Business major faces difficulties on the way to implementation

By Richard Pryor III
Executive Staff

Over the last few years, the conversation around Sewanee’s potential business major has been led by Vice Chancellor John McCardell and Dean of the College Terry Papillon. However, as this prospect has gotten closer to fruition, they have hired and brought David Shipps (C’88) to be the director of the Babson Center, and more recently, Gwendolyn Whitfield to serve as assistant dean for business education.

Based on the work done so far, McCardell spoke at the Launching of a New Year on August 28, 2018 saying that “this year, the college faculty will determine whether it is time, I believe it is, to go from a business minor to a business major.”

In the Advent Semester of this year, The Purple covered the work being done to reach that goal by the end of the year, primarily by a faculty working group appointed by Papillon and co-chaired by Whitfield and Classics professor Stephanie McCarter, which is available on The Purple’s website.

However, Whitfield, having taken a medical leave from her position for the semester, according to an email from Shipps to the business minors, passed away on April 8.

Whitfield’s passing has led to a pause in the process of creating a business major. “That changes everything significantly,” McCarter noted. “Right now it’s just hard to continue moving in that direction when we had really envisioned a very slow implementation period. It wouldn’t be something that students could immediately sign up for. We would take some time to develop it, think about hiring and the best organizational structure for the major. And so we can’t just do that.”

However, McCarter will not be leading the process as it moves forward into the next academic year as she will be on a year-long sabbatical for the 2019-20 academic year.

McCarter is still not fully sure as to the form that the proposed business major will take. The working group has submitted three proposed versions of the major to the Curriculum and Academic Policy Committee (CAPC). Firstly, business as a secondary major, where students with a business major will be required to have another major.

The second option is an interdisciplinary major, where students will have requirements in sustainability, international studies, and an advanced level of a foreign language past general education requirements. The third option is a major entitled “Business for Innovation and Sustainability,” wherein students would have additional requirements in both social and environmental sustainability.

In a survey of the faculty before spring break, the results showed a general level of dislike for all the options. Out of the 89 faculty who took the survey, the choice with the most approving faculty members was the business as a secondary major option, with 37 supporters, only 41.6 percent of the faculty voting, which if the polling was 100 percent accurate, would mean that it would fail when brought up for a full vote of the faculty.

However, as Dr. Sean O’Rourke pointed out when looking at the results, faculty did not have the chance to note that they approved of none of the presented options, with many faculty members commenting that they did not like any of the options.

One commented that “I’m voting for the model I consider least destructive to Sewanee, however, I am not convinced that a business major is the right direction for us to go.” This comment seemed to be indicative of the feelings of many of the faculty who commented.

Despite these signs that some might think negative, Papillon informed The Purple that “I continue to think that a major connected with business is a good idea for the college. We will continue the discussion and see what happens in the fall. The faculty are in charge of the curriculum, so if they approve it, we will have it. If they do not approve it, we will not.”