University Business April 2018 - 8

OnTopic

Q&A with Gloria Cordes Larson
By Tim Goral

More than a degree
Why every professional discipline can benefit from liberal education

How you go to college matters more
than where you go to college, says
Bentley University President Gloria
Cordes Larson. In her book Prepared U (2017 Jossey-Bass), Larson
says institutions that focus on professional studies do a fine job preparing
students for a job after college. But
they often fall short on building
"lifelong learning skills" outside their
fields of study.
The Bentley model, on the other
hand, blends the rigorous business
education for which the school is
known with traditional arts and
sciences courses. The result is a new
kind of hybrid graduate, possessed
of hard and soft skills, and wielding
the courage to take risks, the creativity to innovate and the savvy to excel
in a competitive climate.

UBmag.me/degree

8 | April 2018

When you worked for a law firm,
you would go around recruiting law
students. You write that many had a
little something extra. What was it
you saw, and how did that affect you?
I was often sent to recruit for my large
Boston law firm, and in one case they
sent me to my alma mater, the University of Virginia, where I discovered the
leading edge of the millennial generation. Although these kids wanted to
spend the summer working at a large
law firm-a predictable path into the
business world-they all had done interesting things with their lives, usually
in the nonprofit sector. They were in
the Peace Corps or Teach For America,
lots of things that showed they had
this broader world view. It was the first
generation that I thought really had
"triple bottom-line thinking," meaning
"people and planet, not just profit," and
that they thought that those things are
equally important.
On the way back, I had read Tom
Friedman's book The World Is Flat, in
which he writes about how college kids
for the first time, generationally in a
global workplace, would have the ability
to effect real change. With the access to
information in this flattened world, and
the access to the right education, this
recipe could spawn a new generation of
leaders who could do really important
things. I had also read Daniel Pink's A
Whole New Mind, in which he said the
innovation economy required left- and
right-brain capabilities.
Then I had heard that Bentley might
be interested in an unorthodox president-and Lord knows that would be
me. I thought, "OK, this is a holistic

experience that sends kids, as grads of a
unique standalone business school, into
the organizational world. What if we
could figure out ways to deepen and
integrate all of these components in effective ways for this next generation of
leaders?" When they finally made me an
offer, I was thrilled to accept, because
after decades of practicing law in one
guise or another, I felt lucky to land
an opportunity that brought me into
a daily intersect with next-generation
leaders who had the capacity to bring
the right kind of moral compass and
organizational abilities to bear.
Bentley was beginning to go down
that path. Were you given free rein to
go further?
My faculty and the team at Bentley
were already of the view that deepening business and the liberal arts was the
right way to go. In fact, we were studied
by a project out of Stanford that the
Carnegie Foundation had funded. They
came to solicit us my second semester
at Bentley because they were trying to
make the case that business students-
now the largest major in the country-
needed equal parts liberal arts. We were
early adopters of this thinking. We
were also one of the first schools to take
a place-based education both inside
and outside the classroom, connect it
with real-world opportunities and the
things that you could do on campus.
We wrapped all of this into first-year,
out-of-the-gate planning for careers and
state-of-the-art technology.
That was our "secret sauce" combination that I wrote about in Prepared U.
I also singled out other schools that are
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