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Whitman School accepts invitation to join inaugural Aspen Undergraduate Business Consortium

November 16, 2011

Jaime Winne Alvarez
(315) 443-3834

In March 2012, the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program will launch a new consortium of undergraduate institutions, the Aspen Undergraduate Business Consortium, designed to further the aim of better integrating liberal learning into undergraduate business education. The Whitman School of Management has been recognized as a leader in promoting this essential learning for business undergraduates and has accepted the formal invitation into the 18-month consortium.

aspenThe impetus for the consortium is multifaceted. The centrality of business in society, the immense popularity of the business major and new critiques of undergraduate education broadly, and undergraduate business education specifically present an unparalleled opportunity to change the orientation of business education. As the nation struggles to regain its financial footing and create jobs, the roles of management educators and their students have become particularly salient.

“With the future of capitalism and the imperative for job creation on the minds of so many, it is particularly important that today’s students be prepared to both lead successful businesses and contribute to the issues of our day. In this context, we are excited to be launching the Aspen Undergraduate Business Consortium and thrilled that the Whitman School will be participating,” says Claire Preisser, senior program manager and Aspen’s lead on the new consortium.

“The Whitman School considers it an honor to participate in this exciting new venture, and has accepted this grand invitation to join the Aspen Undergraduate Business Consortium. Elet Callahan, professor of law and public policy and faculty director of the Sustainable Enterprise Partnership, will represent the Whitman School as the point of contact and coordination for this endeavor,” says Whitman Dean Melvin T. Stith.

The consortium will use a new study and book, “Rethinking Undergraduate Business Education” (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2011), as a jumping-off point for dialogue. The book highlights the importance of bringing the perspectives of the liberal arts into business education so that students can integrate their learning of business disciplines with the larger purpose, common to all undergraduate learning, of making sense of the world and their place in it, preparing to use knowledge and skills to engage responsibly with the life of their times. The three primary authors of the book—Anne Colby, Thomas Ehrlich and William M. Sullivan—are co-designers of the consortium with the Aspen Institute and will co-facilitate the program. In addition, the Teagle Foundation is providing funding to develop the consortium.

Objectives of the Aspen Undergraduate Business Consortium are to create a forum for peer learning among a set of diverse institutions, allowing exemplary schools to further their own campus-based initiatives; to share stories of successful institutional change efforts (i.e., once a goal is articulated, how can change actually happen?); to raise the visibility of innovative pedagogies, curricular designs and campus cultures that promote liberal learning; and to explore ways to “raise the bar” in the collective space of undergraduate business education and to strengthen demand among students, educators and recruiters for the infusion of liberal learning in undergraduate business education.

The consortium will convene twice over 18 months (March 19-20, 2012, and spring 2013) to share specific institutional reform efforts and curriculum designs that have been effective in infusing business education with liberal learning. The consortium will have an action-learning component and the Aspen Institute—at convenings and in between—will actively encourage learning across institutions. Lessons learned from the consortium will also be disseminated beyond participating schools.

Each participating institution will commit to building a team comprised of deans, academic officers, directors of student affairs and faculty who will attend the convenings and report on institutional reform efforts and curriculum designs that have been effective in infusing business education with liberal learning. Activities between convenings will evolve according to participant interest.

The Aspen Undergraduate Business Consortium will meet for the first time at the convening hosted by the George Washington University School of Business in Washington, D.C., on March 19-20, 2012.

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