Current events

October at the crossroads

(This article is part of our Current Events series)

October is a month at the crossroads. Summer’s leisures have come to an end, fall is in full swing as the school year settles in and winter occasionally pokes its nose on frosty mornings. Barbecuing is officially over but it is not yet the season to serve choucroute or set up the raclette on the table. Halloween was itself meant to be a sort of crossing of paths though of a different, netherworldly, kind.

Business and politics follow less predictable patterns than those of the seasons and age-old culinary traditions. Just a few weeks ago, few foresaw the diplomatic imbroglio that American sports business interests would find themselves in China. Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria has set in motion a dynamic whose knock-on effects will be many but not yet fully understood. Such events grab our attention in part due to their element of surprise. Less surprising, yet no less unpredictable, is the ongoing process known as Brexit which has been three years in the making. This seemingly interminable event is set to come to a head, for now, on October 31st at 11:00pm GMT sharp when the United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union with or without an agreement. Whether the deadline itself holds or not, the element of unpredictability seems certain to continue. Politics is the unexpected happening all the time, said Hannah Arendt in her critique of Hobbes. From this perspective, the exiting of the UK from the EU would seem to announce a return to the political to the detriment of the regularity promised by the EU construction project. Who knows what November portends for the UK and the EU? Who would have guessed there would be such uncertainty following David Cameron’s electoral victory in 2015 and his call for a referendum on EU membership?

Preparing for the future

There are different ways to look into the future.  A liberal arts training would have one draw from the past to discern the constants of human history whereas the implacable logic of algorithms may entice those with future business interests. Schiller’s mission is not merely to help students look ahead into the future and develop forecasting models or scenario planning exercises. We endeavor to prepare students for the future, regardless of its indeterminate qualities, so that they may contribute to their work environments and society at large.   

The Schiller model at the undergraduate level lays the foundations giving students the building blocks upon which they can construct their future paths of study. Undergraduate students in International Business and International Relations and Diplomacy must hone their communication skills in order to be fully operational in their respective fields. To that end, students in the FR 102 Elementary French course have the opportunity to improve their French helping them, in the immediate term, to better interact with their Parisian surroundings. Classmates studying EN 111 English Composition-Expository Writing develop presentation and essay-writing skills in dialogue with fellow classmates, a far cry from the artifices of sophistry, both ancient and modern. Students in MGF 1350 College Mathematics develop the conceptual tools and knowledge they’ll later need for accounting and statistics. Undergraduates taking the upper-level IR 341 Concepts of International Relations are exposed to a different set of challenges as they move beyond the building-block stage. Here, they begin to critically evaluate specific topics as well as identify and analyze competing concepts related to international relations and diplomacy. Even their very reference materials and authors underline the challenges posed by the subject-matter. For instance, readings of Clausewitz and his “On War” expose students to a theory that emphasizes the prevalence of chance and uncertainty in war and the importance of honing one’s judgment for given situations.

Turning to the graduate level, we offer students in these programs courses that set specific learning outcomes which will continue to serve them well into their professional careers. For MBA students, BA 537 Production and Operation Management notably provides them the tools to evaluate strategies in a production and operations environment. Students are equally taught to design forecasting methods appropriate to a given operation. IR 545 International Economic Problems provides students the opportunity to understand analytical frameworks tied to the world economy and to themes such as trade, finance and globalization. Also related to the course’s learning outcomes is the fact that it engages students to critically evaluate crucial issues such as income distribution, poverty and standards of living.

The real world of business and politics is characterized by a great degree of uncertainty. Information comes at each and every one of us in bits and pieces that don’t always make sense. We endeavor to help students rise to the challenge of grasping such phenomena within the gaze of theoretical frameworks on the one hand, and of developing their judgment and practical skills for concrete situations on the other. It is hoped that the Schiller learning experience, of which the October courses mentioned herein are but a part, provides students the means to navigate such future situations and choose the right path at the crossroads they’ll inevitably meet.