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Mendoza’s Foresight class still evolving

Katie Peralta | Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The new Foresight in Business and Society course now required of all business students beginning with the Class of 2011 has taken a turn for the better since its inception last fall, students and faculty say.

Mendoza College of Business Dean Carolyn Woo said the course, which encourages students to examine and evaluate major issues and trends facing society in the future, was generally not well received at first.

“The fall semester feedback was not positive,” Woo said. “I would say 75 percent of students had difficulty with the  course.”

Woo said starting in November, Mendoza faculty took feedback from students and began redesigning the course. One big change was the addition of more sections to reduce class sizes.

“I would say more students are in favor of the class than in last semester,” Woo said. “We have made improvements and are seeing higher satisfaction.”

Woo said feedback is always part of the improvement process.
“Innovation seldom succeeds at the first try,” she said. “In the innovation experience, it is very important to take feedback.”

Woo said Mendoza faculty tend to share her sentiment about the course’s improvement.

“They feel that this semester is going a lot better than last semester,” she said.
Many students shared Woo’s positive outlook on the course’s improvement as well.

“The course has been changed for the better since its inception last year,” said junior Henry Shine, who took the course first semester and is now a teaching assistant. “The course is adapting to fit both students’ wishes and the demands of 21st century businesspersons in a climate where today’s decisions are influencing life in tomorrow’s world.”

Junior Richard Roggeveen, who began the spring class “as a skeptic,” said although he had never heard anything positive about the course from fellow students, he was pleased with the course and the material it presented.

“As the professors respond to continual student feedback and continue to change course design, I believe that the course does have a place in the business school, at the very least to educate us students on larger problems and issues in the world and how business can act to help relieve them,” he said.

The course, conceived three years ago, is the brainchild of Woo and professor of accountancy Thomas Frecka.

“For about 30 years I have been concerned that we don’t train our students to look ahead,” said Woo, who began teaching in the business school in 1976.

The course was then piloted over the course of three semesters and was offered to self-selected classes of about 10 students.

Implementation from pilot to requirement was not easy, but it was necessary, Woo said.

“The types of skills acquired in the class are necessary,” she said. “We also didn’t want to create two tiers of students [within the business school] … those who have taken the course and those who clearly haven’t.”

Woo said the course, which is concluded with a large-group research project comprising 40 percent of the student’s grade, aims to achieve four important goals.

“It helps students understand future trends and then understand the implications of trends among social, political and economic factions,” she said. “[It also teaches students] the methodology people use for generating future trends and assess in greater depth the issues related to these trends.”

The course, Woo said, is distinct to Notre Dame.

“The course is very unique because it is not offered at other schools,” Woo said. “This is one of the boldest things we’ve ever done.”

Woo said the business faculty will continue to take feedback and retool the course this summer.