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College of Business and Economics Revamps Core Curriculum

In a continuing effort to increase students’ readiness for the challenges and opportunities they’ll face after graduation, the College of Business and Economics has redesigned its undergraduate core curriculum to put stronger emphasis on business analytics, business communications and leadership.

With CEOs reporting a growing concern about widening skill gaps, the College has recognized the need for students to better understand how to use data as well as to effectively communicate information to managers, colleagues and others.

The new curriculum puts a sharper focus on immersing and engaging undergraduates in job-critical learning earlier in the students’ academic career than in the past.

“Lehigh University has always had a strong core curriculum by continually evaluating the needs of business,” said Kathleen Hanley, chair of the Undergraduate Curriculum Review Committee. “We recognize that individuals must possess strong analytical and communication skills to innovate and lead in the modern world. Our curriculum changes are designed to develop the proficiency our students need to manage cutting-edge information technology, work effectively in teams, and effectively present complex information and ideas.”

The integrated program for first-year students includes an orientation to business foundations and the first course in each of three powerful multi-course sequences that focus on developing skill areas that employers covet—business analytics and decision-making, business communication, and leadership and management.

In students’ junior year, as they hone in on their major specializations, students will again be immersed in more advanced courses in the three essential-skill course sequences to reinforce and enhance what they’ve learned.

“This new core curriculum incorporates the skills necessary for success in an ever-changing business environment while maintaining the fundamental discipline knowledge that undergrads need as they move into their careers and beyond,” said Georgette Chapman Phillips,  the Kevin L. and Lisa A. Clayton Dean of the College of Business and Economics.

The new business analytics and decision-making sequence is designed to give students hands-on experiences in the basics of statistics and programming, but also goes deep into data analyses, techniques and algorithms to teach students how to create effective visualizations and engage in effective decision-making.

“Data is everywhere now, and it’s essential that students be prepared to thrive in this environment,” said Katrina Zalatan, associate dean and director of undergraduate programs in the College of Business and Economics.

The new business communications sequence is designed to help students learn how to translate that data and analyses into effective narratives in order to collaborate with colleagues and sell their ideas effectively. A new first-year course, “Business Communication I,” will begin students’ trajectory in learning to deliver persuasive memos, reports, presentations and other communications. Business Communications II will enhance those communications skills in relation to data, particularly oral communications.

The revamped core curriculum also puts greater emphasis on “people” skills, with the addition of the management course, “Organizational Behavior,” which will orient business students to principles of effective, ethical management. A subsequent “Leadership in Organization” course will allow students to increase their capacity for leadership by growing their self-awareness as well as social and organizational awareness.

All students will be able to apply their learning in capstone courses in each of the College’s three undergraduate degree programs: Business and Economics, Computer Science and Business (CSB), and the Integrated Business and Engineering Honors Program (IBE).

Lehigh students will continue the rigorous practice of taking an intermediate-level, introductory course in every major of study so that they can be exposed to specializations in depth before they select their majors. Students have a staggering array of options for specialization including majors and double majors, Zalatan said, and interdisciplinary degrees in CSB and IBE, and the College’s practice of early, deep immersion will help students to make informed decisions about which business degree and major would be the best fit for them.

Also, said Zalatan, “We will continue our strong focus on the power of perspective and skill that comes from a well-rounded education, requiring substantive engagement with courses outside of business in Lehigh’s College of Arts and Sciences.  Students may also take courses in the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science as part of their business degree.”

Often, she said, students will develop their interests beyond business, earning minors or even a second degree from the other colleges.

The core curriculum changes, approved by faculty, follow the recommendations of the Undergraduate Curriculum Review Committee, which was tasked with revising the core curriculum to better position graduates for the business world following graduation. Committee members included Hanley, professor of finance; Bryan Cloyd, professor of accounting; Charles Stevens, associate professor of management; Joseph Manzo, professor of practice in accounting; Liuba Belkin, associate professor of management; Mary Beth Deily, professor of economics; Nevena Koukova, associate professor of marketing, and Zalatan.

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New core curriculum puts stronger emphasis on business analytics and business communications. Photo: Ryan Hulvat