Why I Teach Business At A Liberal Arts College

As an educator I am constantly looking for ways to present information in a manner that students will engage and see education’s prevailing affect on their life. I don’t want this information to only have a short-term affect on the student, I want them to ponder theory, draw conclusions of validity, and as I mother used to say about oatmeal have it stick to their ribs. In other words, I want them to become life long learners. I want them to fall in love with learning. If I am successful at this then I have done my job.

The topics I teach involve business. A knowledge of Accounting, Economics, Management, and Business Ethics are critical for students to develop business acumen. However, like one of my students told me, “business classes can be boring, but not your classes.” I want to make sure that really is true, but not at the sacrifice of detail. What I have been thinking about lately though is around what I teach more than how I teach it. What should a business student know when they leave WPC?

I ran across an article in the Wall Street Journal discussing a book entitled “The Learning Curve: How Business Schools are Re-inventing Education.” It was written by Santiago Iniguez de Onzono. It is a book that claims to be a must read for anyone that feels education is essential to good management. I happen to believe this, so therefore I bought it and have started reading it.

It has definitely captured my attention. Onzono states that business educators do not exist to create MBA’s, they’re in the business of educating managers. With that statement he got me. He also stated that business schools are at least partially responsible for our current financial crisis. Business schools have trained the people that perpetrated the fraud, which gives the schools partial responsibility, but ultimately it was the individuals who made the choices to create off balance sheet partnerships, and other shady deals, that should face full blame.  I totally agree with this.

I also agree with Henry Mintzberg, a professor at McGill University in Canada, that MBA programs can create overconfident, arrogant graduates who think they know everything. Whereas people who are trained as managers and leaders recognize the importance of people within the organization. This dyad is critical to long-term success. I agree with this, but I also feel it is a huge generalization.

The fact is I love teaching business in a small liberal arts college. The reason is my students are not just getting accounting, finance, economics, and management training, they are getting science, philosophy and religious training too. This makes them a well rounded business person. With exposure to the humanities, and even sociology, the business students will begin to see the bigger picture. Decisions in commerce are never just business, they are always personal. Business decisions affect people, which is why I teach business.

And that is my thought for the day!

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