让MBA学员读一点小说

英国《金融时报》 若纳唐•穆莱斯 报道
2019.06.10 12:00

在匹兹堡的卡内基梅隆大学(Carnegie Mellon University),泰珀商学院(Tepper School of Business,见文首照片)的学生们正在新建的2.01亿美元教学楼里的宽敞用餐区里吃午餐。

在楼上的一个小会议室里,30名MBA学员聚集在一起讨论《我们失去了什么》(What We Lose)这本小说。该书作者是非洲裔美国作家、在宾夕法尼亚州长大的津齐•克莱蒙斯(Zinzi Clemmons)。这里是Tepper Reads读书俱乐部,旨在帮助该商学院的学生——其中许多人希望成为未来的商业领袖——更善于对来自不同背景的人产生同理心。

Tepper Reads的资源比普通的非正式书友会多一些。在会议的间隙,学生们可以收听卡内基梅隆大学英语系教员的播客(podcast),内容是讨论他们正在讨论的书中的主题。在这次聚会上,学生们还与作者见了面——校方买了机票,把作者从洛杉矶的家中请到这里。

其中一位俱乐部成员是吉莉恩•麦卡锡(Jillian McCarthy),她是卡内基梅隆大学电气和计算机工程系的学术课程顾问,目前在泰珀攻读在职MBA学位。

她说:“我读了很多的书,所以当我在这里发现这个书友会时,我感到惊喜,”她补充说,MBA学员可以获得的资源,让她在匹兹堡主持的书友会看起来“有些业余”。

Tepper Reads是Shift Programming的核心部分,后者是对今年泰珀MBA课程的补充,向商学院学生介绍文学和艺术评论,以培养他们的自我意识和领导能力。教学大纲包括在匹兹堡的一座剧院学习即兴表演技巧,以及与校友和前学术员工共进私人晚餐。

同理心课现在成了商学院的一种趋势,课程以讲座的形式教授,并在许多校园举办小型研讨会。但是,Shift将这一概念提升到了另一个层次:让教学走出教室,在教职员工家里举行非正式聚会,或者参观当地画廊。

该课程对MBA学员来说是选修课,但已被证明非常受欢迎,因此有150人的等候名单。泰珀加速领导力中心(Accelerate Leadership Center)执行主任、负责Shift发展的利安娜•迈耶(Leanne Meyer)表示:“我们是可能带来相当机械的学位体验中最为人文化的部分。”

她补充说:“MBA学员往往寻找某个问题的一个正确答案,以获得竞争优势。”

“我们想要教的是,现实生活中有不止一种思考方式,所以可能有三个正确的答案。(最优秀的学生)往往是能够作出最佳论证的那个人。”

艺术欣赏是Shift的另一个关键要素。泰珀预留了安装带有彩条的木箱结构的空间。它由弗朗西斯•柯林斯(Francis Collins)创建,后者是卡内基梅隆大学美术专业的毕业生,也是旧金山建筑公司Dream Builders的老板。

4名学生正在卡内基梅隆大学雷吉娜•高杰•米勒(Regina Gouger Miller)画廊主任伊丽莎白•乔多斯(Elizabeth Chodos)的带领下,参观这件装置艺术品,我加入了进来。

她指出,柯林斯既是艺术家又是企业家——他于2018年9月向卡内基梅隆大学捐赠10万美元,创建了弗朗西斯和艾琳•柯林斯•米勒当代艺术基金会(Francis and Erin Collins Miller Institute of Contemporary Art Fund),用于在校园各处安装当代艺术品——所以她觉得,他非常适合商学院的展览。

乔多斯后来告诉我:“我的首要任务是让MBA学员对艺术感到舒适。有一种误解是,艺术只是面向少数人的。”

乔多斯补充说,了解艺术家打算做什么也是提高商学院学生同理心技能的一种非常好的方法。“这是一个活生生的人通过他的艺术与活生生的人们交流。”

参观的学生不太积极,也许是因为艺术欣赏与他们以前在企业界的经历相差甚远。曾经是Verizon的系统分析师、正在攻读全日制MBA课程第二年的马克•罗森堡(Marc Rosenberg)表示:“这不是一种舒适的体验。但如果我不愿意走出自己的舒适区,我就不会在这里。”

在Tepper Reads读书俱乐部,Shift的一些学生有些吃力。梅耶回忆说,曾有一位学生问她:他应该怎么去阅读克莱蒙斯的小说。他之前只阅读过教科书中的必要章节。她说:“我对几乎没人以前读过小说感到惊讶。”

克莱蒙斯在写作之余在洛杉矶一所学院教书,她承认与MBA学员见面帮助她拓宽了视野,并补充说,她对学生们所提问题的水平感到惊喜。她说:“他们似乎对创造性思路持非常开放的态度,这让我很喜欢,是我没想到的。我在意识形态上相当左倾,是一个社会主义者,但我并不害怕与那些思维方式不同的人们交谈。”

对克莱蒙斯来说,Shift让她有机会接触一个有望成为变革推动者的人群。她说:“这些学生可能对世界产生超出比例的影响。所以,如果我能鼓励他们更有同理心,可能会改变很多事情。”

译者/裴伴

原文:Why MBA students are reading novels in class

By Jonathan Moules

At Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, students at the Tepper School of Business are eating lunch in the expansive dining area of the new $201m campus building

In a small seminar room upstairs, 30 MBA students have gathered to discuss What We Lose, a novel by an African-American author, Zinzi Clemmons, who grew up in Pennsylvania. This is the Tepper Reads book club, created to help its students — many of whom hope to be future business leaders — better empathise with people from backgrounds very different to their own.

Tepper Reads is somewhat better resourced than a typical informal gathering of book-loving friends. Between meetings, students can listen to a podcast in which teaching staff from Carnegie Mellon’s English department discuss themes in the books under discussion. At this gathering, students are meeting the author — the university has paid to fly her over from her home in Los Angeles.

One of the book club members is Jillian McCarthy, an academic programme adviser in Carnegie Mellon’s electrical and computer engineering department, who is studying for an MBA at Tepper part time.

“I am a big reader so I was pleasantly surprised when I came here and found this happening,” she says, adding that the resources made available to the MBA students make the book club she runs in Pittsburgh look “amateurish”.

Tepper Reads is a core part of Shift Programming, an addition to this year’s Tepper’s MBA programme that introduces literary and art criticism to business students to build their self-awareness and leadership skills. The curriculum includes learning improv techniques at a theatre in Pittsburgh and private dinners with former alumni and academic staff.

Empathy classes are now a trend among business schools, with classes taught as lectures and in small seminar groups on many campuses. But Shift takes the concept to another level by taking the teaching out of the classroom and into informal gatherings at the homes of faculty staff or on visits to local galleries.

The course is optional for MBA students but has proved so popular that there is a waiting list for the 150 places. “We are the most human part of what can feel like a pretty mechanical degree experience,” says Leanne Meyer, executive director of the Accelerate Leadership Center at Tepper, who has led Shift’s development.

“MBA students are often looking for that one right answer to a question to get a competitive edge,” she adds.

“What we wanted to teach was that there is more than one way to think, so there might be three right answers. [The best student] is often the one who can make the best argument.”

Art appreciation is another key element of Shift. Tepper has set aside space for the installation of a collection of wooden box structures with coloured bars. It was created by Francis Collins, a Carnegie Mellon fine arts graduate and owner of a San Francisco construction company Dream Builders.

I join four students who are being shown around the installation by Elizabeth Chodos, director of the Regina Gouger Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon.

She notes that Mr Collins is both an artist and an entrepreneur — he donated $100,000 to Carnegie Mellon in September 2018 to form the Francis and Erin Collins Miller Institute of Contemporary Art Fund, enabling contemporary art to be installed around the university — so she feels he is very appropriate for a business school exhibition.

“My first task is to make the MBA students feel comfortable around the art,” Ms Chodos tells me afterwards. “There is this misperception that art is only for the few.”

Understanding what an artist intended to do is also a very good way to stretch a business school student’s empathetic skills, Ms Chodos adds. “This is a living person communicating with living people through his art.”

The students on the tour are less forthcoming, perhaps because art appreciation is a long way from their previous experiences in the corporate world. “It is not a comfortable experience,” says Marc Rosenberg, a former systems analyst for Verizon, who is in the second year of the full-time MBA. “But I would not be here if I wasn’t happy coming out of my comfort zone.”

Some of the Shift students have struggled in the book group. Ms Meyer recalls that one student asked how he should go about reading Ms Clemmons’s novel. He had previously only read the necessary chapters in textbooks. “It was amazing how few have read fiction before,” she says.

Ms Clemmons, who teaches at a college in LA when she is not writing, admits that meeting MBAs is helping her broaden her own outlook, adding that she was pleasantly surprised with the level of questions. “I like that they seem very open to creative paths, and I wasn’t expecting that,” she says. “I am pretty lefty, a socialist, but I am not afraid to talk to people who do not think like me.”

For Ms Clemmons, Shift presents an opportunity to reach out to a group that could be agents of change. “These students are likely to have a disproportionate impact on the world,” she says. “So if I can encourage them to be more empathetic that might change a lot of things.”

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