University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame
Academic Development: University of Notre Dame / by Philip S. Moore, C.S.C.

IV. The College of Commerce

In a letter to parents of students and friends of the University, dated January 1, 1851, Father Sorin wrote: "Book-keeping, as its importance requires, has received a double amount of labor, and those who study it, advance in equal ratio." Two years later on July 2, 1853 an announcement of Honors includes a Mercantile Department among the departments listed. Book-keeping, Penmanship and Arithmetic were the subjects taught. We can say, therefore, that from the very beginning commercial education was given at Notre Dame. On the other hand, we cannot say that our present College of Commerce is a direct development and expansion out of these early commercial studies, as we can say that the College of Arts and Letters is a development and expansion out of the Classical Course, or the College of Engineering a development and expansion out of the Civil Engineering Course. The College of Commerce developed out of a Department of Commerce introduced into the College of Arts and Letters in 1913-14.

The mention of the Mercantile Department disappeared in 1856 from the Annual Catalogue, but was back in again in 1860-61. this same year diplomas were granted to four students of the Commercial Course.[105] But it was only in 1863-64 that this Commercial Course was announced.[106] It was a two year Course, designed to fit students for commercial pursuits and comprised Book-keeping, Penmanship, Arithmetic, Algebra, English Grammar and Composition, Elocution, Geography, History, German and Commercial Law.

This program remained pretty stable for many years, though German and Geography were soon dropped. Gradually, toward the end of the century, Short-hand, Typewriting and Business Practice and Office Work came into the program. In 1905-06 the title changed from Commercial Course to Commercial School and the program was cut back from two to one year. Then in 1909-10 a very significant change was made. The title was changed to Commercial High School -- and the program was made one of several four year programs in the Preparatory School. This well balanced high school program, with Book-Keeping, Shorthand, Type writing, Penmanship and a History of Commerce the distinguishing subjects, continued until the Preparatory School was abolished in 1920.

Meanwhile in the schoolyear 1913-14, a Department of Commerce was introduced into the College of Arts and Letters.[107] Heretofore the commercial education at Notre Dame, including the Commercial High School, was a course in secretarial work -- roughly equivalent to the training given today in our business colleges -- though it may have been of help to those who aspired to managerial or executive positions in business and industry. The objectives of the four year collegiate program, leading to the degree of Bachelor of Philosophy in Commerce, were naturally broader. The announced primary aim was to equip the student for practical work in the business world, while at the same time affording him the advantages of a real college education. Through arrangement of schedules, specialization was possible in Banking and Advertising as well as in mercantile and secretarial work. From the prescribed courses it is difficult to see how a student would have specialized in any of these areas except Banking or Finance, unless by mercantile work was meant Accounting or Accountancy.

The prescribed program[108] is interesting in itself and in view of the continuing discussion of what should constitute a business education on the college level, granted that this education can find legitimate place in the college. English and History were each allotted three years. Stress was put on Foreign Language -- French, German or Spanish -- which was required in every semester through all four years. A year of Philosophy -- a general introduction to the problems of philosophy --, of Elements or Principles of Economics, and a semester of Elements or Principles of Politics, of Labor Problems and Socialism, of American Government and Politics, and a year of Elocution completed the non-professional subjects.

Of the professional subjects Accounting was given the most time -- four semesters. Other subjects -- all at first designated Political Science and later Economics -- were Money, Credit and Banking, Public Finance, Economic Development in the United States, Railway Transportation, Industrial Organization and Combination, Insurance, and Business Law. All these were one semester courses. Finally, there was a year's course in Journalism which dealt with advertising and the business side of a newspaper. Since this course was later replaced by a semester of Advertising, it was apparently meant to supply advertising in the program.

During its relatively short existence of seven years, the prescribed program of the Department of Commerce in the College of Ar s and Letters remained fairly stable. Initially only five subjects were required in the first three years and six in the fourth. Gradually six subjects were introduced into all four years. This made possible the addition of subjects without dropping out anything. Among the added courses were the Industrial History of England, Commercial Geography, Corporation Finance, Contracts, American City Government, Foreign Exchange, the Elements or Principles of Sociology and a non-credit seminar, called Chamber of Commerce, one hour a week for all four years. The time allotted to some subjects -- English, Credit, Banking, Insurance -- was increased. On the other hand, in 1917-18 Foreign Language was reduced from three to two years.

In the schoolyear 1916-17 a program in Foreign Commerce was established.[109] The distinguishing courses in this program were a year of Foreign Commerce, of Latin American History and of Ocean Traffic and Trade. Three years of Foreign Language were required and emphasis was placed on Spanish of which the student must have completed two years before entering his Junior year. Only then could he take a second language in this third year. For graduation from this program, as well as from the program in Commerce, two months of outside summer work in business or industry were made a requirement in 1918.

At this point reference must be made to Short Courses in both Commerce and Foreign Commerce. These Short Courses of two years were started at the same time as the four year program, namely in 1913-14 and in 1916-17, respectively. They were set up for those who were unable or unwilling to pursue the full college courses. We saw that the same kind of Short Courses were established in some of the branches of Engineering. Today the practice has been discontinued in four year colleges, but the need is being met by terminal two-year junior colleges.

In the schoolyear 1920-21 commercial or business education took on an entirely new status at the University when the Department of Commerce in the College of Arts and Letters was discontinued and a separate College of Commerce was established.[110] Immediately the programs were greatly expanded, but nevertheless there was a continuation of the work of the Department of Commerce and also of the program leading to degree of Engineering Administrator, which had been introduced into the College of Engineering in 1918.

The aims of the College of Commerce were announced as substantially the same as those we have seen for the Department, "to give the student a general cultural education and a sufficient knowledge of the fundamentals of business to enable him to advance in his chosen field faster and farther than those who have not enjoyed this particular kind of training.[111] (The utilitarian end of this training is expressed more obviously here.)

Three degrees were offered from the outset: the Bachelor of Philosophy in Commerce, continued from the Department of Commerce in the College of Arts and Letters; the Bachelor of Commercial Science (changed in 1935 to Bachelor of Science in Commerce); and Engineering Administrator, taken over from the College of Engineering. For the first two of these degrees all students followed practically the same courses in the Freshman and Sophomore years. The one big difference was that students going on for the Ph.B. in Commerce began Philosophy in the second year and continued it for three years, whereas students in the B.C.S. program were required to take only one year of Philosophy -- in the Junior year. The Engineering Administrator degree continued to be conferred on successful completion of one year of business courses after completion of work for the bachelor's degree in any of the several departments of Engineering.

Two major sequences were provided in the Ph.B. in Commerce program -- Business Administration and Foreign Commerce -- and six major sequences in the D.O.S. program -- Business Administration, Foreign Commerce, Accounts and Finance, Banking, Civic Work and Transportation. A combination Commerce-Law six year program was also introduced from the start.

As we have said, the first two years were substantially the same for all students in the College. In regard to the eight major sequences offered in the two programs, there are a few common courses, such as Advertising and a seminar called Chamber of Commerce, in all of them, but they are characterized by a great diversification of business course offerings, and some differences in non-business requirements, such as Foreign Language required in the Foreign Commerce major sequence and a concentration of social science courses in the Civic Work major sequence. The courses in the Foreign Commerce major are practically identical for both the Ph.B. in Commerce and the B.C.S. programs, and this in effect reduced the number of major sequences to seven.

It would prolong this study unduly to go into detail for all of these seven major sequences. Two or three of them will suffice to give us an adequate idea of what was considered good business education when our College of Commerce was founded in 1920. Today we may be appalled at the fragmentation, and at the inclusion of such a subject as Transportation as a major sequence. The same may be said of many of the individual courses, such as Life Insurance and Property Insurance required of all students in the Freshman year.

The first two common years consisted of two years of English, of Foreign Language and of Religion; one year of History, of Speech and of Social Science; one year of Philosophy for students in the Ph.B. in Commerce program for which were substituted Money and Banking, Mercantile Credit and Foreign Exchange in the B.C.S. program; and the business subjects: one year of Accounting, a semester or less of Business Law, Commercial Geography, Life Insurance and Property Insurance and a seminar called Chamber of Commerce, held once a week in the second year. In this seminar reports were given "covering different phases of business practice, current history, commercial legislation, commercial geography, marketing methods, statistics, business barometers, salesmanship, and the like."[112]

The student majoring in Business Administration in the Ph.B. in Commerce added two years of History and of Philosophy and one year of English (Business English) of Religion and of Social Science to his non-business education and one year of Money and Banking and of Advertising, and semesters of Mercantile Credit and of Foreign Exchange to his business education. He also continued in the weekly seminar throughout his Junior and Senior years. The major in Foreign Commerce added two years of History, one year of English Business English), of Foreign Language, of Philosophy (the only year of Philosophy required in his entire program), and of Religion and one semester of Economics to his non-business education, and one year of Advertising and one semester of Corporation Finance, of Foreign Sales Problems, of Foreign Trade Documents, of Marine Insurance, of Ocean Transportation, of Ocean Traffic and Rates, and of World Markets to his business education. He also continued in the weekly seminar throughout his Junior and Senior years. And finally, the major in Banking added two years of Social Science, and one year of English (Business English), of History, of Philosophy (the only year in his entire program), and of Religion to his non-business education, and one year of Advertising and one semester or less of Banking Practice, of Business Law (Agency, Contracts, Corporations, Negotable Instruments), of Corporation Finance, of Investment Securities, and of Office Management to his business education. He also continued the weekly seminar in his Junior and Senior years.

The year's program leading to the degree of Engineering Administrator for those who had received the bachelor's degree in one of the engineering departments consisted of one year of Business English and of Accounting and semesters of Labor Problems, Distributive Justice, Corporation Finance, Business Law (Agency, Contracts and Corporations), Elements of Transportation, and the weekly seminar, Chamber of Commerce.

The program for the Engineering Administrator remained pretty much the same until it was discontinued in 1940. On the other hand changes of several kinds -- of programs, of administrative organization, and of course offerings in the various programs -- began to be made almost immediately. Thus the programs in Transportation and in Civic Work disappeared in 1923-24 and those in Banking and in Finance and Accounts in 1925-26. In 1923-24 a program in Insurance was started, but immediately dropped, and in 1927-28 a program in Accounting was introduced.

In 1924-25 departments were established. At first there were three, Finance and Accounts, Marketing and Business Administration, and Foreign Commerce. Incidentally, in the early years there seems not to have been a complete correlation between departments and the major sequences or programs. These departments remained until 1940 when a reorganization into four departments occurred -- Accounting, Business Administration, Finance, and Foreign Commerce. In 1947 Marketing replaced Foreign Commerce. Finally, in the schoolyear 1957-58 the departmental titles were changed to Accountancy, Business Organization and Management, Finance and Business Economics, and Marketing Management.

In regard to required courses, there were not very many changes over the years. In general the changes that were made probably bettered the programs, especially in the non-business subjects. But in view of the intense critical reevaluation of business education which is going on today,[113] it is not the course changes which are of primary interest, but to what extent education in Commerce at Notre Dame has merited the severe criticisms levelled against all American business education.

These criticisms are that in business education there have been too many programs, too many narrow specialities. This has meant a proliferation of courses, many of them dealing with skills, practical techniques, business practices and specialized subjects of ephemeral value. There has been too little time given to non-business liberalizing courses, and the courses given have not been well integrated into the preparation of the business man. Neither the non-business nor the business courses have laid broad foundations or opened the mind to situations requiring analysis, reasoning, judgment. In other words, the courses have lacked analytical or intellectual content, and consequently they have not been demanding. This has led to low standards and has attracted the least qualified or inferior students.

The root of all these ills of business education has been that it developed without first having a basic subject-matter or core curriculum. In fact, it has not yet been able to define itself as a discipline with real intellectual content. Neither has it had a unifying or organizing principle which could give it some homogeneity. Other factors in this picture have been the general splintering of education and the proliferation of courses in liberal arts and other areas; the variety of business situations and careers; lack of education by faculty members, many of whom have been active or retired business men brought in on part-time basis; increasing enrollments and pressure from students and parents, many of whom had little or no awareness of what education is all about.

A study of our education in Commerce during the first thirty years of the College's existence reveals that the criticisms leveled against business education in general apply to it. This is not surprising since we cannot reasonably expect that the pioneers in this area at Notre Dame would have broken through the national framework. In fact, we do not seem to have gone to the lengths that many reputable schools went. We did offer eight separate programs from the outset but we did not set up major sequences in Real Estate, Retailing, Advertising, Secretarial Science, etc. Moreover, the programs were soon reduced, notably by the early dropping of Transportation. As to the individual courses in the program, non-business, liberalizing courses in English, History, Foreign Languages, Philosophy, Religion and Social Sciences, however well or badly they may have been integrated into the programs, have always accounted for about 50% of the students' schedules. To illustrate the business courses, we may select the required courses for the Bachelor of Philosophy in Commerce and for the Bachelor of Science in Commerce with major in Business Administration in 1935, chosen because these courses remained about the same at least from 1925 to well into the 1940's; the required courses for the Bachelor of Philosophy with major in Marketing, introduced in 1947; and the required courses for the Bachelor of Science with major in Accounting in 1940, which had not changed much since this major sequence was first introduced in 1927, and the same major in 1947 when a number of course changes had been made:

In the current critical reevaluation of business education a number of recommendations have been put forward for remedying its past weaknesses and assuring its future strength. These may be summed up as follows:

  1. To give more place to liberalizing non-business subjects, at least up to 50%, and to integrate these subjects better into the business programs.

  2. To identify a business discipline or a hard core of broad subject matter with intellectual content and internal cohesion.

  3. To limit undergraduate specialization to a concentration on a particular area in the upper years to give greater depth in one field. Such concentration should consist of chosen courses -- should have its own unity and coherence. This would also prepare the student for his first job.

  4. To devise all courses in view of giving a broad foundation and a broad understanding of business.

  5. To give more practice in decision making through the case method.

  6. To relate business education to the economic - socio-political environment in which it functions.

  7. To make all courses intellectually challenging and demanding of hard work.

  8. To raise standards and to admit only better qualified students.

  9. To unify business education around the administrator and the individual firm.

We can take satisfaction from the fact that at Notre Dame, under Father John Cavanaugh, the weaknesses of business education were recognized several years before the current reevaluation got under way. Moreover, steps were taken to correct these weaknesses, and all the recommendations now being made were applied to the task. The first step was the inauguration of an Experimental Program for Administrators in the schoolyear 1951-52. As the title indicates this Program was started on an experimental basis. This was because it was a new departure in business education which might well fail. The title also indicates a focal or unifying aim -- the preparation of the business administrator. The individual enterprise or firm was also used. Thus #9 among the recommendations listed above was applied. Focused as it was on the administrator, practice in decision making, in diagnosing business situations, in searching out, organizing and weighing facts was essential part of the work.

But primary aims of the Program were to hammer out a business discipline -- a hard core of broad business courses of analytical and intellectual content -- and to integrate with this a sequence of non-business courses. To this end every student was required to take courses in five business areas -- Marketing, Production, Finance, Accounting and Statistics, and Human Relations. New and perhaps strangely sounding titles were given to some of these courses, not merely to indicate thet they were new and different but also that they were designed to present broad understanding of these areas, not to train students in techniques and practices. Thus the courses in the Freshman year were Ingredients of Marketing I & II, Ingredients of Production I & II, and the Accounting Cycle; and in the Sophomore year, Marketing Mix, Production Mix, Cost Accounting, Business Finance, Corporation Finance, and The Social Organization of Enterprise. In the Junior and Senior years Business Policy, and Business and Society were the required courses, which left room for each student to give some time to a concentration in the area of his interest. These business courses comprised about 50% of the Program. The other 50% was devoted to non-business subjects, including Mathematics and Physics. To assure the integration and coordination of the non-business and business courses all teachers in the Program worked as a team and met in frequent planning and discussion sessions. The students in the Program -- who were limited in number -- also worked as teams in every course. Sincere effort was made to make the courses challenging and demanding -- to push every student to his full capacity.

By 1953 the Experimental was dropped from the title. The next year the man who had headed the Program, Dr. James W. Culliton, was named Dean of the College. Two years later, in September 1956, a completely revised program was adopted for the entire college. Since its aim was to accomplish for all students what the Program for Administrators had attempted for the few, no Freshmen were admitted to the Program in 1956 and it disappeared in 1959. The revised program was limited to the Freshman year in 1956 but now has been implemented for the full four years.[114] Within the program are four basic divisions of courses: Traditional-Liberal, Professional Liberal, Business Foundation, and Professional Concentration. The focal or unifying aim is the preparation of the business administrator -- the Christian business administrator -- and all courses in the program bear on the achievement of this objective. The individual enterprise is the means used to bring coherence to the Business Foundation and Professional Concentration courses and also to define business as a discipline with genuine intellectual content and to give the students a broad understanding of this discipline.

The Traditional-Liberal courses which comprise 50% of the program, are carried through all four years but are concentrated in the first two. These courses are identical with those of the revised program in the College of Arts and Letters in the Freshman year, except two courses in Business Foundation replace Foreign Language, and half the program is identical in the Sophomore year. They include Theology, Philosophy, English, History, Mathematics, Natural and Social Science. A chart taken from the 1959-60 Bulletin of Information of the College of Commerce, and inserted later into this study shows graphically the time given to each of these subjects as well as to the subjects in the other divisions of the program.

The Professional-Liberal courses place business in the socio-political economic context of modern American society, and include Business Law, Constitutional and Administration Law, Money, Banking and Monetary Policy, Government Finance and Fiscal Policy, Business Conditions Analysis, and a Commerce Seminar devoted to reading and discussion of the most important literature on business and administration. These courses are begun in the third year.

Marketing and Principles of Accounting are the first courses in the Business Foundation division. These are two semester courses in the Freshman year, followed by Business Finance, and Corporation Accounting in the first, and Production Management, and Cost Accounting and Control: in the second semester of the Sophomore year. Semester courses in Business Statistics, and Social Organization of Enterprise in the Junior year complete this sequence.

Professional Concentration begins in the third year and is limited to four one semester courses. The areas of concentration are Accountancy, Business Organization and Management, Finance, and Marketing, but a concentration outside the business areas, for example, Mathematics, is possible. Each program is "tailor-made."

The following chart gives a graphic view not only of the individual courses and of the time allotted to each but also of their sequence and interrelationships in the four divisions.

This in brief is exposition of the current reevaluation of undergraduate business education and the revised program at Notre Dame in which we anticipated the recommendations being made to correct its weaknesses and abuses. It is still too early to judge the success of the new program but it implements all the best thinking to date on what undergraduate business education should be. In itself, however, any program is only a vehicle through which education is carried on or a framework within which it is conducted. The importance of a good vehicle or framework cannot be over-emphasized but in final analysis the quality of education depends on the quality of the Faculty and of the students. It must be added, therefore, that since 1956 the Commerce Faculty has been greatly strengthened. Unlike the not so distant past, most of them hold the doctorate degree. Also part-time members are well on the way to being completely eliminated. Finally, each year the quality of the student body improves. It seems not too sanguine to say that if the Faculty can really define a business discipline of genuine intellectual cotent and continue to develop the present program, the future of business education at Notre Dame looks promising.

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