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Columbia Business School Tempts Professors with Cash to Perform Interdisciplinary Research

Professors at Columbia Business School (CBS) last month were offered $30,000 to $40,000 a year to conduct research with professors from other CBS departments as part of an effort to help students understand business and management in an interdisciplinary way, according to a recent Financial Times article.

CBS is the latest in a string of business schools that has endeavored to encourage a more interdisciplinary approach to management education, according to the FT. “When students come here they get an MBA, not an economics, marketing or strategy degree,” CBS Dean Glenn Hubbard told the FT. And the recent financial crisis helped underscore “how business people failed to connect the dots,” he added.

As part of this recent interdisciplinary push, CBS has established two new cross-disciplinary areas (CDAs) for research and teaching, one in decision and negotiation and another in strategy. Up to four faculty members will team-teach classes in these areas, the FT reports. And in addition to financial rewards, faculty associated with the CDAs will also have input into who gets hired.

“There is an imperative to do this because the problems of the day demand it,” Gita Johar, vice-dean for research at Columbia, told the FT. She thinks tempting professors with additional funding was the right approach. “Initially it was an idea – it got legs because it got resources,” she said.

Johar anticipates that converting CBS’s faculty of 140 will take time, even with the cash incentives. But she argues that starting at the grassroots level in one area, such as research, is more likely to catch on than rewriting the whole curriculum.

Yale School of Management (SOM), for its part, tackled a full curriculum overhaul beginning several years ago. Today, interdisciplinary team-teaching is well established in core courses, Yale SOM Dean Sharon Oster told the FT. She noted, though, that SOM’s small size means that faculty have always been fairly well connected. “Our faculty have lunch across departmental barriers,” she said.

For the complete Financial Times story, click here. For more on CBS’s new CDAs, click here.

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Posted in: MBA News

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