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Southwestern University Receives Grant To Host Conference On Business And The Liberal Arts

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    The James S. Kemper Foundation promotes college-level education in the liberal arts complemented by workplace experiential education represents the ideal preparation for life and work, especially for careers in administration and business.

Southwestern has received a $50,000 grant from the James S. Kemper Foundation to host a national conference focusing on ways to improve the business programs offered at liberal arts colleges.

The conference will be held at Southwestern University Nov. 9-10, 2006.

Program chair Mary Grace Neville, an assistant professor of business at Southwestern, says that the world of business has changed rapidly in the past 20 years but business programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level are not adequately preparing students for these changes.

Of particular concern, Neville says, is the fact that most business programs simply teach subjects such as accounting and operations management without putting them in a larger context.

She says liberal arts colleges such as Southwestern are the perfect place for students to learn the interconnectedness between business and the larger global society.

Neville says the goal of the conference will be to develop suggestions for how business should be taught at liberal arts colleges.

She and other business faculty members from Southwestern plan to invite business leaders to the conference, as well as faculty members from leading liberal arts colleges.

“Having worked in the corporate and nonprofit sectors before earning my Ph.D., I have been struck by how rarely academics and business practitioners talk to each other,” Neville says. “We want to create a dialogue between the two to design the best possible curriculum for 21st century business. By doing so, we can shape the next generation of business leaders to consider the social impact of their actions as well as just the impact on the bottom line.”

At Southwestern University, the Department of Economics and Business has already started trying to help students learn about business within a broader context. For example, rather than offering separate introductory courses in management, marketing and operations, faculty members have developed a two-semester course called Foundations of Business that integrates multiple disciplines and relates them to current events. The course uses case studies such as Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to help students see how it is possible for businesses to focus on social good as well as financial profit.

In Professor A.J. Senchack’s International Business class, students are asked to develop a plan for establishing a new business in a third world country that will not only make a profit, but will help eradicate social ills such as poverty and disease.

Southwestern also offers a seminar titled Contemporary Issues in Global Business in which students are challenged to examine business in the context of broader economic, political and environmental issues. And students in Professor Don Park’s Business Capstone class work with local nonprofit groups, applying what they have learned in the classroom to help organizations such as The Caring Place in Georgetown.

The Kemper Foundation, which is based in Chicago, provides grants to small, private undergraduate colleges. Its particular area of emphasis is liberal arts education and its relationship to administration, business and leadership.