The FCB Business Division’s Business Leadership Program (BLP) has been changing the way business students look at the world for two years now (story on BLP’s beginning HERE). A new partnership with the NAU Philosophy in the Public Interest (PPI) program is further affecting how business ideas are approached and pursued. One program within PPI is the Hot Topics Café. A group of campus leaders nominate and then vote on topics that are discussed by the community. A philosopher facilitates the conversation.
Andrea Houchard, director of Philosophy in the Public Interest, is excited to collaborate with the BLP and help students realize the connection between philosophy and business.
“A person’s ability both to hear and try to understand competing positions and also to make the best case possible for the position they believe strongest are important skills, especially for future business leaders,” she said. “That’s why the Business Leadership Program has become more involved with the Hot Topics Café.”
BLP students focus on a different skill each year they’re involved in the program. First, sophomores work on their listening skills, then juniors on understanding, and finally seniors on persuading. These three skills are what make a good leader.
BLP Coordinator Bernadine Lewis has been working with her students to help them get more involved in the new program. The Cafés are being offered for Pathways credit and feature unique topics that the students themselves help choose.
Senior students in the BLP submitted several ideas to the campus committee choosing the topics. They worked on their skills of persuasion as they explained why their topics would be best.
Three of their proposed topics were chosen to be discussed at the upcoming Hot Topics Cafés that will be hosted in FCB’s Gardner Auditorium, with the first happening March 12.
“The students came up with such great topics, I am so impressed,” Houchard said. “I thought we had two [ideas to choose], but I decided we were doing three of these because they’re so great.”
The topics that BLP students came up with are Mutual Mistrust between Law Enforcement and Minority Communities (economic implications and the administration of public goods); Black Lives Matter as a New Age Movement: the relationship between law enforcement and the community; and Gender Inequality: economic disparity and related issues.
“Students are required to take certain courses and the syllabus determines what they’re going to study, but we’re giving students the opportunity to set the agenda and say what they want to talk about,” Houchard said.
The topics reflect current issues in the world that may not be brought up during their business courses.
“It’s a forum for civil discourse,” Lewis said. “You’re getting unbiased information on a matter and then there are competing sides of questions and Ms. Houchard always makes sure that you get all of the history behind the topic and other factual information and then you [are able to] voice your view on the topic. No one’s right, no one’s wrong, and you’re listening to all these different views.”
Students in their first year of the BLP are required to attend at least one Café per semester in order to work on their listening skills.
“The ability to listen and understand other positions is just as important a part of communication [as making a strong argument] and the Business Leadership Program and the Pathways program are emphasizing the importance, both of making your case and of listening to the others by participating in the Hot Topics Café,” said Houchard.
“It’s cool to see how philosophy has its place in business,” Lewis said. “It’s exciting to see and plan for each year and create something new that’s ultimately for the betterment and increased development of our students.”
Schedule of Hot Topics Cafés in Gardner Auditorium:
March 12, 2:15 p.m.-3:45 p.m.- Mutual Mistrust Between Law Enforcement and Minority Communities
March 26, 5:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m.- Black Lives Matter as a New Age Movement
April 16, 5:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m.- Gender Inequality