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Combining Liberal Arts and Business: School of Business and Leadership

Combining Liberal Arts and Business: School of Business and Leadership

The School of Business and Leadership (SBL), projected to open in 2023, will offer two new majors in business analytics and finance as well as minors in leadership and entrepreneurship, according to Michele Villinski, an economics professor. She said course requirements for economics majors might also change. The changes are up for faculty to vote on in May.

Villinski is optimistic about White’s plan to create the SBL and says the new school is a good way for DePauw to innovate and appeal to prospective students.

“It [the Business School] could be an opportunity to pull together a lot of the business-oriented programs, curricular programs, and programming that we have under an umbrella to make it easier for students to identify and access those opportunities,” Villinski said.

The chances of creating a new building for the business school are low, however, there might be a space designated as a focal point to help business students and faculty members to build community, Villinski said. 

According to President Dr. Lori White, the main purpose of the new business school is to provide a more formal focus on business and leadership in a small residential setting. 

“We want to tell the world we’re all in and we also want to provide the broad perspective on business and leadership that you can do through a school beyond what you could do with a major,” White said, adding that for DePauw, business is the most searched area for prospective students, which provides the school an opportunity to offer a business major along with a rich liberal arts experience.

Humberto Barrato, an economics professor and the co-chair of the Strategic Planning Committee, says that creating the Business School will help the university improve its product offering in a competitive space.

 “We could have just created a finance major but I think the logic behind a business school is that it sends a much clearer, stronger message to prospective students,” Barrato said. 

According to Barrato, there might be a staffing issue in the SBL as the university creates more majors and classes. “With our existing faculty we cannot correctly staff and offer courses in these new majors so we will be hiring some new faculty as part of the new business school and I believe the same is true for the creative school,” Barrato said.

Guangjun Qu, an economics professor, thinks that the new business school will provide many opportunities for both prospective and current students who are interested in studying business. 

“We actually have a significant portion of students who are actually interested in business, but they don’t have the business major here so they choose economics instead and I do believe that, you know, with this new business school or the new majors in mind, it’s going to be more options, more opportunities in terms of coursework and internships,” Qu said.

Qu thinks opportunities come with challenges and the university might face a few obstacles after creating the SBL. In particular, he says it is uncertain how the education market will receive the new school, which will determine whether or not the SBL will be able to stand out among its competitors.

“Especially here in the midwest, you know, we see fierce competition. So, you know, the Indiana University Business School and even Indiana State. In these state schools they all have business schools or business majors,” Qu said.

According to Qu, another challenge for DePauw is that since it is a liberal arts school, the university has to figure out the best way to combine business education with liberal arts education. To address this issue, the SBL will require students to take more economics courses than they would have to at a state school. In addition, Qu believes DePauw will emphasize the importance of writing and communication in the new majors in the SBL to build a solid foundation of both business and liberal arts in students.

Qu pointed out that, although it is still uncertain what exactly the new majors are going to look like, it is likely that the business analytics major will be interdisciplinary. In particular, Qu says that students majoring in business analytics will have to take classes from three different departments: economics, computer science, and mathematics. In addition, he says one of the main goals with this major is to make it integrative.

 “It’s, you know, a new major, a new major instead of like three existing pieces together,” Qu said. “So I believe we will create some courses like the gateway to the major and like the intro intermediate level. And that will give students a kind of a cohort of experience.”

Qu thinks that how well DePauw combines business education and liberal arts education will ultimately determine how successful the new model will be.

“A business school at a liberal arts college is not quite common out there. So I think, we need to work really hard to convince [prospective students and their parents] that the business education that the students are going to receive here will be different from what they will receive elsewhere, especially at big state universities,” Qu said.