A New Major: Global Commerce

Global Commerce
March 10, 2016

Denison spent 18 months asking employers and our alumni: “What would make a liberal arts student your ideal new employee?” Interestingly, they did not say “majoring in business.”

Instead, they said that their ideal new employee would arrive with a basic understanding of how economics, accounting and commerce work, blended with a wide range of liberal arts courses that prepares students to think, read cultures, understand historical patterns, problem-solve and communicate clearly. And they would have had internships, externships and opportunities to study abroad. Denison’s engaging, demanding and dynamic new academic major, global commerce, accomplishes those goals.

Global commerce is an exciting new major that gives students an opportunity to explore how markets and commerce operate from a liberal arts perspective, where students gain exposure to core concepts of business and commerce and learn to connect those concepts to the historic, social, cultural and environmental contexts of a globalized society.

This new program is built upon the strengths of Denison’s faculty. In recent years, the college has expanded its offerings in a range of areas including economic history, modern languages and global curriculum. Global commerce builds on this enhanced capacity of the Denison faculty to engage students in dynamic inquiry into the relationship of commerce, society and culture.

The program is designed for students with a wide range of interests, including those who want to understand how business, commerce and markets operate in an increasingly complex and global world. The program also is especially geared toward students interested in international development and/or social issues, who want to examine how these issues are approached through commercial activity and market exchanges.

“Increasingly, many undergraduates are interested in business and entrepreneurship, but many of the existing programs can be somewhat narrow. This program pulls from the strength of the liberal arts to give students a wide range of skills and perspectives needed to understand how markets and commercial activity work, especially in an increasingly global world,” said Denison President Adam Weinberg. “This is a unique major that builds upon the strengths of our faculty, strong global programs, and proximity to Columbus.” 

Increasingly, many undergraduates are interested in business and entrepreneurship, but many of the existing programs can be somewhat narrow.

The major, which will be offered to students beginning in the fall of 2016, is designed to immerse students in a wide range of liberal arts courses, combined with an international experience and a senior project, all of which will train students to understand how business and commerce operate in an increasingly global world.

The major has five components:

  • The commerce core consists of seven courses that span the study of economics, statistics, financial accounting, spreadsheet proficiency, business language and ethics, and global financial markets.
  • A global focus gives students the opportunity to concentrate in one of four geographical areas: Africa/Middle East, Asia, Europe, or Latin America/Caribbean. The global focus is designed to give students a deep understanding of the cultures, histories and politics of their chosen region through courses in humanities, arts and social sciences. 
  • Language proficiency allows them to deepen their understanding of the region while also operating effectively within it. 
  • An off-campus study experience provides global commerce majors with hands-on experience in their chosen global focus.
  • A capstone senior seminar gives students an opportunity to explore a component of global commerce through either an extensive research project or a focused internship in the Columbus region.

For example, a student interested in pursuing business or economic development in China would take the commerce core acquiring key skills and concepts. They also would take a series of courses on Chinese history, language, arts and politics. The student would explore the intersection of their courses through a semester in China. During their senior year, all of this would come together in a capstone project on some aspect of Chinese commerce. Along the way, that student would meet Denison alumni working in China and have the chance to interact with local Columbus businesses operating in China.

Associate Professor of History Karen Spierling, who will serve as the first director of global commerce commented, “Our students will understand the interconnectedness of the world and the complex relationship between commerce and culture and will be prepared to successfully apply their knowledge and skills to a wide variety of careers after Denison.”

Associate Provost Catherine Dollard, one of the designers of the major, summarized, “We believe this is a unique major. We are excited by the way the commerce core introduces students to the basics of accounting, business language and financial markets, while immersion in a global focus will lead students to understand how commercial activity is really shaped by historic, social, cultural and environmental contexts of a globalized society. This major is a dynamic application of the liberal arts and is going to produce a generation of Denison alumni who lead in everything from global business to NGOs and humanitarian work.”

Denison is uniquely poised to create this program because of its strengths across traditional liberal arts disciplines, a long history of global programs, and close proximity to Columbus, with its burgeoning global business community. For example, global commerce students have access to faculty from several academic disciplines, Denison’s sister colleges in 14 countries, and our extensive networks in the city of Columbus.

Dollard added, “Throughout the major students will be exposed to a wide range of Denison faculty who approach commerce from different interests, perspectives and professions. Students also will meet and hear from alumni and Columbus leaders who can give them real-world examples of how these issues play out across different sectors from business to community development and politics.”

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