Carson College faculty and staff discuss RUGBEE during an all college meeting.
To reach our goal of becoming the first choice for students seeking a business education from a Pacific Northwest university, the Carson College of Business (CCB) over the past two years has focused on determining what a twenty-first-century education should look like. What knowledge, skills, and characters do our students need most to be successful?
To find out, we asked eight great teachers across all CCB locations and departments, along with our director of the Carson Center for Student Success, to serve on the “RUGBEE” task force. RUGBEE stands for Revision of the Undergraduate Business Education and Experience. RUGBEE began this task by reading widely to see what the best teaching and learning practices are, conducting focus groups with employers in the Pacific Northwest, such as CougsFirst!, and listening carefully to our National Board of Advisors.
At far too many universities, students quickly forget the vast majority of what they learned, often within weeks of the final exam. We not only want our graduates to know and remember much more detail much longer, we actually want them to be able to do things and be the kind of people employers want to hire. Therefore, for the twenty-first-century business education, we are redesigning our goals for what our students will learn (and remember) and what our graduates will do, using a “Know-Do-Be” framework.
Specifically, students need to know how business should be conducted, given that research shows that many popular practices are not best practices, before they begin practicing doing certain business activities. Once these activities are practiced long enough, they become ingrained habits that are characteristic of good employees our students will be when they are hired.
New Learning Goals Emphasize Importance of Soft Skills
We discovered most employers laud the technical skills Carson Cougs have and appreciate their scrappiness and willingness to take on any task to get the job done. We also discovered that Carson Cougs—and, really, business graduates everywhere—need much work on their soft skills. After all, it’s not enough to know what the right technical thing is to do; one has to convince others to do it. Convincing requires good communication and collaboration skills, and behaving ethically. Thus, RUGBEE drafted a new set of learning goals (reinforced through the Know-Do-Be framework) that emphasizes soft skills and vetted it through the entire college and National Board of Advisors before the college voted and approved it in 2017. Upon implementation, every Carson Coug will have achieved these six learning goals when they graduate from our new curriculum:
- Act ethically and professionally
- Make theory-based and data-driven decisions
- Identify, assess, and initiate opportunities to create value
- Gain a global business perspective and be sensitive to and respectful of cultural differences
- Communicate clearly and persuasively, both orally and in writing
- Lead a team and act as an effective team member
New Curriculum and Cocurricular Experience
Once we established the learning goals, the next step was to design a new curriculum and cocurricular experience—the activities students participate in when not in class—so Carson Cougs really can know, do, and be all these things when they graduate. RUGBEE presented to the whole college and National Board of Advisors the first draft of a new core curriculum and cocurricular experience. The whole college is providing feedback. People will vote on the finalized content and submit it to WSU’s faculty senate for final approval this fall so we can begin offering the first year of the new program in fall 2019.
So, what are we proposing in the new curriculum and cocurriculum? Here are the highlights:
- Cap all courses at 70 students in Pullman, just like we do at our non-Pullman campuses. Such a cap will permit teaching methods other than nonstop lecture, such as simulations, case studies, role-playing exercises, and so forth. With 70 or fewer students, professors will know students’ names and call on them, and students will know each other. This is how we engage students and create unforgettable learning experiences.
- Have students officially major or “certify” in business earlier, at the end of their freshman year versus at the end of their sophomore year as they do now.
- Create a new sequence of required freshman courses that help students select a major, learn about a variety of business activities and opportunities, and begin learning professional development skills.
- Create a new sequence of required sophomore courses that introduce students to each of the six learning goals.
- Require cocurriculum of professional development experiences and high-impact practices, such as networking or internships, that will not only round out social skills, but position students to make good career choices earlier.
Technical and Soft Skills a Winning Combination
We are excited to get started on these changes! We look forward to offering our students an even more engaging experience and watching them develop not only their technical skills but also their soft skills. This is the right twenty-first-century education. As the twenty-first century has gotten underway, robots and computers are increasingly taking over more and more technical tasks, but they are still far away from competing with people on tasks that require soft skills. This is where Carson Cougs will reap the advantage, and this is how the Carson College of Business becomes the first choice for students seeking a business education in the Pacific Northwest.