New Kellogg major focuses on crisis-coping skills, international business

Sheila Burt

By expanding the school’s curriculum, officials at the Kellogg School of Management hope to produce more than just number crunchers. They want leaders who are trained in business ethics and understand the increasingly global economy.

“We want people who want to be leaders in all aspects of their lives,” said David Messick, an ethics and decision in management professor. “We want to train leaders that everyone will be proud of, not just business people.”

Messick and Kellogg Prof. Daniel Diermeier are directing a new major called business in its social environment. The major, offered for the first time last year, emphasizes how corporations affect and are affected by society.

Starting in Fall Quarter 2005, Kellogg also will require that second-year, full-time students take a weeklong, preterm course titled “values and crisis decision making.” The course, which is currently offered as an elective, ends with a 24-hour crisis management simulation that teaches students how to deal with media and legal pressures.

“I would have never imagined that a fiveday course would have such a significant impact on the way I view business strategy,” said Doug Roth, a first-year BASE major who took the course in September.

Roth added that he is attracted to the BASE major because of its focus on a broad number of complex issues.

“It’s a really cutting edge area of business,” Roth said. “More and more business leaders will benefit from having a whole view and not having their schooling limited to traditional finance and marketing (studies).”

Courses on crisis coping and globalization, like those in BASE, are important because large businesses today are being held accountable for issues involving the environment, labor laws, and corporate scandals, Diermeier said.

He also said global corporations are increasingly driving major social and cultural changes.

“Our goal was to create a program that trains our students to handle those challenges,” Diermeier said.

Kellogg was recently named the top business school in the world by an international ranking in a sister publication of the magazine the Economist, in part, Messick said, because of its past focus on ethics. The expanded curriculum contributes to Kellogg’s prestigious standing.

And the school’s emphasis on the relationship between business and society does not end with its courses. Several students and professors are involved with environmentally and socially responsible projects in places such as Africa.

Diermeier is heading a research center studying social and ethical factors confronting business. He is currently researching obesity and how manufacturers of fatty foods could be affected by lobbyist trying to reduce trans fats in foods.