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Guest Vern Edwards

According to an article in today's online New York Times, "The Default Major: Skating Through B-School," people with undergraduate degrees in business might not be good selectees for the the acquisition workforce:

Business majors spend less time preparing for class than do students in any other broad field, according to the most recent National Survey of Student Engagement: nearly half of seniors majoring in business say they spend fewer than 11 hours a week studying outside class. In their new book ?Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses,? the sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa report that business majors had the weakest gains during the first two years of college on a national test of writing and reasoning skills. And when business students take the GMAT, the entry examination for M.B.A. programs, they score lower than students in every other major.

The article goes on to say:

In ?Academically Adrift,? Dr. Arum and Dr. Roksa looked at the performance of students at 24 colleges and universities. At the beginning of freshman year and end of sophomore year, students in the study took the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a national essay test that assesses students? writing and reasoning skills. During those first two years of college, business students? scores improved less than any other group?s. Communication, education and social-work majors had slightly better gains; humanities, social science, and science and engineering students saw much stronger improvement.

The exceptions appear to be students majoring in accounting and finance and students attending Business Week's "top 50" schools. One person quoted in the article said he doesn't think there should be a business major, but that business ought to be a minor.

The article will also appear in the "Educational Life" section of Sunday's Times.

Will the current emphasis on business school education weaken the acquisition workforce?

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In the middle of the last century, the conventional wisdom was that engineers make the best managers because they are trained in problem-solving.

This was followed by a trend to hire liberal arts majors because they have broader education in how to think. The traditional liberal arts included grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, astronomy, music, and geometry. The contemporary liberal arts are literature, languages, philosophy, history, mathematics, and science. These provide a pretty solid basis for developing important life skills.

The sources cited in the article are clear that undergraduate business degree curricula, standards, students, and degrees do not measure up very well to others.

The answer seems to be a resounding "yes."

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Will the current emphasis on business school education weaken the acquisition workforce?

I don't know, but I don't think that a business degree is necessary to succeed as an 1102. My undergraduate degree was not in business, but I did go on to get an MBA. I can honestly say that very little of what I learned in my MBA program is applicable to 1102 work. It would have been valuable if I chose to pursue a career in the private sector. I would have been much better served if I had obtained a law degree.

If it were up to me, I would favor an undergraduate with a philosophy degree with aspirations to attend law school. I would want someone who had experience interpreting difficult texts and arguing rationally both orally and in writing.

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Interesting read. I guess it boils down to the university one attends, and the aptitude and attitude of the individual.

Just for fun I went back and compared the curriculum from the university that a few of my family members attended, and the one that I attended. Talk about a difference in the foundation courses. Some of the courses I was required to take regardless of major include: Sociology, Logic, Philosophy, Psychology, and Public Speaking to name a few. The foundation courses at the university that I attended averaged two years to complete; it seems that the other university begins their business courses much earlier in the curriculum due to a lower foundation course requirement.

Another interesting point brought up in the article, is the teaming arrangements in business classes. I can see where this would be a disadvantage, constantly specializing in one area of a project, but it is also the most common method of identifying possible and or solving current problems.

Don and Cajun both bring up some other interesting points. I have worked with one contract specialist that is a liberal arts major, she is an excellent specialist. On the flip side, I have worked with some specialists that have law degrees and they are the epitome of 'lost in the sauce'.

Regardless of the degree, an individual that has attained a higher education should, at a minimum, be able to research and interpret information, come to their own conclusion, and express themselves well both written and orally. If an institution cannot provide those basics, then they should not be in the business of teaching.

Vern, my answer to your question would be yes. In the end you are hiring a person, not a degree.

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