Where liberal arts meets business education

The gates of Mount Holyoke

By Keely Savoie

Mount Holyoke College has been recognized by the Aspen Institute for its innovative curriculum that integrate entrepreneurship and liberal arts. Mount Holyoke’s entrepreneurship, organizations and society minor was highlighted in the Aspen Institute’s report, “Charting a New Course for Next-Generation Business Leaders.” The minor was selected to “illustrate the power of connecting the liberal arts and business curricula.”

The report is a culmination of a six-year effort from more than 70 colleges and universities to identify new ways to blend traditional liberal arts with business skills. It reflects the new world that undergraduates need to prepare for, one that requires the complexity and breadth of thought that is engendered by a well-rounded liberal arts education background, as well as the hard-edged career-focused education usually garnered through a business degree.

Mount Holyoke College has participated in the Aspen Institute’s annual Undergraduate Business Education Consortium since 2016, said Eva Paus, chair of the entrepreneurship minor and Carol Hoffmann Collins Director of the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives.

Following the 2017 conference for liberal arts colleges on business, the Aspen Undergraduate Business Initiative developed a resource guide of examples and best practices in the business, entrepreneurship and liberal arts space, citing Mount Holyoke’s entrepreneurship program as an example of the “practical and powerful” curricula that today’s entrepreneurs need to confront the world.

Paus describes Mount Holyoke’s minor “as an integrative program that focuses on creativity, resilience and understanding of the socioeconomic context in which all organizations must operate, whether private or public, for profit or not-for-profit, as well as the importance of focusing on social impact as one key outcome. The program aims to impart students with the knowledge, skills and disposition to contribute to solutions to the world’s most vexing problems.”

The commitment of Mount Holyoke students to entrepreneurship, especially with a social impact, has already generated many successful ventures from students whose passions are matched by their ambitions. Ellen Chilemba ’17 started a microloan business to help young women and girls in her native Malawi find an alternative to early marriage. Woyneab Habte ’17 founded On Her Own to give female Ethiopian college students an income-generating alternative to sex work. Regina Ye ’18 developed a travel case for personal care products that she calls the ZIRUI Go Case and went from idea to production in less than a year, garnering national attention in HuffPost and Forbes.

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