Q: This spring, Lehigh is introducing three case studies that highlight the College of Business and Economics’ integrated programs. Why?
A: In the College of Business and Economics, we seek to give our students a very strong foundation in all the business disciplines. But at the same time, we’re really looking to provide a program that is academically well-rounded.
This is important for a number of reasons. First, in the real world, there’s less and less of a clear cut demarcation between marketing, finance, management—areas that used to have very strict boundaries. It’s simply not today’s reality. It’s not uncommon to go from one end of the business to the other end.
Instead, business has become, almost by default, a lot more collaborative. Whether you’re involved in a marketing campaign or planning financial decisions, your work is typically done in teams that bring people of different backgrounds and different strengths together.
Q: Is this something that can be taught in the classroom, though?
A: Success comes from participating, from becoming a team leader. It’s really hard to do this, to learn this, in a traditional business curriculum. Until you’re actually working in a team, until you actually have to encounter different perspectives, that’s when you get a full understanding and appreciation of how business actually works. It’s why we’re presenting our Integrated Product Development program in this case study. IPD does just that—it mimics what happens in the real world, both from an engineering and technical focus and a business focus.
Q: But why has the CBE formed such a close partnership with engineering?
A: At Lehigh, there’s always been a point of connection between faculty in each of our colleges. Our curriculum, as a whole, is actually very flexible and the colleges have always been encouraged to partner whenever possible.
But this has especially been the case with the business and engineering colleges. Lehigh is a small enough school that faculty and students get a lot of exposure with each other. And the engineering college is looking to broaden its impact in other disciplines. There’s a strong feeling that an engineering education is a good preparation for students, even those who aren’t inclined to become professional engineers, both because of its academic rigor and practical approach to new technologies. This is why our integrated programs are so successful—IPD, computer science and business, integrated engineering and business—because they get to see, firsthand, the practical application of technology and more contemporary business practices.
Q: So what’s next for business schools?
A: It’s got to be how to introduce decision making in a global context. Today’s business leaders, in all sectors, need to have a familiarity with other cultures, and they must appreciate international differences and business practices.
Q: …and how do you make this happen?
A: I think that “partnering” is the key word, whether it’s informally or in close alliances with other international universities. That’s why I think Paul Brown will be such a good fit for our College of Business and Economics (To read more about incoming dean Paul Brown, click here
). Business schools need to continue to look beyond the horizon to figure out exactly what a global education truly is—and how they figure into that equation.
Q: So how are these approaches—like integrating the curriculum—helping our students succeed?
A: By preparing them for a career, not just for their first job out of college. Our students are prepared to take risks, to go beyond their comfort zones. It’s actually documented in our college’s five-year strategic plan—to continue developing opportunities and programs for our students that are practical and experiential. We’re also working with our industry partners in developing a suite of professional development workshops.
We’re placing a lot of emphasis and investment in developing internships and project-based programs that promote collaboration and team-work. It’s simply about developing the skills that make our undergraduate students as well-rounded as possible. And programs like IPD really make that happen.