University Business February 2018 - 52

PROFESSIONAL OPINION

The power of an integrated
business and liberal arts curriculum
Students need multidisciplinary skill sets to succeed in modern life and workplaces
By Ronald K. Machtley

W

hat's more important in
higher education: preparing
for a profession or attaining
a well-rounded liberal arts education?
The answer is that in today's world
both are critical.
The cost of a higher education is
high and the workplace demands not
only the capacity for critical thinking
associated with liberal arts, but new
skills like "design thinking" and technological sophistication. We no longer
live in a world where the liberal arts
and professional education are separate
paths to success. Current conditions
demand a new approach that draws on
the best of both.
Employment trends indicate that
employers are less willing to train for
entry-level positions, and they expect
graduates to be well-prepared for the
workplace from the beginning.
A fresh IDEA
The world is not divided by academic
discipline. We must innovate our education models to better prepare worldready students for success.
The entire curriculum must focus
on the development of critical thinking, and of verbal and writing skills.
Students must also learn the lessons
history can provide, and learn to
appreciate other cultures from a variety
of disciplinary perspectives.
In addition, personal and profes-

UBmag.me/integrated

52 | February 2018

sional success will require the development of essential elements of character
as well as the qualities required to be
an innovative problem-solver: creativity
and curiosity, collaboration, integrative
thinking, connectivity, and perseverance and grit.

The world is not divided
by academic discipline.
We must innovate
our education models
to better prepare
world-ready students
for success.
Bryant University's immersive,
56-hour IDEA program (Innovation
and Design Experience for All) was
introduced five years ago as a designthinking boot camp for all first-year
students. Over time, IDEA has been
refined by a team of faculty from disciplines in both the College of Arts and
Sciences and the College of Business. It
is now a cornerstone of Bryant's innovative approach to creating an integrated
liberal arts and business curriculum.
A transformative trade show
Creating the leaders of the future requires more than a traditional business
or liberal arts education can provide.
Our entire academic program is designed to prepare students to use both
sides of their brains and to be innovative in the profession they choose. In

our IDEA program, for example, we
present students with a range of diverse
challenges: How might we reinvent
libraries for the digital age? How can
we help shopping malls compete with
Amazon? How can hotel lobbies better
enhance guest satisfaction?
These are not just hypothetical
problems. We create teams of business
and liberal arts students and send them
out into the field to do original research
on these problems-to observe and
interview. Then they come back and
synthesize everything they've seen and
learned. Students brainstorm ideas with
alumni mentors and are coached on
how to surface the best ideas.
Students then prototype and iterate,
building models of what they have conceived. On the last day there's a trade
show where students pitch their ideas
and judges rate each team. Winning
teams earn a prize, but the intense, exhausting, fulfilling three days is transformative for everyone.
As artificial intelligence becomes
even more important in our lives, it will
be essential for students to develop the
ability to synthesize perspectives from a
variety of disciplines and to develop innovative solutions based on these fresh
insights. We must remove the boundaries associated with traditional academic
disciplines to prepare world-ready students with the skills employers expect
and to ensure we provide our graduates
new paths to success in their lives and
chosen professions.
Ronald K. Machtley is president of Bryant
University in Rhode Island.
www.universitybusiness.com


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of University Business February 2018

University Business February 2018 - Cover1
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University Business February 2018 - 1
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