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oikos Curriculum Academy 2020 in retrospect

14 May 2020 | Academies, News

The second oikos Curriculum Change Academy was jointly organized by oikos Lausanne and the oikos international Curriculum Change Initiative team from April 3 to 5 2020. Due to the situation related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held only online. Despite this particular context, we were so grateful to have gathered more than 30 people from several countries in this inspiring Academy. 

Over the course of 3 days, we tried to grasp the breadth of economics and management subjects and relate them to current social and environmental challenges. Professors, early career researchers, and students came together to understand each other’s needs and exchanged on how to collaborate in order to drive the curriculum reform towards sustainability. This second edition was concieved around the Curriculum Change Initiative’s values, the multi-dimensional side of economics, and even practical examples of succesfully reformed curricula at some universities. 

The first day kicking off the academy started with a presentation from Augustin Fragnière, head of the Interdisciplinary Sustainability Centre of the University of Lausanne. The presentation shed some light on the current situation as well as the strategy and actions the university is taking to integrate sustainability in all the fields of studies. A workshop followed the presentation in which participants investigated the key competencies, they believe they’d require for the implementation of curriculum reform. It concluded that connecting and collaborating with stakeholders of different backgrounds and disciplines is the key element. Along with it there is the necessity to train and empower students, lecturers, researchers, and university management representatives to address sustainability-related topics. Furthermore, the emphasis on developing and acknowledging the teaching qualities and not only research achievements as well as the need for intellectual courage and capacity to re-shape the courses program were discussed.

The first day activities were also complemented with the Economics and Management Education for the 21st Century debate, owing to the five amazing and inspiring speakers who took part in it. The debate featured Guido Palazzo from the University of Lausanne, Julia Christensen Hughes from the University of Guelph, Florian Rommel from the Cusanus University, Lea Trogrlic from Plural Economics Zurich and Petra Molthon-Hill from the Nottingham Business School. They addressed important issues regarding Curriculum Change and provided the participants with concrete examples of what can be done. 

“Students can play an incredibly helpful role.  Figure out who your allies are.  Hopefully that includes a dean or associate dean.  Also, try to understand your institution’s curriculum change processes. Maybe they require students to sit on the committee.  Make sure those students understand what you are trying to achieve.”

Julia Christensen Hughes

For the remaining two days, the aim was to explore all the opportunities we have to effectively drive the reform. 

On a Saturday morning of the second day, Adriana Troxler of oikos started the day with a workshop focusing on personal values, where we dwelled deep into and explored what is it that gives us energy and motivation to act in each of our lives. Following the workshop, Daniel Obst from Exploring Economics introduced us to heterodox economic theories. We the applied those theories to the current global Coronavirus situation so we can have a look at it from different perspectives, going beyond mainstream economic thoughts. Later, J. Christopher Proctor from oikos brought the main insights from the oikos in Residence workshop which aims to accelerate the creation of resources for changing the business education. Its purpose is to eventually create a guide for the oikos community encouraging individuals to think more systematically about what they want future business education to look like. We closed the day with an open space which allowed us to deeply reflect on how to re-design the curriculum. The main question was focused on whether it should be done through adapting existing classes or completelly starting from scratch. 

On the final day, Dr. Dušan Kučera from the University of Economics Prague gave a presentation on crises of managerial personalities while applying an interdisciplinary perspective of history, ethics, theology, and sociology. Afterwards, Florian Rommel introduced us to the new curriculum for economics undergraduates at the Cusanus University. The Cusanus examples is there to prove that sustainability-centered studies are possible, which motivates us, even more, to strive for a change. We concluded the Academy with a discussion about how we can join forces to effectively act to transform economics and management education and shared our personal commitments towards this important mission.

We want to thank everyone who took part in this inspiring weekend. The next oikos Curriculum Academy will take place from February 11-14 2021 in St-Gallen, stay tuned!