Friday, August 29, 2014
Rebecca Schuman authored a recent article in Slate entitled Syllabus Tyrannus: The decline and fall of the American university is written in 25-page course syllabi.
In the article Schuman complains that in the last twenty years syllabi have grown from 1-2 page simple documents with only the course location, required books, and assignments to “Ten, 15, even 20 pages of policies, rubrics, and required administrative boilerplate, some so ludicrous (“course-specific expected learning outcomes”) that I myself have never actually read parts of my own syllabi all the way through.”
While I won’t go as far as Professor Paul Horwitz goes in criticizing Schuman’s writing, I do want to push back a bit on her critique of “course-specific expected learning outcomes.”
I admit that bloated syllabi can be a bit cumbersome, but drafting what we at Belmont call “course objectives” can be a helpful process and can lead to important changes in the course. Believe it or not, each semester I look at my course objectives, evaluate whether they were met, and revise my courses as necessary. My course objectives have reminded me that I shouldn’t drop that undergraduate group presentation assignment, no matter how difficult it gets logistically. My course objectives have also reminded me that I just can’t switch to all multiple-choice exams, even if those tests are incredibly common in undergraduate courses today. (To be fair to those who teach undergraduate courses, they typically have 4-8 assessments in a course as opposed to 1-2 in a law school course).
Anyway, I think some of Schuman’s comments on syllabi bloat are valid, but this increase in disclosure is seen throughout our society as shown in Ben-Shahar & Schneider’s More than You Wanted to Know. While some of the disclosures may be a waste of time and resources, I found the drafting of course objectives helpful and think it will benefit the students through the more thoughtful structure of my courses (even if the students do not take the time to read the objectives themselves).
Finally and somewhat related, Professor Jennifer Bard notes (with some helpful links) that the ABA is now requiring law schools to draft learning outcomes. If law schools take this process seriously, I think it could be a useful exercise. If law schools just see it as another drain on resources and complete it mindlessly, then it is unlikely that those law schools or their students will benefit.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Given that I haven’t seen anything similar for legal studies positions in business schools, I decided to aggregate the position posts that I have seen below. I will update the list with business school legal studies positions that are left in the comments or e-mailed to me. I am limiting the list to long-term and full-time (not visiting or adjunct) positions, and, if the information is provided, I will note whether the position is tenure-track or not.
Last Updated 8/29/14
The Boston University School of Management invites applications for a full-time, non-tenure-track Clinical Professor in Ethics, effective July 1, 2015. We seek to appoint a senior faculty member who possesses an international reputation in business ethics. Applicants are welcome from business academic disciplines including: accounting, organizational behavior, finance, business law, information systems, marketing, strategy and strategic management, and operations management. The position will be housed in a department within the School based upon the successful candidate's discipline.
Successful candidates will have an established record of teaching and writing in the area of ethics that may include any business discipline; demonstrated teaching abilities at the graduate level; and a terminal degree in business, management, or related areas.
DO NOT APPLY THROUGH THE BOSTON UNIVERSITY HR WEBSITE.
We are an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law. We are a VEVRAA Federal Contractor.
Interested candidates should electronically submit a letter of application and curriculum vita by November 15, 2014 via firstname.lastname@example.org and addressed to:
Professor Karen Golden-Biddle, Chair
Globalization Search Committee
Boston University School of Management
595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
Friday, August 22, 2014
On Wednesday, in my first set of fall semester classes, I mentioned Dweck’s descriptions of “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset” because I thought it might be helpful for students to consider.
Dweck says that those with a “fixed mindset” embrace a static view of intelligence, avoid challenges, get defensive in the face of obstacles and criticism, and are threatened by the success of others. People with a “fixed mindset” view failure as a negative verdict on their worth as a person. (pg. 244-46).
In contrast, Dweck says that those with a “growth mindset” believe that intelligence can be developed, embrace challenges, persist and learn in the face of obstacles and criticism, and are inspired by the success of others. People with a “growth mindset” view failure as an opportunity to learn and improve. (pg. 244-46).
To be clear, I (and Dweck) realize that there are limits to personal growth – otherwise I would be at an NFL practice right now instead of blogging – but it is helpful to realize that we can generally improve substantially with effort.
In the long run, Dweck finds that those with a “growth mindset” tend to outperform those with a “fixed mindset.” Dweck also finds evidence that people can change their dominant mindset over time.
I see students with both types of mindsets. You can spot the “fixed mindset” student easily – “I am not a C student!” The “growth mindset” student is just as easy to identify – “I got a C on this exam. I’d like to meet with you about my test and talk about how I can improve.”
Students are not the only ones who can learn from Dweck’s work. When faced with criticism, defensiveness feels natural to me, but I am, slowly, learning to unpack the criticism and look for lessons that could help me grow and improve.
Friday, August 15, 2014
Over at PrawfsBlawg, on a post comparing the SEALS and AALS conferences, an anonymous commenter questioned the value of academic conferences.
In this economic environment, many schools are tightening their belts. A number of schools have made cuts to funds for travel and professional development.
Below, I list some of the areas in which conferences can provide benefits.
Teaching. At most conferences I attend, I attend at least one panel on pedagogy. In addition, many of the panels provide new material for classes. Also, fellow professors may be more willing to share teaching materials, which can be invaluable, if they have met you in person at a conference.
Service. Conferences are often the hub for discipline-related service. Many, if not most, of my external service opportunities have come from other professors I met at conferences.
Research. You can receive excellent comments on your papers at conferences and are much more likely to get other professors to review your work if you have met them in person. Also, a number of the people who have cited my work are people I met at conferences.
Professional Development. Much of our time as professors is spent with students, who are usually not experts in our subject areas. Even most of our colleagues are not experts in our specific research areas. Conferences give professors a chance to test themselves against other experts in their areas, which can lead to significant professional development.
Inspiration. I tend to return from conferences inspired and refreshed. Seeing the successes of my colleagues at other schools encourages me to be more efficient and improve in all areas.
Community. Academic community often grows from conferences. Blogs, social media, listservs, e-mail, and phone calls can sustain the community, but I think it is relatively difficult to be truly plugged into the broader academic community without at least a few in-person meetings with other professors.
Compensation. Frankly, I count funding for conferences as part of my compensation. A school without funding for conferences would likely have to pay more in salary if it did not provide funding for conferences. Also, payment for conferences usually amounts to a relatively small portion of total faculty compensation.
Rankings. Many school rankings depend, at least in part, on peer reputation. In the U.S. News law school rankings, for example, peer reputation is actually the single most heavily weighted factor. I don’t think schools should chase rankings just for the sake of the rankings, but improving rankings can impact things that matter (recruiting intelligent students, attracting recruiters to campus, and making (generous) alums happy, etc.) I’m not sure how much schools spend on those glossy brochures they send to other schools, chasing peer reputation, but I am much more likely to think well of another school if I hear a good presentation from one of their faculty members than if I see an impressive looking pamphlet in my mailbox.
Of course, there are probably ways to cut spending on academic conferences without losing the above benefits and I am open to those ideas.
Related to this post, I am interested in how other schools divvy up travel funds (and any details about your school's approach to travel funds that you can share). At Belmont, we apply to our assigned associate dean to get funding for any conference we wish to attend. Except in the most rare circumstances, you will not get funding if you are not presenting a paper. I am not sure what the limits for travel funding are at Belmont, but they have been generous in granting my requests so far. I know some schools grant professors a set amount of travel funds each year; this seems like a good way to encourage careful spending and allow better planning by professors, but it does not address the variation in professor productivity (unless the amount granted is pegged to recent publications).
Monday, August 11, 2014
Saturday, August 9, 2014
Below is a call for abstracts from Professor Amy Sepinwall (Wharton).
Call for Abstracts for the Normative Business Ethics Workshop Series of the Carol and Lawrence Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research:
Over the 2014-2015 academic year, the Carol and Lawrence Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, will be convening a regular works-in-progress series for scholars working in normative business ethics (NBE).
The series is part of an effort to foster, and increase the prominence of, normative business ethics in the academy and the public sphere. This particular initiative has two key objectives: First, it endeavors to provide a regular forum for scholars working on business ethics from a normative perspective. The community of such scholars is relatively small, and dispersed across numerous institutions, and there are few opportunities for these individuals to convene and share work. This series is an effort to connect these scholars, and enrich their shared intellectual life. Second, the series aims to be especially valuable to junior faculty, by providing them with feedback from, and opportunities to interact with, more established members of the normative business ethics community. To that end, we hope to have one junior author and one senior author at each session.
The workshop will meet roughly once a month over the academic year, for a total of 6 sessions per year. Anyone with an interest in normative business ethics is invited to attend the sessions. Faculty interested in having their paper discussed at the workshop should submit an abstract and list, in order of preference, the date(s) they could present from those listed below. (Further information about submission can be found under the “Call for Abstracts” below.) Two draft papers will be selected for each session. Complete draft papers will be circulated at least one week in advance of each session and participants will be expected to have read them carefully, and to arrive at the workshop prepared to offer constructive feedback.
The sessions will be structured so as to maximize the opportunity for paper improvement through the comments of a community of scholars committed to normative business ethics. To that end, authors will not present at the session for which their paper has been assigned. Instead, those gathered will go around the table and each participant will offer a few points of feedback on the paper.
An author whose paper is selected for presentation in a given semester will bear an obligation to attend the other two sessions that semester or to send feedback via email to the authors whose papers are presented at any session that she is unable to attend. In this way, each author will be assured of a good number of responses to her paper.
The Zicklin Center will provide the room and refreshments for each session. Attendees will be asked to pay for their own travel expenses. Some travel funding is available for paper authors for the session at which their paper will be discussed.
For Fall 2014, the workshop will be held on the following dates:
Friday, October 10, 2014, 2:00-4:30 PM.
Friday, November 14, 2014, 2:00-4:30 PM.
Friday, December 5, 2014, 2:00-4:30 PM.
Call for Abstracts
We invite individuals interested in workshopping a paper in normative business ethics to submit a paper abstract. The abstract should be a maximum of 500 words, and the accompanying email should indicate preferred dates of presentation from those listed above. Please send these to Lauretta Tomasco, email@example.com, by September 1, 2014. Individuals will be notified about whether their paper has been selected for presentation by September 15, 2014.
Please address all questions to Amy Sepinwall, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
While I will miss my friends at the wonderful SEALS conference, I am excited to be attending and presenting at the Academy of Legal Studies in Business (ALSB) conference in Seattle next week.
For the ALSB conference, the organizers have set up a Guidebook App. I am just now exploring all the features, but it looks like an impressive and useful tool.
The App includes:
- The conference program.
- The conference schedule.
- Your schedule. You create your own schedule and can have reminders send to your phone.
- Full text of all the conference papers, organized by subject, author, and title.
- An attendee list, where attendees can share their contact information.
- In-app social networking.
- Information about exhibitors.
- A survey.
- Information about Seattle (restaurants, attractions, etc.)
There is a free version of Guidebook, but it looks like this ALSB Conference App has features of the rather expensive paid plans. The free version is limited to 200 downloads and doesn't appear to allow inclusion of presentation materials. Given the textbook publisher listed at the bottom of the App, I am guessing that the textbook publisher paid at least part of the cost, though that is pure speculation on my part.
While pricey for the paid plans, this might be something for AALS, SEALS, and other large conference organizers to consider for future years. The free version may be useful for smaller conferences.
Monday, July 28, 2014
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania has posted a legal studies and business ethics professor opening. As you may suspect, Wharton has an extremely strong legal studies faculty. More information from the announcement is quoted below.
The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania invites applications for tenured and tenure-track positions in its Department of Legal Studies and Business Ethics. The Department has eighteen full-time faculty who teach a wide variety of business-oriented courses in law and ethics in the undergraduate, MBA, and Ph.D. programs and whose research is regularly published in leading journals. The Wharton School has one of the largest and best-published business school faculties in the world. In addition, the school has a global reach and perspective, as well as an interdisciplinary approach to business issues (embracing ten academic departments and over twenty research centers).
Applicants must have either a Ph.D., J.D., or both, from an accredited institution (an expected completion date no later than July 1, 2016 is acceptable) and a demonstrated commitment to scholarship in business ethics, business law, or a combination of the two fields. Specific areas of potential focus for hiring include corporate governance, normative ethics related to business, social impact/sustainability, securities regulation, and health law/bioethics. The appointment is expected to begin July 1, 2015.
Please submit electronically your letter of introduction, c.v., and one selected article or writing sample in PDF format via the following website by November 1, 2014: APPLY. Some decisions for interviews will be made before the deadline, so candidates are encouraged to apply early.
The University of Pennsylvania is an equal opportunity employer. Minorities, women, individuals with disabilities, protected veterans are encouraged to apply.
Monday, July 21, 2014
As I promised on Friday, I am posting a question and answer segment with Larry Cunningham, author of the forthcoming book: Berkshire Beyond Buffett: The Enduring Value of Values. Larry will be guest blogging with us this week to talk more about the interesting findings he shares in the book and their implications for business and the research, teaching, and practice of business law.
Q: Why did you write this book and what did you find?
A: Widespread praise for Warren Buffett has become paradoxical: Buffett set out to build a permanent institution at Berkshire Hathaway and yet even great admirers, such as Steven Davidoff, doubt that the company can survive without him. I found that viewpoint intriguing since companies who are identified with iconic founders often have trouble after a succession, as Tom Lin has written. I wanted to investigate how the situation will look for Berkshire after Buffett leaves the scene, collapse and breakup or prosperity coupled with continued expansion? What I found was a culture so distinctive and strong, that the company’s future is bright well beyond Buffett.
Q: How did you reach that conclusion? What was your research method?
A: I focused on Berkshire’s fifty operating subsidiaries, which define the company today, representing 80 percent of its value. Incidentally, that is a flip from decades passed, when 80 percent of Berkshire’s value resided in minority stock investments. I began with Buffett’s historical statements about those subsidiaries and Berkshire’s corporate culture, research that in some ways dates to the 1997 Cardozo Law Review symposium I hosted on Buffett’s shareholder letters, which developed into my book, The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America. Still, for this project, focusing on the subsidiaries, I gathered and studied specific information about each—biographies, autobiographies, research reports, encyclopedic entries, press releases, public filings. Then, with Buffett’s permission, I surveyed all current Berkshire subsidiary chief executives and interviewed many, along with former managers and large shareholders of subsidiaries. In addition, I surveyed a large number of Berkshire shareholders to gain additional insight and to make sure I was asking the right questions.
Q: What culture did you find, what common traits do the subsidiaries share?
A: That’s the striking discovery. As I profiled each subsidiary, a pattern emerged in which the same traits began to appear repeatedly, nine altogether, including budget-consciousness, earnestness, kinship, entrepreneurship, autonomy, and a sense of permanence. Not every subsidiary had all nine, but many did, and the vast majority manifested at least five or six of the nine. A portrait of Berkshire culture crystalized, one that is distinctive and durable. And that culture, I argue in the book, will allow the company to thrive even after Buffett’s departure.
The discovery is suggested by the book’s subtitle: The Enduring Value of Values. “Value of values” refers to how the traits that bind Berkshire’s subsidiaries all share a common feature: all are intangible virtues that managers transform into economic gain. The most general manifestation of the “value of values” occurs in business acquisitions when the exchange of economic values measured using traditional standards leaves a wide gap—a price higher or lower than economic value.
A salient example from Berkshire’s history concerns Bill Child, patriarch of his family home furnishings company, RC Willey. He sold the company to Berkshire for $175 million, declining rival offers as high as $200 million. Why? Because his family valued the managerial autonomy and sense of permanence that define Berkshire culture.
The book contains more than one hundred examples of myriad ways that Berkshire subsidiaries translate intangible qualities into economic value, whether in research & development, customer service, employee compensation and benefits, corporate finance, or internal policies and practices.
Q: What makes the value of values enduring?
A: By reaping returns on capital from intangible virtues, Berkshire practices a philosophy of capitalism that does well by doing good, is sensitive but unsentimental, lofty yet pragmatic, and public-spirited but profitable. This attitude is neither altruistic nor moralistic, but practical, economic, and long-term. It’s a way of doing business that matches today’s zeitgeist, with its sense of stewardship and fair play, and also has a timeless horizon, as business leaders from Robert Mondavi to John Mackey of Whole Foods champion variations on these themes.
Q: What is the audience for the book?
A: Everyone involved in shaping American business: managers, entrepreneurs, owners, shareholders, directors, policymakers, scholars of corporate stewardship—and business lawyers and business law professors, of course. It’s a broad audience because Berkshire’s approach is distinctive but not inimitable and valuable yet underappreciated.
Q: What surprises did you find?
A: Many, mostly concerning the various subsidiaries, but several rising to the level of Buffett and Berkshire. As a recent headline in USA Today put it, “New Book Rewrites Buffett Legacy in Three Ways.” The book explains why Buffett’s place in American history is even more significant than currently assumed. Besides being a “legendary investor,” as he is often identified by journalists, Buffett has built a formidable corporation, demonstrated unsung managerial prowess, and chartered a course for American capitalism that widens the meaning of “value investing.”
While everyone knows that Buffett owes a lot to Ben Graham, his investments teacher at Columbia Business School, this book also makes clear his debt on the management side to Tom Murphy, the legendary corporate icon and head of ABC who is now a Berkshire director. When I asked Buffett who should write the foreword to this book, he instantly suggested Tom, and I’m grateful that Tom accepted the invitation—his foreword alone is worth the price of the book!
Q: Care to give us a thumbnail sketch of the book’s outline?
A: Sure. The opening chapters cover Berkshire’s origins and foundations, with surprises even for those most familiar with this terrain, including rich connections between Berkshire’s early acquisitions and the conglomerate today. While Berkshire appears vast, diverse, and sprawling, this synthesis of corporate culture shows instead a close-knit organization linked by discrete values.
The middle chapters, the heart of the book, take a series of deep dives into fifty Berkshire subsidiaries to illuminate each of the traits and how they give Berkshire its identity and destiny. I was delighted that, when circulating the manuscript for comment among Berkshire devotees, even the most avid readers found new facts, fresh insights, and a whole new way of thinking not only about Berkshire but about Buffett.
The closing chapters reflect on what Berkshire’s corporate culture means for Buffett’s legacy. They explore the elaborate succession plan at Berkshire, which most people misunderstand, and identify challenges Berkshire will face. I also draw specific lessons for investors, managers, and entrepreneurs who can benefit from Berkshire’s distinctive approach—lessons that business lawyers and policymakers will want to learn as well.
Q: Can Berkshire Beyond Buffett be assigned for any university classes?
A: Yes, and I think it will be a good companion to The Essays of Warren Buffett, which has been adopted at many law and business schools for courses on corporate governance, investments (portfolio management), and mergers & acquisitions. This book would suit those courses as well as courses in business ethics and corporate social responsibility. I am planning a seminar next spring in which these two books will be on the reading list, along with other contemporary books offering fresh examinations of venerable themes, such as Eric Orts’ Business Persons; Lynn Stout’s Shareholder Value Myth; or Curtis Milhaupt & Katharine Pistor’s Law & Capitalism.
Q: Berkshire Beyond Buffett appears to be full of lessons and important principles. Which do you propose to explore for us during the coming week?
A: I’m looking forward to sharing insights on topics such as corporate governance, corporate purpose, and succession planning. Among the book’s many lessons, these will likely be of greatest interest to readers of the Business Law Prof Blog, and I thank you for the opportunity to introduce the book and these themes here this week.
Q: Thanks so much, Larry. Those certainly are all topics that interest me (and infuse my ongoing scholarship and teaching). I look forward to your posts this week.
A: You're welcome. I am grateful for the opportunity to share what I have learned.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
I recently received notice of a legal studies position opening at Texas A&M University-Central Texas. Their needs include a professor who can teach the general business law course (legal environment), as well as employment and labor law courses.
More information, from the school, is available after the break.
Below is the information that I received this morning regarding a one-year Visiting Distinguished Service Faculty in Business Law position at the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas (MN). In April, I spoke at a social enterprise conference at the school and was quite impressed with the facilities, faculty members, and students.
The Department of Ethics & Business Law in the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas has an opening for a one-year position as a Visiting Distinguished Service Faculty in Business Law, for the 2014-15 academic year. This position will involve teaching three courses (including International Business Law) each semester. To apply (and for more information about this position), visit this site: https://facultyemployment-stthomas.icims.com/jobs/1252/visiting-distinguished-service-faculty-in-business-law/job, and submit an online application (two letters of recommendation to be sent separately). Additional questions can be directed to the search committee chair, Dale Thompson (email@example.com).
Friday, July 11, 2014
Troy University (in Troy, AL) has posted notice of a legal studies professor opening. (Confusingly, the heading of the posts says "assistant/associate professor" and the body of the post says "full-time, tenure-track," but the body of the post also says that the position is for a "lecturer.")
More information at the link above or after the break.
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Screening of applications begins September 15, 2014.
Applications can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or
Department of Business Law or College of Business Administration and Economics
California State University Northridge
Northridge, CA 91330-8375
More information here.
Friday, June 27, 2014
Previously, I have written about making MOOCs more effective and online v. in-person classes. Today, I am writing about MOOCs, online classes in general, and the future of education. This will be a relatively short post because, of course, I don’t know what the future holds. But, after the break, I will take a few guesses based on what we are already seeing.
Friday, June 20, 2014
I’ve recently returned from taking a course on negotiation at Harvard Law School. This was an in-person course where I was a student, which gives me something to compare my MOOC experiences to as I address the topic of online v. in-person classes. I provide a few of my thoughts on the topic after the break.
Friday, June 6, 2014
For those interested in the Academy of Legal Studies in Business ("ALSB") conference in Seattle (August 4-7), the deadline to upload papers is June 29, and early-bird conference registration ends on July 1.
More information is available at the ALSB website. The ALSB conference is the national conference for legal studies professors in business schools, though I believe that interested practitioners and law professors would also be welcome.
Hope to see some of our readers in Seattle.
If you were designing a massive open online course (a "MOOC"), how would you make it as effective as possible?
This week I am not looking at how MOOCs compare to in-person courses, but rather I am looking at how various MOOCs compare to one another.
A few of my thoughts are below.
Studio Filming. Some of the earlier MOOCs, like Ben Polak's Game Theory class at Yale, simply set a camera in the room and recorded the class. Even with a dynamic professor like Polak, this strategy did not seem to fit the medium well. Later MOOCs, like Northwestern University's Law & Entrepreneurship course, were filmed specially for the MOOC, in what appears to be a studio of sorts. The studio, edited versions of a course seem to produce a much more efficient and engaging experience. To increase engagement even further, some have asked whether celebrities like Matt Damon should teach MOOCs (presumably from a script prepared by professors in the field)...or maybe professors should take acting classes.
Deadlines and Certificates. It is well-known that the completion rate for MOOCs is miserable. The completion rate has been reported as less than 7%. I imagine that rate would increase significantly if the online courses were not free. Also, while I have not seen the data, I think MOOCs with deadlines for various sections of the course and courses with certificates encourage students to stay on track and finish classes they start.
Assessments. I preferred the MOOCs that had online questions as you went along with the video lectures (every 10-15 minutes) rather than those that just had questions at the end, but this can be overdone if it cuts up the flow of the lecture too much. I did not mind if the MOOC had questions during both the presentations and at the end of the unit, and it was probably good to be tested on the same material twice.
Focused Discussion Boards. The discussion boards I have seen on MOOCs seem to be mostly a waste of time, at least the way the vast majority of the boards are currently configured. The discussion boards are mostly the blind leading the blind and there is too much noise and too little value. Perhaps the discussion boards could be divided by geographic location or level of education. I’d be interested in a discussion board of MOOC users in middle Tennessee (perhaps the group would meet in person once or twice) or in a discussion board of academics from around the world. Perhaps they could still have the “all-comers” discussion board for those who wanted to engage with the entire class, but I would have found a more limited and selected group to be more useful.
Next week, I will talk about MOOCs v. In-Person Courses. The New York Times recently looked at this issue in the context of Harvard Business School; I will dig into the issue and the article next week.