Want to Succeed in Business? UM-Flint SOM’s Dean Says Take English

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SOM Dean Scott Johnson
SOM Dean Scott Johnson

If there’s one thing Scott D. Johnson doesn’t want to hear his students say, it’s, “Know what I mean?”

The Dean of the School of Management, Johnson knows the importance of clear communication, and maybe that’s why he wasn’t surprised to find one day that the course that was the best indicator for success in business wasn’t necessarily a business class.

It was an English class.

Specifically, English 111, the first-year writing course.

“Writing forces you to have clarity of thought,” Johnson said.

To find out which courses were the best indicators for success, Johnson looked at an entire class of graduates and their overall GPAs. Then he looked at their grades throughout their college careers, searching for a correlation between core classes students had to take and that final GPA.

He admits it wasn’t the most sophisticated study, but by looking at those correlations he was able get a clear idea of what helped students succeed.

James Schirmer, Chair of UM-Flint’s English department, said he was “encouraged” to hear about Johnson’s findings.

“This study reinforces what I feel and know about writing, i.e., that it is key for students’ academic success,” he said.  “ENG 111 focuses on helping students develop confidence in writing and thinking. It’s a course that follows through on this focus in a variety of ways. For example, the last section of first-year writing I taught looked at the Flint water crisis. Students researched and wrote about various aspects of the crisis, including environment, infrastructure, politics, and race. I know other instructors of ENG 111 and 112 bring literature and popular culture into their courses, but we all share the same goals regarding the development of the student as a confident writer and an academic thinker.”

Johnson said that his finding about ENG 111 is part of a broader idea. He believes that it’s easy to get too caught up in a major and overlook what other departments and courses might have to offer.

“If you take art courses for example…it makes you more observant. You don’t necessarily have to choose that major,” he said.  “But being observant will help you in all your other courses.”

“I was a philosophy major in college with lots of writing assignments,” he added. “I think that helped me in my other courses and throughout my career.”

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