Dogma bites Carlson business education

Exposure to business ethics and history could turn true leaders out of the Carlson School of Management.

Hilary Caldis

The University of Minnesota has scrutinized how to invest student tuition fees, government dollars and corporate donations over the last year. Meanwhile, the Carlson School of Management has dropped considerably in rankings. Each department within every school has the responsibility of managing and funding their own programs. Structured in such a way, it is clear that certain schools and departments hold great advantages over others. We would all like to think weâÄôre Gophers, but resentments we hold toward one another, however insignificant we think they may be, conflict with solidarity. As a student of the Carlson School of Management, I realize that I am perceived to be conceited âÄî a spoiled favorite of the University who receives the best tenured professors and all of the latest technology updates in the Carlson buildings while the rest of the student population rots in outdated buildings with assistant professors and teaching assistants. From this stereotype, which many Carlsonites embrace, I have been disappointed by the lack of collaboration Carlson students demonstrate toward other students, whose underfunded colleges have important knowledge to bring to the table in expanding the minds of all students âÄî and business students in particular. So why should the business school think this is a good idea if all they must worry about is preparing their students with the proper skills employers are demanding? According to career advisers I have spoken to in Carlson, more and more recruiters from large corporations, small businesses and nonprofits alike are reporting that they are disappointed with the skills and preparedness of the Carlson students they have been hiring. And what has been the biggest shortcoming? Critical thinking âÄî a skill that is easy to find in most CLA students. In light of this shortcoming, due reflection is owed to understanding how curriculum and instruction is currently dealt out and how it is being changed to address the issues at the forefront of domestic and international debate. For this to happen, I suggest a shift in strategy be taken toward looking outside Carlson walls for guidance. It would be impossible for anyone to ignore the pressure put on companies to become more environmentally and socially responsible. Whether it takes exposing companies for their exploitative practices domestically and abroad, our fear of global warming or the latest financial crisis, the question remains: Why arenâÄôt we seeing more changes in how we do business? There are many explanations. The under-mobilization of conscious consumption is paramount. But why arenâÄôt we, the people going to work for these companies, being prepared to work for change? From talking with Carlson faculty, staff and administrators, there is no question that issues of ethical and social responsibility are on their minds. The more important question that needs to be addressed is how to teach it. A common concern is that our business instructors are not prepared to teach a thing like ethics. Over the course of the last four years, I have had the opportunity to take some amazing classes outside of the business school that have significantly broadened my perspective on a variety of social, cultural and environmental issues from practical, theoretical and philosophical standpoints. In my opinion, these have been the best classes for me in understanding business, what it is, what it does and who is included in it. If the business degree is to prepare a student to become a successful and responsible business leader, more emphasis must be put on broadening our perspective on issues of globalization, diversity and the economy, which have everything to do with good business. We are instructed in preparing financial statements, estimating costs and figuring out how to best sell a product, but we must understand also how to put the skills to good use. One other important aspect to improving the curriculum would be to actually teach business history. If a business student does not know what things like the gold standard are, why it was introduced, who created it and who it affected, how is he or she supposed to have any grasp on the fact that money was not created to be an end goal. It is simply a means of exchanging the things that add value to our lives. If we really knew what scientific management is, why and by whom it was created and its social implications, maybe labor unions would seem less threatening. Unfortunately, these ideas remain oddly foreign to us until we cross over to the East Bank, where at least some people are still talking about them. It is only when we as Carlson students begin to talk about how the ideas and breakthroughs entailed in our own dogma have played out that we can begin to understand how things like ethics and social responsibility really matter. It is important to reflect upon how our own happiness relates to society and how we all benefit from it being a kinder, safer and more inclusive place. As business students, we have great power in working toward these goals as long as we are given the proper tools and exposure to do it. Hilary Caldis, University undergraduate student