Abe Zakhem, College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Philosophy, and Elizabeth McCrea, Stillman School of Business, were awarded the prestigious NEH Connections planning grant.
Two accomplished Seton Hall University professors, Abe Zakhem of the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Philosophy and Elizabeth McCrea of the Stillman School of Business, were recently awarded the prestigious and highly competitive National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Connections planning grant. The Humanities Connections program seeks to expand the role of the humanities in undergraduate education at two- and four-year institutions. At Seton Hall, the grant will support the development of an innovative "Business Humanities Initiative." This pioneering, interdisciplinary approach will invite faculty and students to integrate humanities and business perspectives in order to illuminate, inform, and passionately try to resolve persistent and emerging ethical and social-political issues in society.
Too often, business is perceived as separate from the humanities. Some might say that business is about numbers and facts, while the humanities and ethics are about people and values. "This view is fallacious and ultimately detrimental," says Zakhem. "Indeed, business decisions benefit from the light generated by multiple humanistic perspectives and narratives. And those in the humanities benefit from the strategic, problem-solving approaches and techniques used in business. Thus, integrating the humanities and business greatly enriches both disciplines, develops a student's moral awareness and imagination, and promotes the creative and effective resolution of complex moral problems."
"Ethics has always been a foundational element of our mission here at Stillman," said McCrea. "This NEH grant will enable us to deepen and expand our commitment to a values-based curriculum. In addition, the hands-on, experiential nature of the proposed initiative fits well with our commitment to putting concepts into practice." She added, "Learning ethical and other humanistic principles is important, but learning how to effectively apply them to actual business decisions equips our students to better handle the complexity inherent in the world today."
As part of the grant, faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences, the Stillman School of Business and other disciplines will develop a certificate program in the business humanities open to all majors at Seton Hall University. The efforts will include writing multiple disciplinary case studies that combine philosophical, historical, literary, religious and spiritual, artistic and business perspectives. Also planned is an advanced interdisciplinary, co-taught course in the business humanities. This experientially oriented course will address such issues as gender inequality in the workplace; workplace spirituality; racism, ageism, ableism, and LGBTQ+ discrimination; corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability; unions and labor; surveillance and privacy; and the treatment and moral status of animals in business. Zakhem notes that "taking a simple 'business as usual' approach to these and other issues will not work" and that "one of the overarching goal of this initiative is to provide the next generation of leaders with the moral motivation and practical skills to effectively address pressing issues in business." McCrea added, "As problems get more and more complex, you need bring multiple, interdisciplinary perspectives to bear if you are to achieve sustainable, long-term solutions that are simultaneously effective for people, profits and the planet."
"NEH grants are extremely competitive, so this is a great achievement," says Peter Shoemaker, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "The fact that this is a 'planning' grant means that we will be well-positioned to apply for even larger grants in the future. This bodes extremely well for this wonderful collaboration between the College of Arts and Sciences and the Stillman School of Business."
"I am so proud of my colleagues, Dr. Elizabeth McCrea and Dr. Abe Zakhem, for their initiative in undertaking this collaborative project," says Joyce Strawser, dean of the Stillman School of Business. "The activities that this grant will support align directly with the Stillman School's mission of delivering an ethics-centered education, and I'm confident that the blending of the business and humanities perspectives will be of great value in our efforts to develop principled business leaders."