Lehigh University
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Changing the face of business education

Over the past decade, the corporate world has changed dramatically. New advances in technology have created a global network. The world has been exposed to numerous corporate scandals and Congress has developed legislation to address them. A successful business leader must now navigate an increasingly demanding and treacherous terrain.

At Lehigh University’s College of Business and Economics (CBE), there has been an industry-leading change in educational direction. Lehigh’s CBE recognizes that today’s business graduates need a whole new set of corporate tools in their arsenal, including:
• Interdisciplinary degrees.
• Collaborative certificates that combine the expertise of several colleges within the university.
• Real life/real time practical experience.
• Improved communication, negotiation and ethical skills.

“To address new developments in the corporate world, we meet with globally recognized industry professionals such as IBM, Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers, to name a few, to determine what the market demands,” says Richard M. Durand, the Herbert E. Ehlers Dean of CBE.

“This strategic market-driven corporate approach helps us create programs at the interface of disciplines and reach across traditional academic boundaries. We have blended conceptual with practical issues to develop several new, core, niche-based programs and degrees.”

Blending theory and practice

Some of the new degree programs CBE has developed are the Computer Science and Business major, an MS program in Health and Bio-Pharmaceutical Economics, and several certificate programs developed through cooperation with the other colleges on campus.

“Corporate employers are excited about being at the heart of developing educational programs that fit their current needs,” Durand says. “In addition to partnering with the best corporations, an important component to the success of our new programs is the blending of theory and practice. Our courses offer more to students when they learn from faculty members who have industry experience as well as strong academic credentials.”

Another example of how CBE is providing real-world learning is through the college’s new Financial Services Laboratory (FSL). The lab was designed to bridge the gap between theory and practice by linking Lehigh to Wall Street, providing students, alumni and corporations a distinct resource that connects the two worlds. The wireless state-of-the-art facility contains 27 laptop stations, three large flat-screens, and a wall-mounted ticker modeled after the electronic displays on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The computers run data fed by Thomson ONEcq software.

"The students have an opportunity to be in an environment just like they would be on Wall Street," says Anne Anderson, associate professor of economics. “This allows them to see first-hand how business unfolds on the stockroom floor.”

Donations in support of developing and maintaining the FSL came from alumni and corporate benefactors.

One example of corporate support is IBM, which provided a $120,000 donation. The involvement of IBM and other corporations adds a new dimension to corporate partnering in the educational process.

“These donations are more like investments,” Durand says. “The corporations involved know that this is an investment in their future. They will have better and more prepared employees by making this kind of commitment.”

Head and shoulders above the rest

Lehigh’s alumni also play a vital role in supporting new developments at CBE. A 1976 Lehigh graduate, John Callies, general manager of global financing for IBM, has visited the lab since its completion and believes it offers current undergraduates a head start on their careers.

“By offering students a chance to interact with the data exactly as they will in their work place, the students will be head and shoulders above their contemporaries when they graduate," Callies says.

IBM and other corporations recognize that Lehigh University is moving to the forefront in preparing future business leaders, and these companies are partnering with CBE to make those future leaders ready to face real-world challenges. "From a technology perspective, the FSL is far and beyond what is available at any other institution," Callies says.

The technology in the lab provides real-time input that is not simulated. This means that students must deal with information just as they will in their chosen profession when they graduate.

"From a communications perspective, it's virtually equivalent to what you would find on the Street,” Callies says.

It isn’t just models or new technology such as the Financial Services Lab that are shaping CBE’s aggressive approach to educating. The college has implemented several cutting-edge programs that cross traditional boundaries of study and provide real-life learning opportunities.

Jim Hall, the Peter E. Bennett Chair in Business and Economics, and Ed Kay, professor of computer science and engineering, have created an exciting new major that grooms students for future careers --the Computer Science and Business (CSB) degree.

“Current students are aggressively recruited by top consulting and software design firms because they will have completed a degree program unlike any other currently offered,” Hall says.

The CSB major is unique in that it offers a joint degree in business and computer science. This new program was created with the support of Durand and former Dean of Engineering, Mohamed El-Aasser, who recently became Lehigh’s new provost. This program was designed to meet the market demand in the post-Enron corporate world for highly trained computer forensic experts.

Companies are now seeking people trained in both business and computer science in order to meet the demands to comply with new legislation such as the Sarbanes Oxley Act.

“There are experts in business and there are experts in computer science, but there are few that are prolific in both.” Hall says. “Since most computer science applications are designed to solve business problems, this is a tremendous opportunity for a Lehigh CBE graduate to fill the void.”

Feeding a top growth area

According to industry analysts, the need for business graduates with cross-disciplinary training is becoming more apparent each year. Along with computer science, the new field of biopharmaceuticals is one of the economy’s hottest growth areas.

In recognition of this phenomenal change, CBE has developed an MS in Health and Biopharmaceutical Economics.

"The MS in Health and Bio-Pharmaceutical Economics offers individuals with a strong science, pre-med or bio-engineering background the skills needed for pharmaco-economic studies,” says Thomas Hyclak, program director. “The course also prepares students to enter the strategic marketing research and financial analysis in health-related industries."

Coursework focuses on every element needed to address the examination of economic and business issues in the health care supply chain. The major teaches students to analyze the demands for care by individuals from hospitals, doctors and other agencies. Students also study the research and development processes that lead to new medicines and medical treatments.

According to Hyclak, with the introduction of such innovative courses and a continued commitment to examine the market place and its ever-changing needs, Lehigh’s CBE graduates are assured of becoming among the worlds’ best-trained and most sought after employees.

This shift in business education has taken hold and is being led by this leading business college in Pennsylvania. Perhaps the position of the college is best summed up in the words of its dean:

“Our goal is to prepare students for rewarding lives and to help them become contributing members in the business community,” Durand says. “In today’s world, a graduate with an MBA alone is not going to cut it anymore. To be a true player, business graduates require an MBA and more.”

--Kim Plyler

Posted on Monday, December 06, 2004

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