My Educational Background: A Story of Twists and Turns

If one of the benefits of a college education is a greater awareness of just how much the societal winds defining an era move us along in plotting our routes, surely I stood in need of greater knowledge. For only decades after I entered university study did I realize that my decision to switch majors from botany to business had more to do with the Reaganism then gripping American society that it did with any plan I may have had to apply business principles, such as budgeting, to government. After 2.5 years of study in the natural sciences, I turned to accounting and business administration. 

The newly-minted business major (pictured far left) and the other contriving free-market "hippies" could still find the stray dorm-room party. As I recall, there were actually women at that one. The rascals pictured with me here would later that semester slyly redeploy my carefully-arranged "office" dorm-room  furnishings in the floor's communal bathroom,. To sit at my desk in the "new office," I would have had to sit on a toilet (admittedly an efficient arrangement, even by free-market standards). Perhaps by their prank, the hooligans were really trying to tell me, you're not really a business type. 

Philosophy and religious studies not typically being subjects taught outside of religious-affiliated schools at the secondary (i.e., high school) level of education in America at least when I was a teenager, I did not know enough even to send out exploratory trial balloons. I was, however, intrigued by a roommate's description of his year-long Western civilization (honors) seminar that followed the "great books" approach and met just off campus in the professor's living room. Had I ventured to even see that seminar in action once, I may have completed my formal education with three rather than five degrees. 

To be sure, accounting gave me a systems perspective, which I heartily recommend to the aspiring scholar. I have not only applied it to economic, political, religious, and societal systems, but also in relating these systems to systems found in the natural world (i.e., order in Nature). In fact, I based a good part of my subsequent studies in business, government, and religious studies on my tripartite "business, government, and society" idyllic framework, which I learned could be internationalized under the rubric of the environment of international business.

On a Sunday afternoon while house-sitting for a friend, I found a way to combine swimming and reviewing a chapter I would shortly cover in the strategy summer-school course I was teaching as an adjunct a few years after I left Yale. Interesting, that particular textbook had an entire chapter on strategic leadership, and another on business environment.  

I studied organizational studies, international business, business economics & public policy (MBA majors), business ethics, environment of international business, business and government (institutional political economy), and business and society (Ph.D. major field) all with a "macro" perspective. With the ever-present threat of far-flung entropy on knocking on my door, I used leadership studies as a means to integrate my studies of the various kinds of macro systems. My dissertation is on ethical leadership in relation to stakeholder management applied to J.N. Tata and G.D. Birla in twentieth-century India. 

I mention the threat of dissipation that came with my admittedly far-flung academic appetite because I was taking as any graduate seminars in political science/government and religious studies/philosophy as I was in business. Had I known of practical philosophy at the time, I might have had enough good sense to drop everything in progress and turn to ethical, political and religious historical thought under one departmental roof. 

As it happened, I completed a M.A. degree in religious studies, concentrating in South Asian religion and phenomenology of religion, while I was still a doctoral student. Together these degrees plus the previous MBA provided legs enough for my "business, government, and society/culture/religion" stool. This neat little framework was just barely done when I found that my intellectual passion transcends the social sciences. In particular, my studies in philosophy at Pittsburgh wetted my appetite for greater abstraction that could only come by studying the humanities. So I headed for Yale, to study the humanities under the auspices of the university's Masters of Divinity program. Specifically, I spread my credit and audited coursework well beyond historical theology, church history, and philosophy of religion so I could study film, constitutional law, political theory, and history.

After graduation, I stayed on at Yale for two years to do research at Sterling library for my treatise that would be published as "Godliness and Greed." During that time, I worked as a teaching assistant in history and continued auditing courses in religious studies, law, and history. For five or six years after I left Yale, I continued this practice of auditing courses at a few universities, following which I began auditing courses online.

Admittedly, I hear the term audit has various meanings; I use it here to include attending lectures, taking course notes, and reading the assignments. In the cases of French, German, and Latin, I also took the exams. I may have learned more from all my audited coursework than from the courses listed on my transcripts. Like an iceberg, a sizeable portion of the material is not visible to the naked eye. Moreover, the fulcrum of balance between business and the humanities may be quite other than what can be gleamed from adding up the respective credits.