June 8, 2005 — Students taking the University of Utah’s summer “Foundations of Business Thought” class, which began three weeks ago, are already deep into the writings of Francis Bacon, Henry David Thoreau and W.E.B. DuBois. What has escaped them is the fact that they saved $30 off the required course book of the same name-thanks to their instructor, U of U Finance Professor Cal Boardman, who spring semester made it a personal crusade to lower the cost of the required text. Over the course of an academic year, students at the U and Salt Lake Community College (SLCC), where a similar, collaborative text is used, will save in excess of a combined $100,000.
With each new edition, published over the past 12 years, the cost of the business text increased-while students’ small budgets remained relatively constant. The sixth edition, due out this spring, was scheduled for another mark-up. So Boardman, the endowed Kendall D. Garff Professor of Finance in the U’s David Eccles School of Business (DESB), summoned the help of Alan Sandomir, co-author of the book and associate professor (lecturer) of marketing at the U. They, in turn, collaborated with SLCC Management Professor Karen Gunn, also an adjunct professor in the DESB teaching Business 1010, and former SLCC Business Professor Linda Cunningham. More than a decade ago Gunn and Cunningham, in concert with Boardman and Sandomir, created a SLCC course and book that paralleled the U’s offering. Both texts were-and still are-published by Pearson Custom Publishing, a division of Prentice Hall.
The academics, representing two significant accounts, individually approached the publisher. “This gave us strength,” Boardman says, noting that all involved-Pearson Custom Publishing, the bookstores and the authors-took cuts in their income from sale of the book. The price of the newest, 479-page edition was nearly half of the anticipated cost.
“This is an amazing example of teamwork to do the right thing,” Boardman wrote to colleagues in a letter. “I am certain that all the parties are still making money-just not nearly as much as before (and Pearson, perhaps, took the largest cut). Given that the content of the book deals with applying our personal value systems to business decisions and in treating our customers (our students) as we would like to be treated, it is fitting that it happened with this book. At some point, I hope our students (and our constituents) realize that our students’ interests were put first in this wonderful chain of events and that corporate America can step up to the plate to make money and help others at the same time.”
Says Boardman: “The real winners were the students.”
At the U, 2,000 students take the introductory business course each year. The U Bookstore sells the text, an anthology of classic writings that span the centuries, for $38.70. About 800 students enroll in the course at SLCC, where the similar text, “Business & Society,” sells for $39.35.
The textbook was not developed for a national market, but, instead, “to provide a high-quality product to students,” Boardman says. Nonetheless, Chicago’s DePaul University and the University of Northern Colorado are now using “Foundations of Business Thought” for similar courses.
The U and SLCC professors say their long-time intercollegiate collaboration also benefits students in other ways. “Business students who transfer between the U and SLCC are comfortable with the courses they have had,” says Gunn, who received a teaching award in 1997 for the course. “We never seem to have an issue in matching content, pedagogy and methodology for this course. The partnership between us speaks to a really concentrated effort on the part of faculty to meet the needs of students at both places.”
The University class, first offered in the spring of 1993 as part of Boardman’s University Professorship, takes an interdisciplinary approach in introducing the undergraduate to the world of business. Students read passages in the subjects of philosophy, economics, sociology, theology, literature, business, psychology and military strategy.
“Although business discussions have been taking place for thousands of years, freshman and business students don’t expect to read Plato, a philosopher, on business; or Emerson, a transcendentalist, on the virtues of wealth; or St. Thomas Aquinas, a theologian, on what it takes to have a fair market environment for pricing of goods,” says Sandomir, who has taught at the U for 18 years. “We ask students to identify basic principles discussed by the classic philosophers and note how the principles have evolved over time.
“When asked what was the purpose of business schools, the philosopher and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead, who lived from 1861 to 1947, replied, ‘To civilize businessmen.’ That is the purpose of this textbook: to civilize current and upcoming persons in business,” Sandomir says.