Accounting or Aristotle?

Dean Georgette Chapman Phillips had the honor of being chosen as an Arthur Vining Davis Fellow at the 2016 Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, where she joined a panel of educators from across the country in advocating for the intersection of humanities and business in higher education.

Phillips presented on the panel, "Accounting or Aristotle: How Undergraduates View Their Future."

The issue was a key topic at the Festival, which, since 2005, has been the nation's premier convening of leaders from around the globe and across disciplines to engage in conversation about ideas and issues that shape people's lives and challenge the times. Notable speakers included Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Phillips was chosen from a competitive field of national nominees as a fellow. She joined 26 other fellows selected by Aspen Institute leaders from among those representing the entrepreneurial spirit, intellectual curiosity and leadership qualities of Arthur Vining Davis, longtime CEO of Alcoa Corporation.

The fellows were able to network with other Festival attendees, including more than 350 thought leaders in science, health, business, politics, religion, technology, the arts, the environment and academia.

Their participation not only had been expected to enrich the Festival, but also to help inform the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations' philanthropic plans and priorities.

The "Accounting or Aristotle" panel at the Festival explored how to retain the liberal arts in the face of demand for business credentials. It also explored how today's students are thinking about their academic choices and future professional lives.

In a subsequent op-ed piece Phillips co-wrote with Donald E. Hall, the Herbert and Ann Siegel Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Lehigh, the two deans voiced support for a holistic education—one that integrates business and liberal arts.

"As deans, we join together to challenge the false distinctions that place liberal arts on one side of the undergraduate educational fence and more pre-professional programs (such as business, engineering, nursing) on the other," they wrote.

"We believe we do our students, and by extension ourselves, a disservice when we erect such barriers: Doing so creates the impression that there must be a choice. Either a student studies accounting or philosophy, marketing or literature. This is wrong."