UST's Integrated Approach to Undergraduate Business Education

The recent Wall Street Journal article on shortcoming in undergraduate business majors reflects that medium’s bias in favor of so-called “brand name” schools at the expense of the many outstanding colleges and universities that take the role of business leadership far more seriously.  While the Journal touts some schools for “taking the hint” to expand their undergraduate business curricula, it totally ignores schools such as the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business, whose undergraduate business majors have long been at the leading edge of this so-called new trend.

Rather than compartmentalize the business curriculum into a series of disciplinary “silos,” the University of St. Thomas takes a fully integrated approach to assure critical thinking, problem-solving, social awareness and principled decision-making skills are acquired along with the expected strong foundations in all the business disciplines.  Every undergraduate St. Thomas business major takes the full liberal arts core—just as do the Philosophy, History and Political Science majors—plus the full spectrum of business courses expected in any AACSB accredited business school program.  This includes English Literature, Social Science, Physical Science, Foreign Language, Philosophy (3 courses) and Theology (3 courses).  Moreover, these are not merely the lower division general education courses some schools require before students get to the “real stuff” of business, but rather these requirements include a full spectrum of upper division courses on the liberal arts right beside the liberal arts majors.  Indeed, the senior level Theology course is team taught by a theology professor and a business professor who together assure that students learn how to integrate both aspects into their professional and personal lives.

Additionally, St. Thomas business professors engage in a program called “writing across the curriculum” in which students learn the nuances of creating effective written communications with specific business disciplines.  Finally, the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business was the first—and may still be the only—business school with a mandatory, faculty-supervised service course in which students contribute 40 hours pro bono using their business knowledge and skills to help nonprofit organizations improve their operations, including reflective assignments on the impact of their work.

The result:  Highly principled global business leadership candidates who think critically, act wisely and work skillfully to advance the common good throughout their professional careers.  It should come as no surprise that employers know this and love our graduates, and no surprise that Dick Schulze, founder of Best Buy, recently noted that organizations looking for the best in business leadership should “hire a Tommie.”

Christopher Puto, is dean of the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas