The Wharton School is justly famous for its Finance department, but did you know it had a Business and Public Policy (”BPUB”) department as well as an Insurance and Risk Management (”INSR”) department? Well, it does but very soon it won’t. The two small departments will be merged into a single department, named Business Economics and Public Policy, on July 1, 2012.
I hear you asking, What possible connection is there between public policy and insurance? The answer lies in the depths of Wharton’s institutional history. The Insurance and Risk Management department was founded in 1913 “at a time when Wharton was interested in training students for particular industries,” Wharton professor Robert Inman told the Daily Pennsylvanian. “When I arrived in the early 1970s, there was a significant program training people to work in life and healthcare insurance.” Similarly, Business and Public Policy was started in the 1980s to train students for government work.
That quaint industry-specific idea of business education is dying. “Now, students no longer do that,” Inman explained. “The MBA and undergraduate students are not training for an industry, but rather training for a set of skills to take to any industry. Training for an industry no longer makes any sense.” Hmmm.
The question is still begged why these two unlikely departments are being merged. Inman explains: “What happened naturally over the next 10 to 15 years was that the insurance department was doing the same thing the policy department was doing — business economics as it applies to the relationships to firms and government.”
Not everyone sees the connection—the supposed “synergies” and “intellectual compatibilities.” The Pennsylvanian quotes one skeptical student: “I’m sure that it makes sense for the faculty, but it doesn’t really make sense to me to put INSR under BPUB because the government and risk management are not necessarily related.” Which suggests the other motivation for the merger: cost reduction. Wharton Deputy Dean Michael Gibbons cited “savings in departmental administration and research overhead, in particular with regard to faculty recruitment, doctoral students, space and research seminars.”
To most Wharton students the merger will matter very little, of course. As one Wharton undergraduate noted: “Personally, I don’t think it’s going to change anything because the majority of students concentrate in finance because that’s the most popular field.” Finance is, apparently, one industry that Wharton is still very much interested in training students for.
Source: The Daily Pennsylvanian, March 19, 2012.
This article was originally published on Paul Bodine’s blog. Paul is a graduate admissions consultant with over 13 years of experience, having helped hundreds of applicants get into their dream business, law, medical, and graduate schools. He has also published several books on graduate admissions.