Merging Into One
How does a University determine the curricular contents of its classes? Each discipline has its canon, the range of substantive issues and core knowledge that are widely seen as vital to proficiency.
There are few subjects, however, where the debate over curriculum ranges more widely than the study of business.
What do business students need to learn? The answer depends, in part, on the perception of success.
“There is no single set of skills that define success in business.” This is how Brian Chezum begins describing business in the liberal arts. It is the name of the business program at St. Lawrence and Chezum is both the program’s coordinator and an economics professor.
“We each bring our own unique talents to the table,” he says. “Our goal is for students to take courses that let them sample the range of subjects St. Lawrence offers and to find the major that best enhances their individual talents. Then, when they’ve found something they really care about, add business in the liberal arts as a second major.”
This double major was created—over several years by a University working group—to better ensure that St. Lawrence business graduates would bring their own interests to the world of business.
“Without these interests,” Chezum adds, “business students have historically shown less development and far less commitment. The structure of our business program develops our students’ abilities to combine their curiosity, creativity and diverse talents with courses focused on economics, finance and other topics that develop an understanding of the business environment. By adding these to the core skills of each student, we believe we create the business leaders of tomorrow.”
In less than five years, the business in the liberal arts program has become one of the most popular at St. Lawrence.
Now, with financial assistance from Scott '81 and Pam Morse Stewart's '82 leadership donation, the program is developing a new curricular component: business in the liberal arts capstone courses. Faculty members now have the additional resources they need to work with students to collaboratively develop a curriculum that can more fully integrate business and the liberal arts.
"As a professor of graduate and undergraduate business studies at Cornell University, I see the demand for liberal arts graduates with business skills constantly growing," Scott Stewart says. "Therefore, I was very pleased when St. Lawrence created the business in the liberal arts double major. I think the program provides students who want to pursue a career in business a unique opportunity to cultivate their interests, and it gives them an advantage in the job market. I like the capstone courses specifically because they will allow St. Lawrence seniors to apply their learning in fundamental coursework across the liberal-arts curriculum. By providing students with both a framework to learn business skills and a capstone experience to explore and engage them in a diverse way, St. Lawrence is continuing to be innovative and responsive to demand."
Karl Schonberg is the vice president of St. Lawrence and dean of academic affairs. He also sees these capstone courses as the vital, culminating connection between the liberal arts and business education.
“Consider any scholarly discipline,” he says, “biology, English, history, performance and communication arts, economics, psychology. St. Lawrence offers an exceptional education in these and many other fields. Our business students will use the capstone courses to define the links between the liberal arts, their entrepreneurial learning, and their broader experiences, including internships, research, field work, travel, conferences and the range of off-campus study.”
Schonberg says the capstone courses will deepen students’ understanding of business—and their abilities to lead using their creativity, familiarity with the philosophies that shape their fields of interest, an inclination toward social inclusivity, and other hallmarks of the liberal-arts education at St. Lawrence.
“Bringing together these elements in specialized capstone courses prepares our students to fully participate in the management of productive, profitable and ethical organizations. Having focused extensively on developing their core strengths, our students will be more adept at identifying and enhancing the strengths of their colleagues. That’s what leaders do and our students will be business leaders.”