Strategic Management & Entrepreneurship Department

Form and Function

Friday, April 1, 2011


It took less than 10 minutes for Myles Shaver and Marilyn Carlson Nelson’s Corporate Responsibility class to fill last year. Based on the reaction to their first classroom collaboration, students will need to be even quicker when registering for this fall’s offering. The class, MGMT 6100, was the culmination of increased student demand for social responsibility offerings, the chairman and former CEO of Carlson’s desire to work more with young leaders, and Shaver’s long-held interest in the topic.

Before the class, Shaver, the Pond Family Chair in the Teaching and Advancement of Free Enterprise Principles, told students they would learn why simple axioms for how firms should act could be misguided. He also predicted they would leave with a better appreciation for how to evaluate, assess, and demonstrate leadership. He didn’t expect, however, that the students and his co-instructor would alter the way he looked at the issues.

... if people want to become corporate leaders, it is extremely valuable.

Marilyn Carlson Nelson

“I ended up with a much better appreciation for how the role of leadership will help solve some of these problems,” says Shaver. “Marilyn and I went back and forth with some of these issues and with the class.”

Marilyn Carlson Nelson

Carlson Nelson says she wished she had learned Shaver’s strategic and theoretical approach earlier in her career. “I found myself thinking, ‘If only I had that tool to make that decision at the time or at least to frame it,’” she says. “I also don’t suppose that the course’s rigorous economic approach is everybody’s favorite, but if people want to become corporate leaders, it is extremely valuable.”

Part-Time MBA student David Shepperd says that the course’s perspectives differed from the broader-brush, public policy approach he experienced while taking sustainability and corporate social responsibility classes in architecture school. “Myles drew the armature and Marilyn colored it in,” he notes. “Myles would drill down into the macroeconomic details and models, and Marilyn would explain how things are really done in a corporate setting, how you govern a corporation on policy, and what tradeoffs you can expect.”