McMaster undergraduate programs have been making waves all over, so much so that the Atlantic, an American political magazine, recently featured the new integrated business and humanities program.
The program was spearheaded by McMaster professors Emad Mohammad and Anna Moro and enables students to both pursue a business major and receive a robust humanities education.
“The humanities aspect is what makes it, in part, more than a typical business degree,” said Moro. “A foundation in the humanities is what makes some of the most progressive thinkers and business leaders.”
In his article in the Atlantic, however, Jon Marcus paints a grim picture, highlighting that, while business programs continue to be sought after, the popularity of the humanities has languished.
In particular, the number of students pursuing a humanities degree in both Canada and the United States has fallen. Marcus notes that, though McMaster’s integrated business and humanities program sought to fill 80 seats this year, only 51 students enrolled.
According to Mohammad and Moro, Marcus omitted key data from the article. Although only 51 students enrolled in integrated business and humanities this year, the program received 452 applications, and only 315 applicants made it to the supplementary application phase.
In addition, the program generated a yield, which includes the percent of students who accept their offer, of about 30 per cent, which is three per cent higher than McMaster’s annual yield for Ontario high school students in 2014, the most recent data point publicly available from the university’s Office of Institutional Research and Analysis.
According to Mohammad, the integrated business and humanities program’s yield was also comparatively higher than that of McMaster’s commerce program.
“We don’t think future enrolment is a problem,” said Moro. “I think we got more than expected applications for the first year.”
While the article published in the Atlantic exaggerated the lack of demand for integrated business and humanities, the program’s future popularity will, in part, depend on the first cohort’s experience.
“It’s very interesting to be linking information learned in one class to the other classes. We already have four group projects, such all seem to be very interesting and engaging topics,” said Yael Morris, an integrated business and humanities student.
“All of our classes are interactive and encourage group work, which allows us to work on communication and teamwork skills,” said Chloe Benalcazar, another student in the program.
William Stephenson, another integrated business and humanities student, appreciates that the program has created a tight-knit community for him.
Morris and Benalcazar, however, highlight concerns with their peace studies course.
“I would like to see a change in our peace studies course by having more structure, direction and organization. It seems to be very slow and that we’re not learning as much as we could,” said Morris. “I find that my classmates and I are continuously lost during the lectures and that we aren’t learning to the highest potential.”
Benalcazar questions the relevance of the course, not being able to see the intersection between peace studies and commerce.
Moreover, Stephenson wishes he could take a humanities course, rather than the required commerce one, as an elective in third and fourth year.
“As we currently do not have room for electives until third year, I believe that the interests of the class should be taken into account when designing the curriculum for the courses,” said Benalcazar. “For example, if the class is interested in international business or wants to learn more about the environment and sustainability, that interest should be taken into account and implemented in the following years.”
To improve the program’s reputation and increase enrolment in the future, integrated business and humanities students’ feedback will need to be acknowledged.