Higher education with higher purpose.

Winter 2013

From The Director

By Dan Barlow

Experiential Learning and the Liberal Arts

Dan Barlow

Where is Roberts Wesleyan’s Undergraduate Business Program with respect to experiential learning and the liberal arts? Courses that are core to the business program that are considered liberal arts include Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Personal Economics, Organizational Behavior, and The Leadership Challenge. These courses are considered liberal arts courses because they are theoretical in nature and not primarily application oriented. In this respect, the courses within the Undergraduate Business Program are broader than those that would be offered at a vocational training institute.

The liberal arts are core to a Roberts Wesleyan business degree. Instead of focusing primarily on hands-on applications, the courses are designed to broaden one’s experience so that one can be prepared for a lifetime of learning. A vocational education may be relevant today but become out of date quickly. On the other hand, a liberal arts education is designed to develop a student’s critical thinking skills along with communication skills that will be useful in any situation.

Courses at Roberts Wesleyan in Accounting, Marketing, and Management are application oriented. Since they are offered at a liberal arts institution, they are presented as both theory and practice. For example, students in Principles of Accounting learn how to read and to prepare financial statements. In the same way a context is given for Marketing and Management courses but specific applications are addressed so that students graduating from the business program have the knowledge and skills that will prepare them for the marketplace.

How does experiential learning fit in with the Roberts’ business program? Students learn much in their business courses by doing. Course projects that require students to prepare financial statements or write marketing plans are experiential in that they imitate what business professionals do in the marketplace. These projects require students to apply their knowledge of mathematics, and use their skills obtained in writing and speech classes. Roberts business students have many courses that require them to apply information and skills acquired in liberal arts courses.

To supplement what the students are learning in their business courses, Roberts requires all undergraduate business students to take an internship where they demonstrate their business knowledge and skills in a business setting. However, their communication skills and interpersonal skills are also put to the test in their internships. What the students learned in their liberal arts courses is as useful as what they learned in their major courses.

SIFE Enactus provides a second way that students can participate in experiential learning at Roberts. Working on tax returns within the inner city via the CASH program or making business loans to small businesses in Guatemala or India provide students with experiences that require them to apply what they have learned in their business courses. Students gain confidence when they see that what they are learning in the classroom has real life applications.

So, experiential learning is at the heart of what we do in the Department of Undergraduate Business at Roberts Wesleyan. Our education is not only theoretical but also practical in that it provides opportunities for students to apply what they are learning in the real world.

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