Insight Into Liberal Arts Education in Business Schools: a Literature Review

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Insight Into Liberal Arts Education in
Business Schools: A Literature Review

BUSI 610

December 17, 2011

Abstract

This literature review directly addresses the growing debate as to the integration of liberal arts studies into a business degree program. This paper will look at the historical context that the debate has followed as well as outline major factors of the debate and how they relate to each other. Finally, based on these literary finding, suggestions will be made as to the advancement of research regarding the topic as well as future areas of exploration.

Insight Into Liberal Arts Education in
Business Schools: A Literature Review

Introduction
Liberal arts is best defined as an the collegiate education comprising of knowledge in the fields of arts, natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities (Hall, 1968). Numerous scholars and researchers have reviewed the effects this education has on the outcome of business students majoring in all fields of study from accounting, economics, marketing, to management and have found a surprisingly common rationale: liberal arts has a positive impact on the education of business students in all fields. The debate lies, however, in the implementation of the liberal art education as it relates to the fields of business.

There have been studies that suggest that the best form of implementation is to integrate liberal arts education directly into the course material while other scholars and researchers have argued that a more separated approach should be taken in order to achieve the most beneficial result. Despite the amount of research conducted, however, there is seemingly no end to the flow of research conducted.

This literature review will examine the historical background with regards to the topic to hopefully shed light into the debate. As the historical view of the debate shows, a great deal of change has occurred in the last 75 years as to the focus of education in business schools across the nation. Whether it be the inflow of GI’s from World War II or the literary influences of New York Times Bestselling books, education and the implementation and removal of the liberal arts structure has undergone significant changes.

This literary review will also look into the debate of whether to bridge practical and liberal arts courses or to replace the courses all together with courses designed to teach both ideas mutually. Another debate will be discussed regarding the amount to which theories, whether managerial, behavioral, or organizational theories should be or need to be discussed in light of the liberal arts integration. We will examine the current trends of liberal arts integration into the field of business taught in higher education as well as point out predictions as to how the future looks for the research of liberal arts integration. Finally, we will conclude by summarizing the findings of this literature review and point out areas for further research as well as shed light on the solutions for conducting research in the future.

A Historical View
A historical view of the debate between a liberal arts view and a practicality based education points out an uprising in the argument during the 1930’s as GI’s were found to be flooding college classrooms in an attempt to fulfill their GI Bill (Obermueller, 1993). GI’s were not interested in a theoretical based view of business education, as they were more interested in landing entry-level jobs were practicality was the focus. This push of colleges to adopt the practicality based education model led the Ford Foundation to conduct a study looking into the effectiveness of this change (Schlossman, Sedlak, & Wechler, 1998). In the 1950’s, the Ford Foundation, after much research and deliberation, concluded that a return to a greater liberal arts focus was needed (1998).

Although the research concluded that the education programs in the field of business needed a greater focus on...
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