Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The annual Business Fundamentals Course, which Career Services has run since 2005, wrapped up the week before fall Fall Break. The non-credit course was taught by Thomas Sibson, a local businessperson, and took place in three-hour classes over a series of five weeks. The course was designed to offer students an introduction to the world of business and get them thinking about potentially fulfilling future business careers. The course assigns no homework and between fifteen to thirty students attended each lesson.
Each Friday afternoon, a different topic—from leadership, to supply chain management, to company values—were the focus of readings and discussions in Science Center 183. Through analyses of case studies from the Harvard Business Review, topical lectures, and even a competitive online game about root beer production, students discovered the tasks and mindsets required to run a business. One week students compiled pieces of advice for CEOs from a dozen interviews in The New York Times, filling a blackboard with suggestions like “Don’t be an elitist,” “Have tactful audacity,” and “Attitude is contagious.”
Sibson, who works for a national home healthcare provider (Bayada Nurses) and has taught at Temple University, spoke to the class about life at the top of a corporation. During the classes he encouraged student conversation and input and entertained questions from members of the nascent Entrepreneurship Club, who showed up every week to ask for advice about starting a company.
“Part of the joy of being here is being able to connect with people,” said Sibson, who has taught the course in conjunction with Career Services since the course was first offered at Swarthmore. Sibson took some time during the final class to talk about corporate values, citing Bayada Nurses in particular. At a liberal arts college, he suggested, where students are more curious about how business works as a whole than about the details that might be covered in a traditional collegiate business class, discussing values is especially important. “It’s a social service-minded culture [here at Swarthmore],” he said.
Nancy Burkett at Career Services reminds students that the course is “just an introduction,” and is designed to guide “students’ [who are] exploring.” According to Burkett, the course draws students from nearly every major.
The Business Fundamentals Course is intended by Career Services to complement their other offerings, and as such it is a course for anyone, regardless of post-college plans. Despite a good turnout this year, Burkett encourages even more students to take the course in the future.