Challenges and Innovations: A Liberal Arts Education in a Business School
On February 27, 2010, the University of Phoenix Houston Campus held a conference called Challenges and Innovations: A Liberal Arts Education in a Business School. The conference set the stage for educators, businesspersons as well as interested individuals to learn, share, discuss and question the importance of the academic marriage between a business institution and a liberal arts education.
The conference solicited the assistance of seasoned education leaders to address the challenges, resolutions and innovations of this much-debated topic. Dr. Hinrick Eylers, Dean of the University of Phoenix College of Natural Sciences, set the stage by articulating the nuances, challenges, benefits and innovations of a liberal arts education. Dr. Eylers identified eight key elements of a liberal arts education.
Dr. Eylers said a liberal arts education teaches eight key elements:
- Knowledge, skills, and problem-solving using systematic and analytical decision-making approaches (critical thinking, rhetoric, math and statistics skills)
- Awareness of personal values that impact an organization (self-reflection, intercultural and diversity skills)
- Knowledge and skills to manage people in organizations (leadership and communication skills)
- Evaluation of changing environmental factors within a global environment (environmental science and sustainability skills)
- Communicating clearly and concisely (communication and diversity skills)
- Working within diverse groups to achieve goals (diversity, mediation and conflict resolution skills)
- Reasoning clearly and critically (critical thinking skills)
- Measuring ethical ramifications for actions (social responsibility skills)
These elements of a liberal arts education can be blended with business, art and communication techniques that allow for a holistic and integrative approach to problems and situations. Dr. Eylers said “those that believe that the liberal arts are separate from business content need to take a new look at the content in the courses again, because we see foundational liberal arts embedded in just about all courses in a business degree.”
His keynote comments were coupled with the crucial elements of business ethics and the role colleges and universities play to ensure their graduates have a clear sense of themselves as they navigate through an often uncontested terrain of corporate America.
The discussion panel consisted of:
Mrs. Silvia Quanta-Jetter (representing FMC)
Mr. Craig Hemphill, ESQ. (Hemphill Law Offices)
Dr. Kathleen Ramsey
Dr. Rosemary LoDato
Dr. Sabrina Norman
Dr. Johnella Bradford
Mr. Ronald White
Mr. Joel Levine
The expert panelists candidly discussed the importance of business ethics, effective communication in and out of the workplace, qualitative and quantitative research, teamwork from an American and international perspective and core requirements of effective leadership.
Recognizing that effective communication is crucial in any environment, the panelists addressed the need to incorporate a foreign language as a required course of a core curriculum in colleges and universities. The course would focus more on generalities as an introduction to a foreign language rather than an attempt to teach a foreign language in a limited number of weeks. From the panel’s perspective, understanding a foreign language is highly instrumental in understanding and speaking the English language.
Panelists also discussed the importance of employees working cohesively to accomplish business goals.
Employees must also have a solid foundation in both qualitative and quantitative research. According to the discussion, knowing how to search, prioritize, utilize and disseminate research is a skill often overlooked unless it is in a person’s job description. Regardless of one’s job description, research is a valuable skill, the panelists suggested, and one that every business professional should have.
The half-day conference ended with the keynote speaker, panelists and guests answering questions with the understanding that we have just touched the surface of a liberal arts education in a business school. If a student wonders why a liberal arts education is important, a facilitator might reply that not all aspects of the business world function in black and white.