Liberal Arts Core Course Descriptions

Ashesi's core curriculum consists of an interdisciplinary liberal arts program that includes courses in the humanities and social sciences, as well as mathematics and preparatory business and computer science courses. The core curriculum is supplemented by a set of courses in African Studies, which help develop students' understanding of Africa's past, present and possible future trajectory.

 


 

Text and Meaning

How should we read texts or interpret culture? For most students, this course will represent an entirely new way to approach the analysis of literature and culture. It will use the broadest possible array of materials and an exploration of a variety of different ways to interpret those materials. At the end of the course, students will be left with a question rather than an answer: they will have to decide for themselves which interpretive tools are appropriate for different kinds of tasks.

In this course, "text" does not necessarily mean a published written work of literature; it also includes songs, films, letters, dances, newspaper articles, photographs, government documents, advertisements, oral literature, and so on. This course will provide students with various approaches for analyzing literature and culture, and will challenge students to develop their own uses of interpretive tools.

 

Quantitative Methods

This course will survey quantitative approaches to work in the social sciences. The course introduces students to concepts, techniques and software with which all successful managers should be familiar. The course has four main modules: optimization, simulation, introduction to calculus, and project management. The course has a managerial orientation and does not rely on complex mathematics. Students will understand how to apply quantitative tools to business problems. Students will also gain literacy in the basic features of several software tools used for optimization, simulation and project management.

 

Expository Writing

This course offers an introduction to the practices of reading and writing for general university studies. Students will develop their academic writing and analytical skills through critical reading, group discussion and various writing assignments. Readings may include journalism, fiction, poetry, reviews, essays, scientific reports, political debates, philosophy, and theory. Students will write short response papers, participate in editing workshops, and produce papers, to be revised throughout the semester. Strong emphasis will be placed on revising, with weekly workshops for discussion student work.

 

Social Research Methods

In our daily search for "truth" we frequently encounter different, and often contradictory, positions which can be confusing. This course will provide the fundamental tools needed to sort through such dilemmas. The goal is to familiarize students with the logical and empirical basis of sound generalization techniques and to introduce the rich variety of methodologies, both qualitative and quantitative, that can be used. Students will learn to clarify key questions, to asses supporting evidence and competing claims, and come away with an appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of the various research approaches.

 

Statistics

With the growing abundance of data, there is an ever-increasing need to understand how to extract useful information for decision-making, and to communicate the essence of what the data represents. This course begins with an overview of the basic concepts regarding collection, display and summarization of data. Students will be introduced to a variety of probability models, with particular emphasis being placed on the normal distribution and the closely related Central Limit Theorem. The course will emphasize interdisciplinary teamwork and applied exercises, and will make extensive use of statistical software.

Statistics will familiarize students with specific problem solving tools that are useful in various areas of business. Students will be able to recognize and analyze relevant data for decision-making processes in a business context.

 

Social Theory

This course will deal with the fundamental question, "What is the good society?" It will cover fundamental philosophical and theoretical approaches to human societies, mixing together readings of key theoreticians with lectures and commentary upon these theories. The course will draw upon theological, philosophical, political and popular ideas, mixing together historical, philosophical, literary and ethnographic approaches to these philosophies. A sample of possible theorists might include Buddha, Plato, St. Augustine, Muhammad, Ibn Khaldun, Rousseau, Locke, Hobbes, JS Mill, Marx, Rawls, Fanon, Foucault, Houtoundji, Mbiti, Mudimbe, and Appiah. The course will also include examples drawn from everyday life and local Ghanaian philosophical systems.

 

Pre-Calculus

This course covers topics in algebra, functions and their graphs, fundamental counting principles, and geometry. The emphasis of this course is on developing conceptual understanding of the topics, connection with real life, and how the topics facilitate the understanding of calculus. Topics to be studied include: Number systems, operations and their properties, number scales, expressions, system of equations and inequations, Cartesian coordinate system, points, lines, locus/graphs, geometric constructions, measurement, slopes /tangents, algebraic functions, trigonometric functions, exponential functions, logarithmic functions, motion relationships, patterns - series and sequences, mathematical induction, permutation/combination, binomial expression.

 

Calculus

This course is an introduction to calculus and its diverse applications. The course will cover limits and derivatives, the rules of differentiation, and integration. It is designed to teach students how to formulate and solve business and economics problems, and to gain an appreciation for the use of calculus in modeling naturally occurring phenomena.

 

Microeconomics

This course will cover the principles of microeconomic analysis with the aim of helping students make better business decisions in their professional careers. In addition to introducing the standard basis of economic theory such as perfect information, production theory, perfect competition and monopoly, the course will focus on helping students think strategically about achieving competitive advantage through the management of the firm's resources. We will analyze strategic management decisions concerning the value of information, cost determination, pricing, market entry and exit, outsourcing, the design of organizations and contracts, and the design and administration of incentive systems. We will develop microeconomic tools for both simple and complex business environments involving strategic interactions. Through this course, students will develop an understanding of basic microeconomic theory and improve their ability to make sound business decisions. Through their assigned readings, case studies, and participation in a computer-simulated competitive strategy game, students will also develop practical insights into managing for competitive advantage.

 

Design

Design is that creative activity which seeks to improve the world by discovering better solutions to persistent problems, and by inventing solutions to new ones. Whether a problem be aesthetic, theoretical or practical, and whether the strategy for solving it be process-oriented or object-oriented, the skilled designer employs a variety of techniques to define the problem, generate a range of alternative solutions, and select that one which best meets the problem-owner's needs. Inevitably, the performance of that solution in service will indicate the need for a yet another iteration of "design-build-test-evaluate" - and so improvement continues. This course presents current process-oriented and object-oriented design techniques using a framework that situates design activity within both the modern condition of commerce and computing, and the larger historical context of technological and commercial development. Classroom work is complemented by weekly practice sessions and projects that help students gain confidence in creating and implementing original design solutions under resource and time constraints. Students will learn some of the fundamental skills involved in good artistic and technical design, within the constraints of available facilities.

 

Macroeconomics

This course is an introduction to macroeconomics, with a strong emphasis on international applications. The course has two objectives. First, it will develop simple models of goods and services, assets, capital and labor markets which can be usefully applied to generate realistic predictions regarding the behavior of such macroeconomic variables as: output; employment; inflation; the current account; and interest and exchange rates. Second, the course will teach students to use these models to understand and interpret current and historical macroeconomic developments.

 

Introduction to Finance

Modern financial economics applies economic tools to the analysis of financial problems. This course will introduce students to such analytical tools by covering basic financial theory and concepts. Topics will include the calculation of net present values, basic asset pricing, evaluation of risk and return, capital budgeting, and financial derivatives. Whenever appropriate, the course will take the view of corporate financial managers who interact with efficient capital markets. This course is designed to introduce students to financial theory and concepts and to provide them with an overview of the issues addressed by financial economists, and the techniques necessary to analyze financial investment decisions.

 

Leadership Seminar

The Leadership Seminar Series is a series of interdisciplinary seminars designed to promote self-awareness among Ashesi's students and to expose them to the ideas of great historical thinkers and contemporary leaders. Students will be asked to think broadly and to explore how the might use the examples set by other leaders to achieve their goals in their future professional lives. The leadership seminar series draws upon experts in different fields of corporate, social and academic life. Students must complete the full series in order to graduate from Ashesi University. The entire series is worth 2 credit units (0.5 units for each of four seminars). The series consists of the following seminars:

  • Leadership Seminar I: What Makes a Good Leader?
  • Leadership Seminar II: Rights, Ethics and the Rule of Law
  • Leadership Seminar III: The Economic Organization of a Good Society
  • Leadership Seminar IV: Leadership as Service (Service Learning Seminar)

 

Programming I: Fundamental Ideas in Computer Science

This course will cover the basics of information technology literacy, including hands-on use of microcomputer applications, principles of digital computers and information technology and an introduction to problem-solving through programming. The algorithmic concepts will be illustrated in Visual Basic and will include the concepts of elementary data types and variables; arithmetic expressions and assignments; program control flow; and using prewritten functions.

The goal of this course is to introduce students to common desktop and database applications and to elements of basic programming and of problem solving using the computer.

 

Comparative Politics

Both economic (market) and political (state) forces shape outcomes in African politics. Choices made by African states regarding international economic affairs are especially important. The interplay of domestic and international economic and political forces has increased in importance in recent years. This course will introduce students to selected issues facing African states, using and interdisciplinary approach to interpret them.

Changes in three basic aspects of political life will be explored. Using specific cases, social/political processes in Africa will be examined with respect to the shaping and changing of (1) identities and nationhood; (2) expectations and patters of rule; and (3) demands and effects of political institutions (principally the state but also "shadow" organizations). How politics manages and divides economic production is a special interest and policy concern. In the last few sessions the course will turn to current day relations between Africa and its global environment. Recent crises concerning failures and renewed "development" - both economic and political - will be considered. This course is meant to be accessible to students with little or no training in economics or political science. It assumes some basic knowledge of economics and quantitative analysis. It focuses on only a few selected states in Africa, although many of the observations and cases uncover arguments about the workings and effects of politics throughout Africa and the world. This course will give students practice in using an interdisciplinary approach of analysis, and will heighten their understanding of the impact of politics on the economy and social life of people throughout Africa and the world.

 

Negotiation and Conflict Resolution

While managers need analytical skills to discover optimal solutions to problems, a broad array of negotiation skills is needed to get these solutions accepted and implemented. The central issues in this course deal with understanding the behavior of individuals, groups and organizations in the context of cooperative and competitive situations. The course will place considerable emphasis on simulations, role-playing and case studies.

After completing this course, students will not only understand the nature and processes of negotiation, but will also develop confidence in their ability to use negotiation as an effective means for resolving conflicts in organizations.

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Academic Guidelines