Why To Strengthen Gilman's Business Curriculum

By: Sam Bloomberg and Hudson Carroll

Recently, Gilman has seen an increased interest in business and economics throughout the student body. This interest has primarily been expressed by a strong attendance at the Gilman Business Club meetings, along with well-attended trips led by the Business Club to Wall Street, Under Armour Headquarters, AdCorp, and the T. Rowe Price Harbor East office. This significant participation in business-oriented functions at the school show just how many students want to learn more about the business world.

While Gilman has an extensive number of great electives, ranging from subjects like US History Since ‘45 to Engineering, the school currently does not offer a traditional business or economics course, despite the noticeable interest in these fields. Though a few classes on economics and finance are offered at Bryn Ma wr and RPCS, they have limited space for Gilman students and are strictly economics and finance courses, so they do not capture all aspects of business.

Gilman currently offers substitutes for a business/economics course in The Startup Experience and a new class called Entrepreneurship. The Startup Experience teaches students through trial and error the beginning stages of a startup and the new Entrepreneurship course is a continuation of the smaller startup program. These opportunities offer a small glimpse into the topic; however, what Gilman needs is a panoptic business course which covers the broad scope of disciplines within the field.

While Entrepreneurship is seemingly a very interesting course on the surface, its inaugural year was highlighted by several flaws in its general design. Run by Henrik Scheel, CEO and founder of The Startup Experience and a veteran when it comes to startup companies, the course seemed appealing at the beginning of the year, but issues with the class’s schedule and organization arose as the semester went on. One of the more pressing dilemmas with the class was that Mr. Scheel had to Facetime his students rather than teach them in person due to his extremely busy schedule. These class Facetime sessions were scheduled roughly once every two weeks, while other classes were designated for students to work in small teams on their startup business. While theoretically this is a good idea, there weren’t any collected or graded assignments, so none of the students understood exactly how the class was graded. Creating a product was interesting and informative, but due to the fact that the teacher could not be easily contacted, the students did not receive a single grade until the end of the third quarter. The course needs more structure with specific deadlines and actual grades that students can see before they receive their final report card.

As entrepreneur Peter Drucker said in his book Innovation and Entrepreneurship, “The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.” What we’re searching for is a course at Gilman where the curriculum spans all of the main facets of business including finance, management, entrepreneurship, marketing, and sales. Hopefully, Gilman is able to respond to this and exploit the opportunity to begin to educate its students about a topic that has potential to give us a leg up in the future.

When Mr. Sean Furlong, Director of Finance, Operations, and faculty advisor to the Business Club, was asked about what he thought of a Business/Finance course, he replied, “I would be all for it, and I’d be glad to teach another course. I teach Financial Accounting at Hopkins, so I’d love to teach some aspect of that [at Gilman].” Having an experienced teacher prepared to teach such a course is an invaluable asset for Gilman; however, the school has not yet taken advantage of this resource.

Mr. Bartley Griffith, Assistant Headmaster, explained the reasoning for Gilman’s lack of a business course, saying, “One of the things we think about in liberal arts education is the extent to which a liberal arts education, particularly at the secondary level, should be pre-professional.” Merriam-Webster defines liberal arts as “studies intended to provide chiefly general knowledge and to develop general intellectual capacities as opposed to professional or vocational skills.” If this was the case with Gilman, then why do we offer our Robotics, and Engineering courses, or even The Startup Experience class? None of these classes fall under the definition of  liberal arts; nonetheless, they are still included in the curriculum. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as specialized courses are very useful for students to discover their talents and find what they are passionate about.

Gilman states that it teaches a “challenging and timeless college-preparatory program” on their website, and does not explicitly refer to it as a liberal arts education. Also, a business course at Gilman wouldn’t necessarily have to be “pre-professional.” Mr. Furlong lays out what he thinks would be appropriate for a high school business course, saying, “I’d love to see more courses, especially with Excel. Excel is a critical skill in business. If you look at what the job market wants… you have to have Excel training, and we barely do anything here with Excel... I think personal finance is critical, [including] budgeting, income statements, and investing would be good to give [the students] an introduction.” This course model would encompass a lot of subjects that could help give students some form of direction as to what they want to do.

Adding a business course to the curriculum at Gilman would be welcomed by the students as it is a course that they are interested in learning. The strong showings to business club meetings are no fluke as nobody is required to go to those. As billionaire and businessman Warren Buffett said, “In the world of business, the people who are most successful are those who are doing what they love.” Business is what a lot of people love to learn and do. If Gilman wants success for their students, they will start them on the path of doing something that they love.