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Putting liberal arts in a business education

(10/30/08 9:00am)

By NANDANIE KHILALL Staff Writer PSYC 001. ENGL 100. SPAN 120. You might want to think twice before pegging courses like these as part of a liberal arts student's course schedule. According to The Wall Street Journal, undergraduate business students are increasingly taking courses like these to help add a new dimension to the skills learned in their business classes. At Wharton, the undergraduate curriculum requires students to take a broad range of liberal arts courses anyway, said Wharton's Director of Academic Affairs and Advising Scott Romeika. In fact, about 40 percent of Wharton's curriculum requires students to take courses in other schools. Requirements like Science and Technology allow students to show interest in non-business classes. For instance, PSYC 001, Introduction to Experimental Psychology, is one of the more popular courses Wharton students take to fulfill the requirement, said Romeika. "Our students are primarily here for business, but are exposed to lots of other disciplines, which allows them to pretty easily do a minor," he added. 15-20 percent of students complete minors outside of Wharton, with the most popular choices being Psychology, Political Science and language or culturally-based minors. Economics is another department populated by Wharton students - after they take the required ECON 010, they go to the College for upper-level courses. Courses like ECON 237: Urban Fiscal Policy and ECON 236: Health Care are the most popular, said Petra Todd, the Undergraduate chairwoman of the Economics department. This set of popular non-Wharton classes is similar to a list generated by the WSJ in which Economics, Foreign Language, Psychology, English, and Statistics were among the best non-business classes for business students. Liberal arts courses are part of a well-rounded business education because they build a foundation for how to apply skills learned in strictly business courses, said Romeika. "You can't really understand business completely if you don't understand the world around it," he said. "Psychology is a great way to understand human behavior and human emotion, which obviously plays a role in the business world." The integration of business and liberal arts is important for students like Wharton junior Arun Das, who has taken liberal arts courses in subjects like South Asia Studies and Urban Studies. "I felt a practical application of concepts I learned in Management 100 would help me internalize notions of leadership, service, and business," said Das, speaking about an Urban Studies seminar. With next semester's schedule already on everyone's minds, advisors say a balanced Wharton student's schedule would include three business courses, and two non-business courses a semester. "There's rarely a business student who takes all business courses in one semester," said Romeika.