Letter: Fixing our school system

I just completed my MBA at ASU with a specialization in supply chain and work for KPMG in their Strategic Sourcing and Procurement consulting arm. However, I wanted to take a minute and really evaluate my education. Not just my education, rather, everyone's. One of the chief problems I think we have in the academic world is a lot of the material and principles that are taught in the classroom are seen as foundational while in school. It is giving you the tools necessary to execute much larger endeavors because you understand the fundamentals. Having just finished my MBA I can confidently say, there were some classes that have real-life implications, i.e. corporate behavior, and those that I was befuddled by (statistics). Clearly some that were geared towards giving you those foundational skills (again, stats) and those that were utilizing things we have already seen and come to understand but utilizing them in a manner that has a real impact outside the classroom, classes that truly affect our decision making like strategic management. While I have been calling out classes specific to the MBA program, this resonates no less in the undergrad program. I double majored in supply chain and finance at ASU at the W.P. Carey School of Business. We certainly had classes that were deemed foundation (think every basic econ class there is) and those that truly taught us how to make business decisions (advanced finance classes evaluating stock value, present value for projects, understanding tax shields, etc.).

It took me a while to set up this premise but my question is now: Why don't schools utilize the brainpower in these classrooms to give students tangible skills in the workforce? We go through a supply chain class learning how to effectively apply quality metrics, value metrics, process improvements, yet never apply them. I chastised someone in our program once that the problem with American institutions lies in the fact that you have all this brainpower PAYING to get used yet we don't do anything with it. How good is it for me to understand how to execute a statistical regression analysis (stats class) but not recognize WHEN I should be applying that knowledge. Heck, I would argue that it is more important for me to understand WHAT to do rather than how to it. At least when I know what I need to go do I can learn how it is done — or bring in the right skill set.

So what's the suggestion? For every 300 and above class that is clearly beyond the "getting to understand your toolbox" class, we make classes engage in work that will arm their résumés. Take any number of the operations that exist within Arizona State. Are their metrics applied? How is the accounting done? For the next engineering project can we have students work with the hired firm to help produce the final product? How is it being financed? What is the NPV (net present value) vs alternatives? These are projects that the school executes on a daily basis. Why not give the people paying for them an opportunity to build a skill set around it? At least then when competing for internships and job roles our students are much better suited.

Thinking out loud, Daniel Haitz

ASU Undergrad '09


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