New college degrees give liberal arts students more business courses


When Adam Johs was a student at the University of Iowa, he knew he wanted to start a business eventually. But he also knew he didn’t want to take the management courses and other requirements of a traditional business school curriculum.

Instead, the 23-year-old chose the university’s new business leadership major, offered through the liberal arts college. He took classes like psychology and creative writing, in which he wrote about his own life and came to better understand his career goals, he says.

Then, on the business side, he took courses in growing business management and professional preparation for entrepreneurship.

“It’s been a nice mix,” says Johs, who graduated in December and runs his own landscaping business.

A handful of schools across the country are trying to attract students like Mr. Johs, those who are interested in entrepreneurship but don’t want to major in business. Schools are creating new degree programs that allow students to take the bulk of their coursework in the major of their choice, such as liberal arts or engineering, but incorporate business courses to give them the basics running their own business.

“There’s a global attempt to involve more non-business students” in an entrepreneurship program, says Michael Morris, a professor at the University of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs.

Hold students in place

One of the big motivations behind these new offerings is to bolster majors like liberal arts, which have lost students to more career-focused business programs in recent years. The schools hope that the mixed majors will make students more comfortable staying in non-business disciplines, while ensuring they learn marketable business skills.

At the same time, business programs recognize that students need fundamental skills such as writing, creative thinking and social psychology that are not usually the focus of business courses, but are the mainstay of other majors.

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At the University of Iowa, the business school worked with the college of liberal arts to launch the college’s business leadership major in 2015. Liberal arts students take hands-on business courses, including small business accounting and business planning, but skip many courses. which often do not appeal to non-business students, such as negotiation and human resource management. Instead, there are courses that offer less traditional leadership courses, such as advocacy and social psychology.

Business leadership is one of the fastest growing undergraduate majors, says David Hensley, executive director of the university’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center. He says there are now 688 students taking the major, up from 206 in fall 2015.

The major was originally intended for students rejected by business school, but it now also bolsters liberal arts programs by preventing some students from dropping out of business school altogether, says Helena Dettmer, former dean of undergraduate and university professor. . “We were pleasantly surprised,” she says.

Various origins

Lander University in Greenwood, South Carolina, refocused an existing Bachelor of Arts program to include more courses in entrepreneurship to make it easier for students outside of business school interested in creative careers to create a viable business, says Lander’s College professor Michael Brizek. work. For example, students take courses covering, among other things, the legal environment of business and the management of small businesses and family businesses.

According to Alexander McKelvie, professor of entrepreneurship at Syracuse University, the mix of students from different disciplines helps entrepreneurship courses become fertile ground for innovation. For example, a business school class in the school formed a team that included a business major and an information science school student who also took the class. The group launched Smarta, a system that makes it easier for owners of multi-family buildings to find students to rent off-campus housing.

The course “enabled students to recognize different perspectives and approaches to issues and industries,” adds Professor McKelvie.

Ms. Dizik is a writer in Chicago. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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