McMaster Launches Their First-Ever Integrated Business and Humanities Program

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This fall, for the very first time, McMaster University welcomed some of the sharpest young minds in Canada into the Integrated Business and Humanities (IBH) program.

Jointly developed by the university’s DeGroote School of Business and Faculty of Humanities, the program was conceived to produce the country’s next generation of business leaders. Fifty-two students were selected from hundreds of applicants and began their studies in September.

The inaugural cohort was selected based on academic standing, leadership qualities, extracurricular activities, volunteerism, and community engagement. In addition, each student took part in a wide-ranging online interview prior to admission.

First-year classes include topics such as Introduction to Ethics; Foundations of Community Engagement; Business Environment and Organization; and Insight and Inquiry: Questions to Change the World.

“In my class, for example, the format is very interactive. That’s a key component of the program,” says Emad Mohammad, IBH Director, and Associate Professor, Accounting and Financial Management Services, at DeGroote.

“Students are very much participants in the learning process. They’re highly engaged, as far as lectures go. We always have in-class debates, and they ask probing questions and initiate discussion. They don’t need much encouragement to get involved, believe me,” he continues.

Discussion comes easily for a reason. The majority of coursework involves real-time case studies, with students and faculty examining current issues as they develop around the globe. Fittingly, nearly half the inaugural cohort can speak more than one language. Near the end of their studies, students will also participate in an international service learning trip coordinated by ME to WE.

Associate Dean of Humanities, Anna Moro, says the program is bringing a humanistic perspective to the study of commerce, something she feels is increasingly critical in the business world. “The Humanities offerings in this program will help provide students with the foundation they need to develop these indispensable skills,” she begins.

“We need business leaders with the ability to deal with uncertainty, and with the complexities generated by the multiple cultures, histories, systems, and viewpoints of our interconnected world, as well as leaders who understand the far-reaching consequences of their decisions, and are guided by an ethical framework.”

Two months in, the IBH program is already garnering international attention. The Atlantic recently devoted 2,000 words to the program, with one of its education writers spending a full day at McMaster in September, meeting with faculty and students and touring the campus.

“It’s a business major aimed at turning out what it says will be future corporate leaders, for which students also are required to take philosophy, language, culture, and other humanities courses toward an eventual degree in business,” wrote Atlantic contributor Jon Marcus. “Employers highly value what humanities majors learn in college, focus groups and surveys show.”

For Toronto native Yael Morris, earning a Commerce degree while focusing on philanthropy and ethical business practices offered everything she was looking for in a university experience. After visiting McMaster in May and conversing with faculty and staff, she knew it was meant to be.

“I think the IBH program is exactly the right fit for me,” says the 18-year-old alumna of North Toronto Collegiate Institute. “In fact, it’s almost as if they designed the program to meet my own priorities.” On the whole, Morris believes businesses can do societal good while still serving the needs of their owners, investors, and corporate leaders.

“There is also a need to think about how services and products can better serve populations,” she continues. “Combining business and the humanities will bring people together by working toward common goals, with the aim of making societies healthier and happier.”

Graduates of the program will possess sharp critical thinking skills, personal and ethical values, and emotional intelligence to help transform communities at home and abroad. “We know these students are going to make a tangible difference in the world,” adds Mohammad.

“It’s only a matter of time.”

Visit to learn more about the Integrated Business and Humanities program.

Read the full Perspective Hamilton 2017 feature here.