February 21, 2014 | Borough of Manhattan Community College
Two years ago, Business Management Professor Michelle Wang came up with an innovative approach to career planning—one that would link the seemingly disparate worlds of business and Himalayan arts.
“My hope was to help business students develop a strong sense of humanity through museum visits and teaching,” she says. “In that way, they could become leaders who care about people, community, society and the world.”
In 2012, Wang became the first BMCC faculty member to receive a faculty fellowship award from the Baruch College-Rubin Museum of Art Project, “which recognizes the important role that arts play in enhancing students’ development,” according to a Baruch-Rubin statement. Wang’s research study explored how integrating Himalayan arts in career-planning classes can impact students’ self-esteem, job search self-efficacy and career decision-making.
Self-discovery through art
During the fall 2012 semester, Wang accompanied a group of 25 career-planning students on a visit to the Rubin Museum of Art on West 17th Street.
Her objective, she says, “was to explore students’ learning experiences from the museum visit and to discover, if possible, how the use of museum objects supported their learning through the stories and teachings behind five selected museum objects—Shakyamuni Buddha, Yellow Jambhala, Mahakala,, Durga and the Wheel of Existence.”
Wang’s students attended a 45-minute tour that focused on these and other objects. Later, they responded to a series of questions from a museum visit booklet Wang designed.
“With guidance by two museum curators, and through participation in an after-visit group discussion, the students were able to see connections among the artwork, career planning concepts, and their personal life endeavors,” Wang says.
“Career planning and development is a process that begins with helping students to gain self-understanding and to develop and refine their goals accordingly. A job search is a self-exploration journey that helps students to find their uniqueness, strengths, skills, and personality.”
Even if students cannot realistically be expected answer the question “Who am I?” fully within a brief 15-week period, Wang adds, “they can begin inquiring and embarking upon their discovery journey in college.”
Fostering “literacy of the heart”
Wang’s research draws upon a wide array of teachings and religions. “Aristotle taught that educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all,” she says.
“Art is literacy of the heart—and integrating arts in a career planning class can support a student’s journey through self-exploration. Through a deeper understanding of the self, each student can set realistic educational and career goals and develop an action plan to reach his or her desired goals, and so a successful career and life.”
Wang has documented the students’ museum visit experience in a short video, “From BMCC to the Rubin.” She has also co-developed a career search workbook “Finding Your Way in Life through the Mandala” with Dr. Laura Lombard, Head of Adult and Academic Programs at Rubin Museum of Art.
“My study was designed to enable the students to expand their understanding of self-knowledge to include self-worth, and character development above and beyond subject comprehension and skills,” Wang says. “They will be able to make appropriate decisions, set meaningful goals, make plans, and take the best possible actions.”