New King’s partnership combines humanities and business

Deal with Western’s Ivey business school aims to strengthen future executives’ analytic skills

Fourth-year King's student Stephen Delaney says he wishes the partnership between King's and the Ivey School had existed when he entered university. (Photo: Phoebe Powell)

Fourth-year student Stephen Delaney always knew he wanted a career in business. His parents, both of whom work in finance, have been teaching him the ropes since he was a child.

But when it came time to choose a university Delaney elected to skip business school and take the Foundation Year Program (FYP) at the University of King's College to get a broader education.

"I always balked at the idea of doing a focused undergrad program like a commerce degree," says Delaney.

FYP is an interdisciplinary program that does not separate philosophy, English, history and sociology. Instead students study significant texts in the history of the Western tradition chronologically in one core class.

"FYP seemed like a great way to ease into a university career. I hoped that an education in philosophy would allow me to explore a wide range of disciplines and perhaps give me direction," says Delaney.

A new partnership King's has formed with the University of Western Ontario's Richard Ivey School of Business is meant to cater to students like Delaney, who want to take a liberal arts education before they commit to a business program.

The Ivey School offers an Honours of Business Administration (HBA) program. Students in the program take courses of their choice in the first two years of their degree, and for their third and fourth years, move to the business school to take the HBA requirements.
Traditionally, the Ivey School has granted advanced entry status into the HBA program to students applying to Western.

Beginning this year, Ivey and King's have established a partnership in which students accepted to King's are able to apply for advanced entry status into Ivey's HBA program.

New opportunity for liberal arts students

The Ivey School wanted to attract a broader range of students to the HBA program to ensure diverse interests were represented.

"We were very impressed with what was being taught in the Foundation Year Program," says Rod White, a professor of Ivey's HBA program. "It offers a broad liberal arts background. That's something we'd like more students to come to Ivey with. People from a range of backgrounds have different methods of thinking and analyzing, and liberal arts students bring a unique perspective."

King's welcomed the opportunity to team up with the Ivey School because administrators recognized a chance to attract a different demographic to the university.

"We're hoping that students who are the first generation to go to university might be attracted to this option," says King's Registrar Elizabeth Yeo. "Often, students taking out loans feel more pressure to take career-related programs, though they may be more interested in a broad degree. We're hoping that by allowing students to start broad, then continue in a more career-oriented program, we can attract a more diverse student body."

This year, King's has one first-year student enrolled in the partnered program. Yeo is pleased with this, because the partnership hadn't been finalized by peak recruitment times, and so it was not properly promoted to prospective students last year.

Yeo believes the number of applicants to the program will increase this year.

Philosophy in business

Peggy Heller, the director of the Foundation Year Program, believes the partnership between King's and the Ivey School shows the adaptability of the skills taught in a liberal arts education.

"The Foundation Year prepares students for everything," says Heller. "Both in terms of the knowledge students gain and the habits of thinking they develop, the program really prepares students to excel in a wide range of disciplines, including business. Students learn to look at the world and their own assumptions critically."

For his part, Delaney is pleased with his decision to take a liberal arts undergraduate degree. He intends to apply to MBA programs after he graduates, but he wishes the partnership between King's and the Ivey School had existed when he entered university.

"To have been able to attend two schools that are renowned in Canada within the span of an undergrad degree, especially two schools that are respected for such radically different disciplines, that would have been a huge asset," says Delaney.

Heller says a liberal arts education would be an asset in the business world, and she has seen evidence that suggests business schools are beginning to recognize the value of a strong liberal arts foundation.

At a conference last year, Heller spoke with a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who told her the school was going to introduce a core text program modelled after Harvard University's business program and similar to FYP.

Harvard recognized that for its business students, a broader humanities background would enable them to think more creatively about business.

"MIT decided to follow suit, because the president said he was tired of MIT grads working for Harvard grads," Heller says. "Business schools are slowly coming around to the idea that humanities are valuable, and that business students could gain a lot from a foundation in the humanities."


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