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New Undergraduate Prerequisite Course Features Sustainability

BUSI 100

The Undergraduate Business Program added a new prerequisite course for undergraduate students applying to Kenan-Flagler Business School. The course is organized using some important tenets of sustainability: People, Planet, Profit and Purpose. We asked Shimul Melwani, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior and Associate Dean of the Undergraduate Business Program, about this new BUSI 100 course and the motivations behind it.

1. What is BUSI 100? What’s the purpose behind it?
BUSI 100 (Introduction to Business: People, Profits, Planet and Purpose) is a new pre-requisite course for the business major and minor. It is one of four pre-requisite courses, and the only one taught at Kenan-Flagler (currently by Dr. Brad Hendricks). This is a liberal-education course focusing on the nature of business and its historical, philosophical and current role in today’s world. It covers the world of business, the major disciplines and how those disciplines fit together as well as how business can drive positive change in a rapidly changing world. The purpose of the course is to introduce UNC students to all the business school has to offer and allow them to begin to understand how the study of business is more than a singular focus on profits.

2. How does BUSI 100 fit with and advance the culture of the business school?
Many students come to university with the broader goal of making a positive impact on the world, hoping to answer, some of life’s big questions: What is a positive impact? How do I contribute to it? How can I tell if I have led a good life? Sadly, for many students, particularly those in a business school, the solutions to those big questions tend to come from instrumental disciplines that are captured by individualist, economistic thinking that provide some underwhelming answers: A human is a rational maximizer. The best contributions are those through which markets and efficiency are prized above all else. You have led a good life if you’ve maximized your utility. While this course will discuss what a business is and how profit sustains that existence, we aspire to introduce students to the importance of balancing personal and organizational values and ethics in an environment of competing and complementary rights and goals. In other words, we want students to understand that it is possible to do well by doing good and to start to think of themselves as purpose-driven leaders.

3. Why did you model it after people, planet, profit and purpose?
The challenges of the 21st century are requiring businesses to fundamentally change the way they operate. Issues such as climate change and racial equity are hitting organizations head-on and demanding that attention be paid to aspects of the business beyond quarterly financial results. Critically, research continues to show that pursuing environmental and social objectives does not have to be at the expense of financial objectives. As we train future business leaders who will be driving their firms’ success but also trying to address the world’s most pressing challenges, the triple bottom line provides an answer. We expanded this idea by adding the additional word “purpose” to the title. Students will also engage in self-reflection and self-discovery to help them find their purpose–why they are passionate about business and the strengths they bring to the table.

4. What are the next steps with BUSI 100? How do you see it evolving?
We see this course as the foundation of a new curriculum where students can then thread the four themes through their curricular and co-curricular experiences.

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