Business education lacks taste of a cookie

Wed, 2012-02-01 10:35 -- univcomm
February 1, 2012

by Dr. Emmett Dulaney, associate professor of marketing at the Anderson University Falls School of Business.

Around my house, nachos and cheese counts as a two-course meal.

That was not the case when I was growing up. My mother made one meat dish and one potato dish for every dinner. There would also be a salad of some type — some things that looked pretty questionable got lumped into this category — and a minimum of two sides. It was like eating at Cracker Barrel every evening.

The part of the supper that I looked forward to the most, though, came when that food was finished. My father insisted that we have dessert for every meal and that there not be leftovers. Every day, therefore, my mother would bake one of about a dozen desserts that she rotated through. When you’re baking every day and doing the same thing over and over again, you tend to get very good at it and she got exceptional at making desserts.

You might not think you can do that much with chocolate chip cookies since everyone tends to start with some derivative of the Nestle Tollhouse recipe, but it is actually surprising the results you can get. For example, she would use two baking sheets together — one on top of another — so that air was trapped between them and the bottom would not cook as much as the rest of the cookie. This allows the cookies to still be golden brown on all but the bottom yet be moist and not dry. She would also use more vanilla extract than others do — doubling it in fact — since it serves to pull out the flavor of the other ingredients. Lastly, she would mix in other forms of chocolate in addition to the full helping of chips just to add to the flavor.

No matter how well I describe the cookies, the history behind them, the recipe used, or anything else, it will never do justice to the taste of biting in to one and you cannot appreciate the information about the cookie without doing so. The problem with a lot of business education is that it lacks the taste of the cookie. Students hear about how various aspects of business fit together, they learn the history behind it, they complete worksheets and take quizzes, but they can’t fully appreciate that of which they are learning without experiencing it.

Parker Palmer has written about experiential education for many years and his latest book, The Heart of Higher Education (co-authored by Arthur Zajonc) continues in that vein. This book served as one of the inspirations for the Killbuck Trails venture last semester in which approximately 20 students ran a family fun park and haunted trail at Killbuck Golf Course.

In an effort to continue to find ways for students to get a taste of business and appreciate what they don’t know while there is still time to resolve it, a similar business endeavor will be undertaken this semester. While it will not involve a golf course (too difficult to do in the winter months) or haunted trail (which loses its appeal after Halloween), it will marry the fundamentals of experiential learning with involvement in the community and I look forward to sharing more details in a few weeks.

Visit the Falls School of Business for additional essays and news from the Anderson University Falls School of Business.

— Dr. Emmett Dulaney is associate professor of marketing at the Anderson University Falls School of Business.

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Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.