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From Foucault to Forbes

As a humanities scholar and teacher, I often struggle with how to impart to my students the importance of what Bob Daugherty, Dean of the Forbes School of Business, calls “power skills”: writing, rhetoric, understanding history and context, speaking, etc. I struggle because these skills are powerful and are attributed both to academic and career success (see the book by former Forbes magazine tech reporter, George Anders, You Can do Anything: The Surprising Power of a Useless Liberal Arts Education). But often the promise of immediate professional advancement in, for example, STEM programs overshadows the fundamental benefit of strong interpretation and communication skills. Consequently, when students sit in my language, literature, culture, and philosophy courses - usually part of upper-division general education requirements – they do not sense the inextricable link between the power skills these topics help them sharpen and what, in their minds, their jobs outside of school will be. They feel forced and disengaged.

Therein lies the wisdom of Ashford University’s newly articulated mission, which Bob Daugherty and Iris Lafferty, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, discussed in their keynote for TLC day two. Where institutions often address these critical power skills on an individual course or program level, Ashford now will ensure that students attain them within and through their major-specific courses. The Deans’ Panel keynote and other TLC presentations offered examples of how this will occur:

  • Realigning Ashford course outcomes to NACE competencies, such as critical thinking and oral/written communications;

  • Organizing doctoral programs according to content-specific verticals, thereby integrating them into larger college support structures;

  • Creating assignments that allow students to see a continuous context among their courses and to their resumes (see Dr. Nate Pritts’s presentation, in which he shares examples of how he does this in his film courses).

At the beginning of this keynote, Iris Lafferty asked, “How are our students engaged and purposeful at work, and how do we teach that?” Later in the discussion, Bob Daugherty proposed an answer: “We can discuss Herodotus in our business courses.”

And that’s the heartening lesson this presentation gave us. Iris’s question is critical in higher education – both online and on-ground. And applying an answer like Bob’s to our work gives us a clear path to concretely connecting for our students seemingly abstract curricula to the “real world” of working in and contributing to society.

Teresa Kuruc, PhD

Director, Faculty Support and Development

Ashford University

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