Course addresses business fluency for non-business students

Aimee Wittman and Jim Beirne from the WashU Career Center and adjunct professor Robert Portnoy began the Business Fundamentals and Professional Competencies for Non-Business Students course as a career education opportunity and a way WashU Olin can provide non-business students with a better understanding of the business mindset and business vocabulary.

The course is centered on three areas of professional competency that are universal across all fields: leadership, interpersonal communication skills and business mindset.

Students who take the course are exposed to strategic and tactical perspectives and explore topics including strategic decision-making, accounting, data analytics and marketing.

“The course is composed of an overarching framework of building a business mindset coupled with a career exploration journey,” Wittman said. It is then divided into topical areas led by various faculty through the use of case studies and assignments designed by the faculty for their specific fields of expertise.

Specific coursework allows students to gain an understanding of what companies are looking for and identify their own skills in the process. This includes resume building, learning how to use LinkedIn, practicing informational interviews and career assessment activities.

Students also participate in a business simulation in which they are divided into competing teams and must create they own companies. The simulation allows the students to incorporate business decision-making and business mindsets.  

Going into its sixth year, the course is open to 40 students per semester.

According to Wittman, students have responded well to the course and have gotten a lot out of it by developing an appreciation of the vocabulary and mindset. In addition to this, they gain confidence in skills and an immersion into new thinking.

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