Since outbreak of economic crisis, business schools rethinking curricula

U-Wire and U-Wire

As the federal government bails out many of the nation’s companies and financial institutions, questions have arisen about the integrity of the people leading American businesses. In the face of these calls for a change in the way business operates, the University of Michigan Ross School of Business is altering the way it teaches its future business leaders. An article published in The New York Times on March 5 suggested business schools nationwide are adjusting their curricula to instill better business values in their students. The Ross School of Business is among these schools, according to professors and students in the school. But while school officials say the downturn is often discussed in Business School classrooms, they report that there are no immediate plan’s to alter the schools curricula. Valerie Suslow, associate dean for degree programs at the Business School, said the school has always tried to promote ethical business practices to its students. According to Suslow, the school has consistently focused on teaching the implications of management decisions. ‘The best business schools are serious about instilling a sense of responsibility and ethics,’ Suslow said. ‘But in the real world, unfortunately, there are sometimes tremendous financial and social incentives that can work against what we have tried to instill as good leadership practices.’ Suslow said because the events surrounding the current financial crisis are still unfolding, no new courses have been created specifically on the topic. But while no concrete changes have taken place, Suslow said an overall shift in attitude is underway, as business schools across the country receive criticism because of the current crisis. ‘I don’t think the financial crisis can be blamed on business schools,’ Suslow said. ‘But we can and should work harder to understand how best to integrate an understanding of good leadership into the business school experience.’ While new courses have not been formed, professors in the school are using the economy as a teaching opportunity, according to Suslow. She said professors gear their curricula to the issues facing the business world today, which includes ethical decisions in the workplace. Mario Macis, an assistant professor in Business, Economics and Public Policy, took the current economic state into account in the creation of his curriculum this semester. ‘Certainly the fact that we are in an economic downturn affected my choice of topics,’ Macis said. Macis is currently teaching a curriculum based on CEO incentives and responsible actions in the workplace. Decisions made by CEOs in major corporations, like the bonuses doled out by executives at American International Group, have been cited as a major factor in the need for government aid as of late. Joel Slemrod, an Economics and Business School professor, said he often pulls his curriculum from current events. The economic difficulties occurring worldwide have allowed for more opportunities to discuss recent events in his classroom, he said. ‘We always try to relate the curriculum with what’s going on now,’ he said. ‘The day-to-day events and the state of the economy are even more prevalent than they used to be.’ Business junior Amanda Vogelsang, said she sees no significant change in the teaching styles in her classes, but added that her instructors have started gearing classroom discussions toward ethical business decisions in the future. ‘I don’t really notice any large change in the classroom,’ she said, ‘although many of my professors have emphasized the importance of responsible business practices.’