Wittenberg to join multi-million dollar research project

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Wittenberg research project

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Wittenberg University will be part of a multi-million dollar funded research project to develop a new curriculum that will bridge the gap between business and the sciences.

The project will begin in October and is expected to last at least five years, representatives of Wittenberg said. It will involve 30 professors from Wittenberg, Bentley in Massachusetts and Northern Illinois Universities using a $2.5 million grant awarded by the National Science Foundation.

Wittenberg will receive $370,000 of that grant money, said Sarah Fortner, the university’s director of environmental science. She said the proposed curriculum will ask students to focus on challenges often found in the business field while keeping in mind outside factors such as the environment and the general well being of the community.

“Last summer we had a lot of intense rainfall that disrupted our agricultural crops. Disruptions like that happen all over the supply chain not just to agriculture. Those are environmental conditions that permeate into business decision making,” Fortner said, giving an example of the many different scientific fields the curriculum hopes to incorporate.

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“By blending the curriculum, it gives our students the leadership and interdisciplinary liberal arts skills they need to go into other roles that use business thinking to make choices that moves society forward in good ways,” she added.

The project is in the beginning stages, said Fortner, a co-lead of Wittenberg’s involvement in creating a blended curriculum that will be available to universities across the country once it’s completed. It will include professors seeing how different fields of study are interlinked with business and economics and how that can be applied to each of their communities.

In Springfield, as conversations are centered around energizing the downtown corridor, Fortner said an example of how the project could intersect with that development is “as those economic priorities are decided, we also have the ability to inform and inspire discussion around how to do this in a way that improves environmental and health conditions.”

Fortner said by observing local trends, the professors involved will be able to find similarities between their communities. She said that way they can design a broad curriculum that can be applicable across the country.

Rachel Wilson, the chair of business and economics at Wittenberg, said the business community is becoming more conscious of the larger impact that they have on different communities as well as the environment.

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“We recognize that businesses are not charities and that profits do matter,” said Wilson, who is also co-leading Wittenberg’s efforts in designing the new curriculum. “However, times have change. Shareholders are not the only stakeholders. We need to be good stewards to all of the stakeholders whether that be the environment, the community or society as a whole.”

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