Edit desk: Discussing the benefits of a new integrated program

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Carly Nyman

Carly Nyman

As I have progressed through the business minor program, I have realized the value in a business education as enrichment to my liberal arts degree. As a journalism major hoping to enter the public relations field or a related communications industry, I have found my marketing class very intriguing this semester, and it has made me wish I could have easily majored in both journalism and marketing.

I’m not the only student who has found this taste of business to be a complement to an arts and sciences major in terms of my future career. About 90 percent of the arts and sciences students who graduated from the Business Minor Program would recommend the program to other students as a way to improve their career opportunities.

This statistic got me thinking — why hasn’t Lehigh taken the relationship between College of Business and Economics and the College of Arts and Sciences a step further beyond the business minor program? I believe Lehigh should create an integrated honors program that marries these two colleges for students interested in a dual degree.

There is currently integrated business and engineering, integrated engineering and arts and sciences, and computer science and business. However, there is no program to link the business and arts and sciences colleges. These existing programs are strong models for a fourth interdisciplinary program as they successfully demonstrate how the school can develop a business and arts and sciences program. This type of multifaceted degree makes students more marketable to employers, which is evident in high job placements rates from IBE, IDEAS and CSB. So why not continue the trend and make another successful integrative program for business and arts and sciences?

There are various logical degree combinations for students that would be easier to attain with some type of integrated program. For example, international relations and finance would allow a student to fashion their own international finance major, thus setting them apart from other job candidates who only have a background in one of those fields.

Psychology and marketing is another unique pair of majors that tie into each other. Marketers have to understand the customer and how to best promote a product, so it would be beneficial to understand consumer behavior from a psychology standpoint. Having diverse insight into one’s work can improve performance and thinking in the workplace.

Currently, students can’t simply major in these two colleges. They have to petition to pursue a dual degree but don’t really receive much guidance past that initial petition. There is no formal program or advisory on how to best achieve both degrees. It can be difficult to pick classes each semester because an advisor in one school isn’t familiar with the requirements of the other school. By introducing an integrated program there would be advisors who would have an understanding for both schools and could aid students.

Additionally, as a declared dual degree student majoring in CBE and Arts and Sciences, students are not allowed to overload on credits past 18 credits. This obstacle makes it even more difficult to graduate on time. I believe this is unfair because students in the existing interdisciplinary honors programs get to bypass several requirements.

A combination of a liberal arts and business education is a common discussion in academia. Bentley University in Massachusetts sets an example because students don’t have to choose a distinct academic path of either liberal arts or business. A Wall Street Journal article explains that at Bentley undergraduates are required to take introductory business courses before choosing any major, whether that is accounting or philosophy. Consequently, approximately 20 percent of students will choose to double major in both business and liberal arts.

Last spring, Lehigh has a introduced a new initiative called Data X that is helping the university move towards a more interdisciplinary light. According to the website, Data X is “a strategic university initiative that will significantly expand Lehigh’s capacities for teaching and learning in computer and data science, while increasing access to such courses for students, regardless of their major.” The values behind this program are what Lehigh needs to continue to embrace in order to make students well-rounded and help them achieve a dual degree that they care about and can make them unique in the job market.

Recently, a topic of discussion on campus has been Lehigh’s declining ranking in the 2016 U.S. News edition of national universities. Lehigh dropped seven places from the 2015 ranking – from No. 40 to No. 47. While rankings are not be-all and end-all, I feel like they do play a factor in applicants’ decision-making process and it does impact the reputation of the school in some eyes.

I believe we need to be proactive on how to educate our students and continue improving Lehigh’s reputation. Introducing another integrative program would encourage more double majoring across these two colleges. It would help these dual-degree Lehigh students during their time here at Lehigh, while simultaneously helping Lehigh set itself a part from other universities nationwide.

Lehigh would be offering its prospective students a unique interdisciplinary program that not many other schools offer. Additionally, it could give Lehigh graduates a new, competitive edge in the job market. We want our students to be the most competitive they can be when applying for jobs and we are hindering an opportunity for many.

So as I continue on in my business minor, I stand with just my foot in the door of the business school. With no easy way to immerse in both colleges, many students choose the simple option of just majoring within one. If Lehigh could continue its interdisciplinary dual-degree model that it has used for so many other degree combinations, then Lehigh students could have the opportunity to have the unique perspective of technical and analytical thinking as well as stand out to employers.

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