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Arts and Science Blossom at Bentley, Expanding the Role of Humanities at a Business University

December 3, 2003

When the National Endowment for the Humanities last summer awarded Bentley a focus grant to develop a model curriculum for the liberal arts in pre-professional education, some on campus were surprised. But for many others, it was external recognition that exceptional learning takes place here, in- and outside the classroom.

The grant, Buying into the Humanities: Engaging the Liberal Arts at a Business University, supports the work of a faculty task force investigating a broad range of curricular proposals that will be presented to the general faculty in May 2004. More about the NEH grant is available at: http://www.bentley.edu/news-events/pr_view.cfm

And while Bentley's emergence as a business university is energizing activity, the foundation for such innovative teaching has been established by a core of creative faculty whose projects and courses cross-pollinate the arts and sciences with business education or use of technology, and sometimes both. Here is a sampling of what's happening at Bentley:

  • Three Bentley students presented student papers at the Fall Meeting of the Mathematical Association of America's Northeastern Section, at Wellesley College. First year students Charlie Rossetti and Matt Angelucci described using difference equations to model the size of the deer tick population, an important tool in understanding the spread of Lyme disease. They are working with Mihaela Predescu, a first-year faculty member in Mathematics, who is studying this problem as a joint research project with the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Rhode Island.
  • Professors Rick Cleary, Math, and Jay Thibodeau, Accountancy, are working on a project using statistical techniques to discover fraud in accounting. Their refereed presentation has been accepted for an Auditing conference in Florida in January; and Rick Cleary is giving a seminar on the subject at Johns Hopkins University later that month. The method they use was developed by a physicist in the 1930s, and was seen as so esoteric that it was eventually published in a philosophy journal. "Now it's a mainstay of accounting software; proof that 'basic research' in A&S can pay off in unexpected ways," says Cleary.
  • Linda McJannet's honors Shakespeare class uses the Shakespeare Interactive Electronic Archive at MIT for research on the early texts of Shakespeare (e.g., all three quartos and the folio text of Hamlet, plus an "art gallery" of paintings and famous illustrations of high points of the play (such as the ghost, and Ophelia's death). The archive also has video clips of little known (including uncopyrighted) productions. This fall, students worked on their archive assignment, which involves a report on their visit to the Hamlet materials. In addition, MIT has made available their XMAS software available to the class, which will enable students to insert clips from DVDs that they or Bentley own in their Word documents for class presentation and "mixed media" papers. McJannet can then read the papers on line and watch the clips which they include as evidence for their arguments.
  • With courses like Making Waves: The Physics of Sound and Music, and Light and Color, Sharon Finberg, Natural Sciences, is among those in her department who are making science fun for undergraduates regardless of their major. She's also conducting transdisciplinary research including "A Two-Dimensional Hands-On Model of Vision Correction Surgery" and "Stock Market Reactions to Announced Corporate Violations of US Export Control Regulations," a joint venture with former Bentley finance faculty member Kimberly Gleason. Finberg believes that the scientific process - a systematic way of investigating and processing research - is applicable to many fields outside of physics, including business. In a similar vein, The Physics of Sports, once a Finberg course, is now taught by Natural Sciences instructor Steve Nichols.
  • In CLIC, the Center for Languages and International Collaboration, International Studies Chair Denis Sullivan and Jane Tchaicha, Modern Languages, through videoconferencing this month are linking up with a leading Islamic scholar at the Ford Foundation in Cairo. On December 16, the virtual meeting with Dr. Gamal al-Banna will focus on Islamic politics in Egypt. Notes Sullivan, "The person involved there is the brother of the assassinated leader of Muslim Brotherhood." Ten scholars will participate as part of a research project including professors from Bentley, BU, Harvard, BC and the University of Maine.
  • About 33 undergraduate and graduate courses now integrate the Trading Room into syllabi, said Director Patrick Gregory, Finance. In the final weeks of the semester, up to 14 sections of some courses make use of the resources therein, including some 900 students in GB 201, the accounting sequence. In addition, on Wednesdays during Activity Period, the facility is well-populated by those who come for hot topics and pizza during the Trading Room Roundtable. On a strictly voluntary basis, about 50 students and several faculty members attend the weekly presentations to learn about such subjects as international arbitrage, portfolio optimization or equity valuation. "We get graduate students, undergrads and faculty members," he said. "People in the MBA, MS Financial Planning or Tax programs, undergraduates in Eco-Finance but also undergrads still exploring possible fields. At least three current freshmen first came to Bentley as participants in our summer camp for high school students, Wall Street 101."
  • The Institute for Women and Leadership: Ethics, Social Justice and Cultural Diversity, co-directed by English professors Maureen Goldman and Gesa Kirsch, is a cross-disciplinary initiative to support gender-related research and teaching, community outreach and student leadership opportunities.
  • Also new from Gesa Kirsch, is her book, Feminism and Composition (Bedford/St. Martins, 2003); and a recent article, "Ethics and the Future of Composition Research;" represent areas she is currently exploring in addition to a new research project on the life of Dr. Mary Bennett Ritter, a physician, women's rights advocate and civic leader at the turn of the 20th century.
  • Italian American Writers on New Jersey: An Anthology of Poetry and Prose, a book co-edited by Jennifer Gillan, English, is a commentary on the intersection of business and literature including oral history, memoir, and fiction that reflects upon the history of the early twentieth-century labor movement in Paterson, cultural, familial, and work-related tensions experienced by Italian American workers in other major industrial centers of New Jersey, including Newark, Trenton, and Hoboken, and writings that explore the mid- twentieth-century exodus of immigrants from New York City to the suburbs and the later.
  • Astronomy Professor Badri Aghassi has developed a multi-lingual Astronomy is International bulletin board to report astronomy news from outside the United States, especially in the languages of his international students. "Last year, I had one student from Monaco and one from Venezuela in my class. I had occasion to show them printouts of timely news related to our lectures in their native languages and we started exchanging newspaper reports," he explained. This was the birth of the multilingual bulletin which is board located near the Observatory and the Astronomy Classroom/lab at ACC 365 and 363 respectively. Although the greatest frequency of added material is in English and French, the board also includes Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Arabic extracts. The sources are mostly from the BBC, The New York Times, ABC, Le Figaro, Le Monde, Libération, Corriere della Sera, l'UnitB, Diario el Mundo, Novedades, Diário de Noticias, Jornal Público, Lusomundo, Frankfürter Allgemeine, BBC Arabic edition, and others." It is still a work in progress but frequently updated.
  • In Literature of Business Life, Dennis Flynn, English, introduces students to the enjoyment of reading works depicting people in a variety of business contexts. Selected texts include Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Herman Melville's Bartleby and Benito Cereno, Richard Wright's Lawd Today! and Abraham Cahan's The Rise of David Levitsky. Many of the study questions focusing on tensions, incongruities, blind spots, dissatisfactions, and addictions in the lives of the characters represented.
  • "Donut Wars," aka Marketing Projects, unites Marketing and the Natural Sciences. Comparing Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kremes, undergraduates are spending many Friday mornings in the Chemistry Lab with Natural Sciences Chair Bob Wallace, analyzing nutritional content of the baked goods. The students' use of Tablet PCs to collect data has had a key role in their research, commented Wallace. Donut Wars also gives students the opportunity to use the Center for Marketing Technology for customized market research. The Scarborough database enables them to gain significant insight into the Dunkin Donut versus Krispy Kreme customer's demographic and psychographic profile.
  • Marylee Crofts, History, taught "Introduction to the Business Culture of Ghana," during which a video conference in CLIC connected Bentley undergraduates with students at the University of Ghana in Accra. Prior to the March 2002 videoconference, students in both countries corresponded as "e-pals and the session allowed everyone to introduce himself or herself to the group. "It worked well," said Crofts, "and when we arrived in Accra, students recognized one another. Student-to-student relationships were developed before and during the study tour. The Ghanaian e-pals accompanied us on our visits to businesses and government offices, riding on the buses with us and sharing meals. They invited us into their homes and served as local informal informants, not only on what we were seeing and hearing, but also on college age night life."
  • Bentley Service-Learning is establishing "The Business and the Arts Service-Learning Initiative" to assist local and regional arts organizations by building their capacity to produce and enhance arts and cultural programming in their communities. Faculty and students will be working with community theatre, museums, symphonies and other cultural organizations by developing marketing, strategic planning, accounting, web and other systems, including avenues that will incorporate the liberal arts.

BENTLEY UNIVERSITY is one of the nation’s leading business schools, dedicated to preparing a new kind of business leader – one with the deep technical skills, broad global perspective, and high ethical standards required to make a difference in an ever-changing world. Our rich, diverse arts and sciences program, combined with an advanced business curriculum, prepares informed professionals who make an impact in their chosen fields. Located on a classic New England campus minutes from Boston, Bentley is a dynamic community of leaders, scholars and creative thinkers. The Graduate School emphasizes the impact of technology on business practice, in offerings that include MBA and Master of Science programs, PhD programs in accountancy and in business, and customized executive education programs. The university enrolls approximately 4,100 full-time undergraduate, 140 adult part-time undergraduate, 1,430 graduate, and 43 doctoral students. Bentley is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; AACSB International – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business; and the European Quality Improvement System, which benchmarks quality in management and business education. For more information, please visit www.bentley.edu

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