Jeff Nesteruk, Franklin & Marshall College – Humanities and Business

NesterukWhat do the humanities have to teach the business sector?

Jeff Nesteruk, Professor of Legal Studies at Franklin & Marshall College, describes the power of stories and why businesses need to tell better ones to survive in today’s environment.

Jeffrey Nesteruk is a Professor of Legal Studies at Franklin & Marshall College.  A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, he has written widely on corporate law, business ethics, and liberal education.  He has previously served as chair of the Department of Business, Organizations, and Society at Franklin & Marshall College and director of the College’s Center for Liberal Arts and Society. In addition to his scholarly writing, he has contributed personal essays to such national publications as the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Philadelphia Inquirer and such higher education venues as the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Michigan and has received a Dorsett Fellowship from the Institute for the Study of Applied and Professional Ethics at Dartmouth College. He has also served as a Zicklin Research Fellow at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Most recently, he has been part of the Social Science Research Council’s Measuring College Learning Project, coauthoring the Project’s white paper on the future of the business major. He is currently leading a Teagle Foundation’s study among Franklin and Marshall College, Bucknell University, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania examining how to bring liberal arts content, skills, and pedagogies to the study of business. Now in his 22nd year of teaching at F&M, he is enjoying his job as much as ever

Humanities and Business

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Dystopian novels and sustainable business. Improvisational dance and entrepreneurship. Theories of justice and corporate law.  Don’t think these topics have much to do with each other? Think again. These sorts of unexpected combinations may be the future of business education. At least if a growing group of academics at colleges and universities across the country has anything to say about it.

So what are we finding? In a word, business may need new stories if it genuinely wants to be sustainable. Dance has something to teach us about creativity in organizations. Applying corporate law rules without a larger sense of justice means many of business’ stakeholders will be left behind. 

Business leaders today aren’t just launching companies; they’re envisioning and then creating new worlds. There is a reason they call it the Internet of Everything. Ubiquitous connectivity may mean less waiting for a cup of coffee, but will it also lessen our capacity for patience? It may become easier to monitor our homes while we’re away, but will we then do so more compulsively in order to feel secure? And if we spend more time feeling secure, what will we spend less time doing? In this technologically integrated world, will we feel differently about our personal privacy, think differently about our social relationships?

Given this larger role, future entrepreneurs deserve a more intellectually capacious education, one informed by the values and perspectives of liberal learning. Seeing the many ways in which the decisions they make will affect our lives in the years to come, we should be doing our best to insure they get it.

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