed out over his way, what business leaders say they want undergraduate education to provide (critical thinking, analytical reasoning and writing, etc.) is precisely what liberal arts instruction is supposed to provide. So why this ongoing debate about the place of the liberal arts in business and professional education? The IHE piece again, proposing a gap between the short term goals of education and the long term interests of students and employers:
But the Carnegie report highlights part of the debate about what the focus of undergraduate professional education should be. On one hand, students with more specific skills, such as knowledge of Microsoft PowerPoint, statistical analysis software, or lab technology, are more likely to get in the door. On the other, employers repeatedly say that students with a well-rounded education are more likely to advance in the workplace. But striking a balance between those competing ideals is tough when students only have a few years in college, and critics say that students tend to focus on short-term credentials rather than their long-term interests.I've certainly observed this short-term thinking from students: They talk often of "getting a job" after graduation — no doubt an understandable and laudable goal. But few talk about their futures in the longer run, about how they'll get promoted, how they'll survive when (not if!) downsizing comes, etc. Wouldn't it be great if the business curriculum aligned with the apparent interests of students, their future employers, and colleges and universities?