Faculty Meeting News and Notes: September 12, 2019

Heather Odle-Dusseau (L) and Bennett Bruce, who presented the proposal on behalf of the Management Department (Photos courtesy of Gettysburg College)

Heather Odle-Dusseau (L) and Bennett Bruce, two members of the faculty who presented the proposal on behalf of the Management Department (Photos courtesy of Gettysburg College).

By Benjamin Pontz, Editor-in-Chief

After celebration and introduction consumed the Gettysburg College faculty’s first meeting of the year, the faculty returned to a familiar topic — a proposal to add a business major — as the primary agenda item for its second meeting, which was held Thursday afternoon.

Management Department Proposes Changing OMS to BOM

When the Management Department developed a business major proposal last year, they suggested an interdisciplinary approach that required business to be a second major and for students to make explicit connections to their first major in their study of business. After the faculty spent several meetings last spring discussing the proposal, several amendments — including one that would have prevented pairing a business major with the department’s current offering, a major in Organization and Management Studies (OMS) — were poised to come to the floor, and the department decided to withdraw the motion rather than proceed to voting on the amendments, which the department found objectionable.

The new proposal takes a markedly different tack, completely restructuring the department’s current OMS major and creating a two-track major called “Business, Organizations & Management” (BOM). After taking five core courses, students will choose to concentrate either in the study of business, which includes courses in finance, marketing, and business analytics as well as three elective courses, or in the study of organizations and management, which includes courses in organization theory, research methods, systems thinking or decision making, and three elective courses. All students would take a capstone and complete a “critical action-learning” component such as studying abroad, completing an internship, or doing a community engagement project.  The business minor would continue to be offered for non-BOM majors.

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Read more about the history of the study of business at Gettysburg College

Before the floor opened to discussion, Academic Policy & Program Committee (APPC) Chair Dr. Amy Evrard, Associate Professor and Chair of Anthropology, said that APPC voted to support the proposal and sponsored the motion. Last spring, APPC decided not to co-sponsor the motion for a new major, which came solely from the Management Department.

“That lack of support had nothing to do with a lack of support for the general idea of a business major, nor did it indicate the lack of a sense that a business major would be an appropriate offering at a liberal arts college like ours,” Evrard said of APPC’s decision not to co-sponsor the motion last spring. “It had a lot to do with the timing and complexity of that proposal.”

Of the new proposal, Evrard said that APPC was impressed that the department is still seeking to develop courses that would count towards the major from other departments (seven courses proposed after a $2,000 incentive offered to faculty members last year have been approved for development and are expected to reach APPC this year) and that, overall, the proposal meets the requirements of a Gettysburg College degree program.

“From a curricular standpoint, there was no reason not to [support the proposal],” she said. “We appreciate the critical approach to business that the Management Department is planning to take. This is not a business training program. It’s not what some of us call a pre-professional training program. We’re convinced that it’s a program in the critical study of business and the critical study of applications of business in a real-world environment.”

After Evrard’s presentation, Provost Chris Zappe rose to state his support for the proposal and thank the Management Department for its ongoing work. He proceeded to read a statement from Vice President of Enrollment and Educational Services Barbara Fritze, who was not in attendance. The statement, which began with a lengthy discussion of the enrollment challenges that liberal arts institutions face amid oncoming demographic challenges associated with an impending decline in the number of students attending college, said, in part, “Decisions about the curriculum are the purview of this body, the faculty. That said, an important consideration as you weigh this decision is that approving a business major would enable our enrollment effort to compete in a very challenging marketplace.”

From there, Dr. Heather Odle-Dusseau, Chair of the Management Department, and Lecturer of Management Bennett Bruce came forward to field questions on the proposal. In stark contrast to discussions last spring, no faculty members raised any substantive concerns, and most of the commentary — which included indications of support from Sunderman Conservatory Director James Day and Professor of History Michael Birkner — asked procedural questions or probed details about the process that led to the proposal’s evolution.

Chair and Associate Professor of Mathematics Benjamin Kennedy asked why the double major component was dropped. Odle-Dusseau responded that the change acknowledged a concern that members of the faculty raised last spring that students double-majoring in Business and OMS would take a large proportion of their courses from a single department.

Bruce added that the initial proposal sought to maintain the current OMS major as is, but that, after “soul searching,” the department concluded that developing a new single major with two tracks was necessary.

“To be very blunt, I don’t think we were ready to rip apart our current major when this current came up,” he said, noting that the OMS major recently went through a successful external review.

After the faculty’s reaction last spring, that position no longer appeared tenable.

“We realized, to do this correctly, we did need to make one major that addressed all the issues that we talked about,” he added.

The impact of restructuring the major on enrollment in the department’s courses as well as the major and business minor remains unclear. Bruce speculated that, overall, there would probably be more BOM majors than there currently are OMS majors, but cautioned, “It’s really hard to determine how much the overall major is going to grow, but I think it’s going to grow some. We’ll just have to see as it goes.”

The proposal would, however, likely require the addition of at least two new faculty members.

President Bob Iuliano said that preliminary conversations have already begun with members of the Board of Trustees and other alumni and that he is optimistic some new philanthropy will be available to support the new faculty positions that the proposal will require.

Odle-Dusseau said that, if approved, students could begin taking courses towards the new major during the 2020-21 academic year as the department can currently staff many of the courses involved while hiring takes place to support some of the upper-level business courses in marketing as well as the required core course in ethics. The Class of 2023, thus, would be able to pursue the major if it is approved this year.

The faculty could vote on the proposal as soon as its next meeting.

Future Agenda Items & Suicide Prevention Training

Aside from discussing the business major, Faculty Council Chair Dr. Jocelyn Swigger, Associate Professor of Music, gave an overview of topics that would be on future faculty meeting agendas, which could include a review of the college’s core curriculum, a report from the Student Enrollment & Retention Committee and Faculty Finance Committee on enrollment projections, addressing “concerns about diversity, equity, and inclusion” in teaching evaluations, and a report on the online courses that ran this summer.

Executive Director of Health and Counseling Services Dr. Kathy Bradley proceeded to share statistics from a survey that the college conducted last spring on students’ mental health as well as opportunities for faculty to receive training in suicide prevention and “Mental Health First Aid.” Bradley characterized many of the findings from the Healthy Minds Study as “alarming” and suggested that some of the data was “surprising.” Within the past year, 40 percent of Gettysburg students have received counseling, 11 percent of students engage in deliberate self harm such as cutting, 9 percent of students have thought seriously about suicide, and about 5 percent of students attempted suicide, Bradley said.

The Healthy Minds Survey and associated suicide prevention training — called QPR (question, persuade, refer) — are supported by a $99,875 grant the college received from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The faculty’s next meeting is on Thursday, October 3.

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Author: Benjamin Pontz

Benjamin Pontz '20 serves as editor-in-chief of The Gettysburgian. Previously, he served as a staff writer, event coverage coordinator, news editor, and managing news editor. During his tenure, he has written more than 150 articles, and he led the team that won first place in the 2017 Keystone Press Awards for ongoing news coverage of Robert Spencer's visit to Gettysburg College and co-wrote the package of editorials that won first place in the 2018 Keystone Press Awards. Ben is a political science and public policy double major with a minor in music, and he reads up to seven newspapers daily. Follow him on Twitter @benpontz.

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