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The Shape of Education to Come

Business vs. Liberal Arts a ‘False Dichotomy”
Written by: 
Susan Simpson

Bentley authors share their experience developing curricula that combine the study of business, social and natural sciences, humanities and the arts. The result is part road map, part call to action.

A slender volume of collected wisdom aims to shake up business education in a big way. Edited by Dan Everett and Gordon Hardy, the new book is a primer on the business-meets-liberal-arts model of study that Bentley has pioneered. 

“Training in the liberal arts and sciences is just as crucial as traditional business studies,” says Everett, the university’s dean of arts and sciences since 2010. “This ‘educational fusion’ is how we build the critical, well-rounded skills that students need for work and life in the 21st century.”

Shaping the Future of Business Education: Relevance, Rigor and Life Preparation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) features chapters by academic leaders from a range of disciplines; most are Bentley faculty and alumni. Writing primarily for fellow scholars and educators, the 24 authors share on-the-ground experience developing curricula that combine the study of business, social and natural sciences, humanities and the arts. The result is part road map, part call to action.

Critical Voices

"These are good days to push for a new model of higher education," according to Everett. 

“There’s mounting criticism of colleges and universities,” he says. “We especially hear the objection that rising costs of the undergraduate experience are outstripping the value returned for the time and money invested.”

Critics include CEOs of leading companies. In one recent survey, conducted by Global Strategy Group, 66 percent of 500 corporate decision-makers deemed new college graduates a lukewarm “somewhat prepared” for the business world; another 30 percent described graduates as “not very” or “not at all” prepared. The skills found most wanting: writing and communication, solving complex problems, and adapting quickly to new dynamics. 

The negative assessments argue for a different kind of preparation, whose contours unfold over 262 pages in the Bentley book.

“The educational fusion we envision combines the best of business and the arts and sciences, to develop critical thinking, cultural literacy and professional acumen in a single course of study,” explains Everett. “There’s a perceived gulf between business and the liberal arts, but it’s a false dichotomy.”

Tales from the Trenches

Shaping the Future of Business Education teems with examples of fusion in Bentley classrooms and elsewhere. These include accounting and taxation courses that borrow a teaching tool from the liberal arts. Students debate each other on topical issues such as the extension of a particular tax credit, and hone skills in critical thinking.

Another chapter touts the focus developed through close reading of literature and nonfiction. The writer, an assistant professor of English and media studies, issues a “do one thing at once” challenge to her multitasking students. The centered mindset she hopes to cultivate is fertile ground for two imperatives in modern business: creativity and innovation.

The book earned a key endorsement by the European Foundation for Management Development, a globally recognized body for ensuring quality in management education. It is available at Amazon.com.

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