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Consilience enters SKEMA’s Grande Ecole programme

Published on 07 January 2021

Two years before the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing disruption, SKEMA decided to introduce the ThinkForward continuum, designed to explore key contemporary issues through the prism of geopolitics, economics and philosophy. Today, SKEMA is taking this approach even further by launching the "consilience" programme.

Photo: At SKEMA, Frédéric Munier, professor of geopolitics, and Rodolphe Desbordes, professor of economics, are coordinating the lessons of the new "Consilience" course within the Grande Ecole programme.

Meeting the challenges facing society

In an increasingly complex world, future managers must be able to not only develop strategies that combine several disciplinary fields, but also give meaning to their actions by linking them with the major concerns of our time: ethics (the individual aspect), responsibility (the interpersonal aspect) and the environment (the global aspect).

The "Consilience" programme, introduced into the SKEMA Grande Ecole programme at the start of the 2020 academic year, responds to all these challenges. Consilience, the "convergence of knowledge”, is an approach enabling students to handle a wide range of knowledge. Combining management science, social science, political science, and data science makes it possible to grasp a complex situation more effectively, and then deal with it. 

A course based on three pillars

Built around multiple activities, this course is based on the three pillars of what the school calls the SKEMA Way of Learning (SKWoL), its own specific teaching method:

Pillar I: being an author. All students on the “Consilience” course write articles, and the best are published on the SKEMA Knowledge website in the "Consilience" section, overseen by Rodolphe Desbordes and Frédéric Munier. Other research and writing activities are proposed: Civilisation & Progress Studies, Critical Thinking, the organisation of symposiums, participation in events like Le Printemps de l’Economie (The Economics Spring), and the co-construction of knowledge with teachers, which encourages students to not only contribute to classes in the form of “Press Reviews” but also to teach an entire lesson before their fellow M1 students. 

Pillar II: an innovative teaching method. Two highly original teaching methods are used. One is experiential learning through participation in Learning Expeditions (one in Senegal, the other in Uzbekistan, and an upcoming one in Georgia) to discover the entrepreneurial ecosystem of a country and its cultural environment. The second approach crucial to the success of this course is mentoring. Based on the Oxbridge model, professors become mentors who are permanently available to their students to help them understand, analyse and carry out the various tasks they have chosen to do.

Pillar III: the hybridisation of knowledge. This ongoing process is the trademark of the course and, by extension, of the school. Students are invited to develop a 360-degree approach to the issues they study.

“The Consilience course overseen by Rodolphe Desbordes and Frédéric Munier has no equivalent in the world of the Grandes Ecoles. It is part of the continuum of courses taught by our two professors: in Semester 1 (“Key Geopolitical Issues"), Semester 2 ("Key Consilience Issues") and Semester 3 ("Global Economic Issues”). Students keen on developing consilience further and putting it into practice can join the course in Semester 2 and/or Semester 3,” says Patrice Houdayer, director of programmes, international affairs and student life at SKEMA.

Frédéric Munier, professor of geopolitics, and Rodolphe Desbordes, professor of economics at SKEMA, analyse the context in which these educational innovations are set up in the Grande Ecole programme and the objective from the student's point of view: "We are living at a time when human rights are threatened, paradoxically, in the very democracies that gave birth to them. Meanwhile, progress is evident all around us, but at the same time it is increasingly mistrusted. At the meeting point of these two phenomena, we find a flourishing political illiberalism, fake news, the risk of a rise to extremes, and the rampant return of real or imagined identities. Ultimately, our teaching approach is based on the idea of student empowerment. It is about giving students the tools and techniques to understand the world and take action.” 

Doudja Abbas Terki, a second-year student in the Grande Ecole programme (M1), says "Frédéric Munier and Rodolphe Desbordes encourage us to think about ideas that go against the flow or are even controversial, like the ‘Great Replacement’ theory, a topic my classmates and I have explored through the prism of urban and popular music. We sought to understand the arguments of people who promote this extreme right-wing theory in order to provide an answer designed to deconstruct it. I think it's great that at SKEMA we are free to talk and think about absolutely everything!

For Etienne Loos, a third-year student in SKEMA's Grande Ecole programme (M2), "the ThinkForward system, central to the continuum strategy between the preparatory class and the business school, encourages students to reflect on, think about and comprehend the interactions that shape our world. On a more personal note, I had the chance to take part in the Learning Expedition in Senegal. Studying the specific features of Dakar’s entrepreneurial ecosystem in the field was a marvellous, intensely rewarding experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

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