“I want students to calm their parents’ fears and say, ‘I’ll take philosophy, but I’ll also take business,’” Moro said.
When she went to college in the 1960s, said Elisabeth Gedge, who teaches philosophy at McMaster, students “were idealistic, and studied for the love of it.” Now, Gedge said, as the price of education has increased, “we need to be accountable to those who pay our wages.”
That means doing a better job of explaining the practical benefits of studying such things as philosophy, she said. “Whatever job you’re in you’re going to have to make a case for something. You have to be able to rally the arguments and think through the consequences. That’s what philosophy teaches you.”
Interdisciplinary alliances have come to comprise a fast-growing trend for entrepreneurial humanities departments. McMaster already offers a specialized minor in commerce for humanities majors, and its Justice and Political Philosophy and Law program, in which Bakhtiari is enrolled, often leads to law school. In the United States, Mount Holyoke College combines the liberal arts with the hot field of data science, including by using quantitative analysis to study literature written by women.
Franklin & Marshall College is working with Bucknell University and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School to find more ways that the liberal arts can be applied to business education. The project looks at such things as how fiction can help explore sustainable business and what a dance instructor can teach about entrepreneurship.
“I think this is honestly the wave of the future,” said Gloria Larson, president of Bentley University, whose curriculum fuses business and the liberal arts and a fifth of whose students double-major in business and liberal studies.
“There’s no excuse for not putting these pieces together,” said Larson, author of the new book Prepared U: How Innovative Colleges Drive Student Success. “You want to have graduates who are educated not just trained.”
That also requires the humanities to show that “what we do in the academy matters,” said AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella, former president of Mount Holyoke. “We have to be thinking collaboratively.”
As for faculty who teach humanities, what they mostly need is people in their classes. “There’s a pressure to cut certain programs that are not profitable because your revenues are based on your enrollment,” Moro said. “Faculties of arts have to justify their existence.”
Including to governors and legislators, who have proposed charging higher tuition for “non-strategic majors” such as history and English (Florida) or eliminating programs altogether that may not lead directly to employment (North Carolina) or to high-paying jobs that are in demand (Kentucky).
As a Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida questioned whether it was worth providing loans for students “to study, you know — I don’t want to offend anybody — Roman history. Are there any Romans here?” A Trump campaign advisor suggested giving preference for such loans to majors in fields such as engineering, with higher earnings, over disciplines including the humanities.
Since 2007, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences reports, four-year universities have reduced their number of departments offering art history, English, languages, history, linguistics, literature and religion.
When he told the provost of the plan to merge philosophy, language, history, culture and other disciplines with business, said Mohammad, who is also chair of accounting and financial management, “He said, ‘Well, I’m glad to see you’re helping the humanities.’”
So are the students in the inaugural class, who were filing into a welcoming reception across the campus from where Bakhtiari was philosophizing on the quad.
“Your standard business program is going to give you a lot of knowledge. It probably prepares you really well to go work for a corporation,” said one, Ryan Sommer. But Sommer wants to be an entrepreneur, and said he needs to figure things out for himself. Students who don’t have the benefit of humanities educations will likely be able to do that, too, he said. “It will just take them longer.”
Yael Morris said she wants to learn about doing business across cultures. “In [conventional] business programs there’s not enough about how people interact, and that’s what makes the world work,” said Morris, who is enrolled in the new program with help from a $4,000 scholarship toward the annual $8,640 tuition, endowed by a McMaster alumnus who majored in music and went on to work on Wall Street after earning a Harvard MBA. (Both figures have been converted into U.S. dollars.)
And Astara Truman overcame her family’s resistance to majoring in the humanities and convinced them that the Integrated Business and Humanities degree would help her realize her dream of opening a vegan restaurant.
“My parents said the same thing: “What would you do with just a humanities degree?’ It’s not viewed as being useful,” Truman said. But combining business with her love of philosophy that began in high school, she said, will help her eventually run her restaurant the way she wants to.
“You want to think,” said Truman, “in a different way.”
The post How to save the humanities? Make them a requirement toward a business degree appeared first on The Hechinger Report.
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