Undergraduate Programs in the U.S: A Contextual and Content-Based Analysis

Undergraduate Programs in the U.S: A Contextual and Content-Based Analysis

Steven D. Charlier (Georgia Southern University, USA), Lisa A. Burke-Smalley (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, USA) and Sandra L. Fisher (Clarkson University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5345-9.ch008
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Given the importance of human resource management skills both in management education and business in general, an empirical review of undergraduate human resource (HR) curricula and programs is needed. In this study, the authors provide an investigative analysis of the content taught across HR programs in the U.S. and the context in which HR programs operate. Specifically, data across 179 undergraduate “SHRM-aligned” HR programs were collected and analyzed to identify common as well as unique content and contextual attributes at the university, business school, and program levels. Against the backdrop of the study's findings, the authors step back and purposefully comment on how they believe HR education can best be moved forward. In total, this study seeks to inform stakeholders in HR education through a clearer picture of the current and potential future states of HR curricula within U.S.-based undergraduate management programs.
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HR education has almost century-old origins that stemmed largely from the formalization of industrial relations as an area of practice and study (Kaufman, 1999). In the 1960s and 1970s, HR education and the field experienced increased professionalization, the establishment of a professional association (The American Society of Personnel Administration, forerunner of today’s Society for Human Resource Management [SHRM]), and more concentrations and degrees in HR (Kaufman, 1999)1. However, HR education has suffered from several problems during its evolution. The field of HR has often lacked prestige or respect, especially within business schools (Foulkes, 1975; Gordon & Howell, 1959). It has been viewed as fragmented, vocational, atheoretical, and highly administrative (Kaufman, 1999). Once unions declined, employment laws became more complex, and as the behavioral sciences arose in the 1950s and 1960s, HR prominence improved. Subsequently, HR degree programs largely moved from industrial relations or labor economics schools into business schools. In the 1990s, HR education began embracing a more strategic lens, as well as an international perspective, stemming in part from works by scholars who impacted HR research and general HR thought. Other criticisms of the HR field and undergraduate degree have included the siloed approach, insufficient attention to international issues, a failure to leverage technology, and lack of gender diversity among the student base (cf. American Institutes of Research, 2013a; Roehling et al., 2005; Shapiro, Kirkman, & Courtney, 2003).

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