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Department of

Life with meaning.

Prof. Susan Vowels, Dept. ChairProf. Susan Vowels, Dept. Chair

That’s the literal translation of 生意 (sheng-yi), the Chinese word for business.

And that’s our approach to teaching business management as a liberal art.

We engage students. You’ll share ideas with classmates, work closely with expert faculty, and get your hands on real-world tools like SAP (all our majors learn how to use it). You can invest a half million dollars in socially responsible businesses in the Brown Advisory Student-Managed Investment Fund. And you can learn how to build your own business from the ground up. 

It’s your dream, and we want you to dream big. We’re here to help you make it real, and create your very own sheng-yi, life with meaning.

Our grads Global business BUS classroom, Spring 2011 In the classroom

Student quick links

Quick links for students

 


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What we're reading

  • Tom Cronin and Michael Genovese, Leadership Matters (Paradigm, 2012). 

    In their new book, political scientists Cronin and Genovese explore the paradoxes of leadership by looking at literature, movies, art, and classic texts. A wide-ranging, head-expanding read.

  • Dan Senor and Saul Singer, Startup Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle (12, 2009).

    Israel, a nation of just 7 million people, has more startup companies than China, India, or Japan, and is a global magnet for venture capital investment, with more than twice as much venture capital per person than the United States, and 30 times more than Europe.

    Senor and Singer explore the intellectual traditions, government policies, and people behind Israel’s remarkable economic success. Entrepreneurialism, the authors suggest, is far more than a policy or a mindset–it is a culture, as well.

  • Jake Breeden, Tipping Sacred Cows: Kick the Bad Work Habits that Masquerade as Virtues (Jossey-Bass, 2013).

    Leaders pride themselves on traits such as creativity, passion, and fairness. But unquestioned virtues can curdle into vices when pursued relentlessly or in the wrong contexts.  The author, a Duke University faculty member, takes a hard look at seven ‘sacred cows’ dear to many leaders, showing how overzealous allegiance to them can harm their organizations.

  • Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Belknap, 2014).

    In this best-selling work, French economist Thomas Piketty argues that the 21st century is seeing a return to ‘patrimonial capitalism,’ the concentration of wealth, income, and power in the hands of a small group of super-wealthy individuals and families.

  • Benjamin Graham, The Intelligent Investor (1949; revised in 2003 with commentary by Jason Zweig).

    How can you make money in the stock market? In this classic book Benjamin Graham lays out his key idea: “value investing.” Warren Buffett, America’s most famous and revered billionaire investor, was inspired by Graham’s ideas, and called The Intelligent Investor “by far the best book on investing ever written.”

    By focusing on fundamentals and resisting the urge to buy and sell at every market fluctuation, Graham argues, the intelligent investor can minimize risk and maximize long-term gain.

    It worked for Warren Buffett and countless other investors in the six decades since Graham’s book first came out. It probably stil has some wisdom left for you.

  • Sutton and Rao, Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less (Crown Business, 2014).

    Stanford professors Sutton and Rao explore how organizations can take good ideas practices—“pockets of exemplary performance”—and ‘scale’ them: expand their reach across the entire organization. Based on extensive research from many different industries, Sutton and Rao present a concise, clear framework for “spreading excellence” within a company.

  • Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Penguin, 2011).

    Best-selling Yale Law professor Chua (World on Fire and Day of Empire) explores a more personal topic, how she applied Chinese parenting values to raising two daughters in the United States. Pushing her daughters to a degree few native-born American parents do, she tells a story of both success and resistance.

    The family story Chua tells is fascinating, but the book’s deeper value lies in how it helps Americans better understand Chinese culture and values. Chinese parents, Chua argues, look at their role quite differently than their American counterparts: “Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches. Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility.”

  • Bill Franks, Taming the Big Data Tidal Wave (Wiley, 2012).

    Franks, Chief Analytics Officer for software firm Teradata, explains what the rise of big data means to business and other organizations today.

    Big data is washing over our world, from gigabyte to terabyte to petabyte. Franks surveys technologies for managing it, explains how to analyze and make sense of it, and suggests how to create an organizational culture of discovery and innovation that takes advantage of the possibilities unleashed by the waves of data that are transforming the competitive environment of business.

  • Walter Isaacson, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (Simon & Schuster, 2004).

    Inventor, diplomat, statesman, scientist, Founding Father–and entrepreneur. Benjamin Franklin helped invent the quintessentially American notion of the entrepreneur, the enterprising individual who recognizes opportunities, takes risks, and earns great success.

    Isaacson traces Franklin’s story from his start as a printer’s apprentice to his success as a publisher and journalist, to his even greater public career in diplomacy and the American founding. He shows that while Franklin may have ended up a distinguished statesman and beloved figure, he kept to the end his entrepreneurial interest in new ideas, new opportunities, and new enterprises.

  • Thomas Stanley and William Danko, The Millionaire Next Door (first published in 1996).

    Professor Terry Scout recommends this book as one of the best life lessons young people should absorb: become wealthy by the choices you make, including living frugally and avoiding debt. He says the book calls to mind the immortal advice from Charles Dickens’ character Mr. Micawber (from David Copperfield): “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

     Based on extensive interviews, Stanley and Danko conclude that wealth in America is usually “the result of hard work, diligent savings, and living below your means.” It’s an old lesson, well understood by many successful people—and it will be the foundation for many future millionaires, too.


  • Mark Beasley et al., “Fraudulent Financial Reporting 1998-2007: An Analysis of U.S. Public Companies.” The study, commissioned by leading American accounting organizations, including the American Accounting Association, documents more than 300 cases of accounting fraud in American business during a decade that saw many high-profile instances of malfeasance, with a total misappropriation of more than $100 billion.

    Senior leaders, according to the study, play a critical role in enabling fraud: 89% of CEOs and/or CFOs were named by the SEC in fraud cases it investigated.

    The study concludes that the  long-term impact of accounting and reporting fraud was strongly negative, with companies committing fraud facing higher-than-average risks of bankruptcy, delisting, or asset sales.

  • Stephen Kinzer, Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008).

    Kinzer, former New York Times Istanbul bureau chief, presents a concise history of modern Turkey without hiding his passion and love for the country. Turkey, situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, sits symbolically between two worlds–a modern, westernized world of markets and democracy, and a traditional world of faith and authoritarianism.

    Kinzer vividly relates Turkey history, from Kemal Ataterk to contemporary challenges including militarism, women’s rights, Islamic fundamentalism, and the ongoing challenge of the place of the Kurdish minority in Turkey.

  • Adair Turner, Economics After the Crisis (MIT Press, 2012).

    The financial crisis of 2008 continues to roil the global economy. Turner, Britain’s chief financial regulator, argues that what is needed to restore sustained growth is a rethinking of the basic premises of economics and financial regulation.

    For the last generation, Turner says, economic policymaking has been driven by the so-called Washington Consensus: that markets are efficient, that economic actors are rational in pursuit of their own self-interest, and that inequality is an inescapable consequence of the necessary pursuit of economic growth.

    These simplifying assumptions certainly make for elegant mathematical models. But Turner argues that they simply don’t do a good job mapping the real world.

    What are the consequences when the assumptions and the real world diverge?  And what should we do now to rebuild the global economy? Turner’s book will inspire hard thinking about these big questions.

  • Carroll Quigley, The Evolution of Civilizations (first published 1961).

    In this far-ranging historical analyis, Quigley traces the seven-part life-cycle of great civilizations. Prof. Jim Flanagan, who teaches global business, still remembers reading the book as part of Quigley’s “mind-blowing” course at Georgetown University his very first year in college. Quigley, Prof. Flanagan says, still has a lot to teach students today, more than a half-century since the book’s original publication, about history, civilizations, and economics.

  • Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy (Digital Frontier Press, 2012) 

    Brynjolffson and McAfee, professors at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, argue that the pace of technological innovation is increasing, and explore the challenges this poses to the future of jobs and the economy. 

[Click here for more good reads.]