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BW Businessworld

Liberal Arts In MBA Classroom

Dr Ranjan Banerjee, Dean, SPJIMR clarifies the reason behind introducing a new course in Management and Liberal Arts and how it might benefit the MBA students of today

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In today's complex business environment of cross-disciplinary competence, it has become imperative for students to understand and learn beyond the hardcore textual knowledge.

Traditionally an MBA (Master of Business Administration) degree is usually only connected with finance and management that deals with numbers and business.

According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, a liberal arts education is "an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture, and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest. A liberal education helps students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings."

However today, decision making requires more complex understanding and a lens of creativity which can help participants to examine the opportunities and challenges they will face as they prepare to take up managerial roles.

In the wake of same, SPJIMR recently introduced a new course in Management and Liberal Arts that has brought Indian and Western classics to the MBA classroom, opening up newer perspectives for students of management on subjects like creativity, quality, aesthetics and dialogue.

In an email interview, Dr Ranjan Banerjee, Dean, SPJIMR clarifies the reason behind introducing a new course in Management and Liberal Arts and how it might benefit the MBA students of today.

What was the idea behind introducing a new course in Management and Liberal Arts at your campus in Mumbai?
Students need to be equipped with perspectives to cope with the challenges of tomorrow. During our last strategy retreat, we did an outside-in analysis where we spoke to alumni, CEOs and recruiters on the expectation from tomorrow's MBAs. One of the things that emerged was that we need to enhance students’ ability to connect the dots, see interactions across disciplines and see connections with the larger society and economy. The course on liberal arts has elements from history, philosophy and literature and broadens thinking, enhances awareness at a larger level, creates fundamental questioning and strengthens the 'right brain'.

How do you think this course will help MBA students of today?
MBA courses have focussed largely on analysis and techniques and have focussed mostly on left brained approaches. The need of today is for a whole brained manager, who combines intuition with analysis, accepts that there may not be one right answer etc. This course, in tandem with other courses like design thinking, helps to create the whole brained manager with a keen understanding of both self and others.

With a new campus for the first time in the last 30 years in New Delhi, will we be able to see certain different programs that would better equip the students of today's competitive market?
We are starting our campus in Kasturba Gandhi Marg with a focus largely on executive education and lifelong learning. Knowledge and skills need periodic up-gradation today, with a rapidly changing business environment and the evolving digital world impacting every aspect of life. Our courses in Delhi will focus on equipping working professionals (in both corporates and MSMEs) to become managers and leaders of tomorrow without having to leave their current jobs.

Yes, the programs will differ from other programs in that market because of a) the stress on emerging areas like digital, design thinking etc. b) a strong orientation to context c) applicability and projects that directly translate to ‘on the job’ learning d) The SPJIMR advantage -we are extremely strong on teaching excellence, and many faculties are proven practitioners-this implies a strong balance of theory and practice in the classroom. e) A strong element of peer learning and experiential learning f) a focus on learnability- equipping the student for continuous self-learning beyond the program.

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