Social Capital Taught in College?


About a year ago, I posted a blog called:  “Networking, a Soft Science? Only to College Professors!”  OK, I’ll admit it–I was on a rant about how we don’t teach networking in colleges or universities.  But in my defense, there were many, many, people who identified with this frustration according to the numerous comments posted on that blog.

Today, I’m here to tell you that there may actually be a change on the horizon.  Yes, a university dean who believes that social capital is a relevant topic in business.  “Not possible,” you say?  Well, that’s what I thought, too, until I met Ibrahim Helou, the new dean of the School of Business & Public Management at the University of LaVerne.

Ibrahim "Abe" Helou

Ibrahim “Abe” Helou

As crazy as this may sound, he actually believes that emotional intelligence and social capital are relevant topics to cover in business school.  To make this even more amazing, Helou’s background is in accounting and finance. Wow, I don’t know what to say. This just shakes up my whole world view about academia.

According to Helou, business should focus on issues relating to long-term organizational sustainability.  He says that the “three pillars” of organizational sustainability are: people, planet and prosperity.

The “people” part includes long-term employment, social capital and empowerment.  The planet involves social and ethical responsibility and prosperity is about the long-term financial success of the organization.

Did you notice that “long-term” is a recurring theme here?  I did.  He believes that there has been an overemphasis on short-term profits to address monthly or quarterly revenue reporting in corporations.  This short-term view has helped lead us into some of the current financial issues we are experiencing today.

Well, Dr. Helou, I’m impressed, especially with your interest in social capital and emotional intelligence.  Now all you need to do is convince the faculty.  Let me know how that works out for you.  🙂

11 thoughts on “Social Capital Taught in College?

  1. All I can say is “It’s about time”! Networking and social capital are topics that are needed in college. Almost all graduates come out with no idea on how or why to network, yet it is of upmost importance! Professors have never owned businesses- this is why it’s so hard to convince them how important networking is. So keep at it Dr. Helou (and Ivan)-after all, “Todays mighty oak is just yesterday’s nut that held it’s ground”.
    Shawn McCarthy BNI ED Ventura County, Ca.

  2. Hello Dr. Misner,

    Boy, this would be like a dream come true for you Dr. Misner!

    I like Shawn’s point about the professor’s lack of hands on business experience. It really is no different for anyone else that gets a Friday paycheck compared to an entrepreneur looking for the next piece of business. Years ago I learned that you cannot go beyound what you are taught. I love educators, but they teach what they were taught and sometimes the errors get exaggerated because of too much handling.

    The young college grads working with these big national firms show up from time to time in our BNI chapter. Their lack of understanding about referral marketing manifests itself in some obnoxious and rude behavior at times. They look at the members as captive prospects.

    Noboby that has been seasoned and successful in business would ever underestimate the value of their social capital. Don’t they even try to display their appreciation at this time of the year?

    Recently a young gal with a full service marketing company implied that she would be ready to help any of our BNI Chapter members when they were ready to do some “professional marketing”. I guess to her, BNI was just a hobby.

    Highest Regards,
    Tom Doiron

  3. It makes me smile to think that there may be generations of grads entering the business world in the future who have been taught about Networking and Social Capital. Good for them!

    I’m not smiling because I pray at the Altar of Networking, but because those future grads will not have to go through the frustrating process of learning on the fly that so many of us in business today had to endure. How nice it would have been to have received some instruction on Social Capital and Networking prior to entering the workforce.

  4. Hi Ivan,

    luckily more and more people in universities and colleges start to realize that networking is an important “life skill” (even more than “just” a business skill).

    Here, on the other side of the big pond :-), they ask me regularly. For example I am a guest lecturer for the international MBA students at the Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School (Belgium) and the RSM Erasmus University in Rotterdam (Netherlands). Yesterday I also did a presentation at the entrepreneurs’ days at the University of Antwerp (Belgium).

    So there is hope 🙂 I hope you and I and the rest of our networking expert colleagues will be asked more to give students a jumpstart in their careers.

    Have a great networking day !


    Jan Vermeiren, founder of Networking Coach (

  5. Hie Ivan,

    I’m really impressed, that emotional intelligence and social capital are relevant topics to cover in business school. This is really really great. Did the financial meltdown had help in opening this door ???

    Michel Richer

  6. I was just wondering how, in the country I live, Italy, a university course like this would be paired to mafious way of living.
    Italy is the birthplace of “Relational Capitalism”, that, said in a less politically correct manner, stands for “Nothing deal gets done without a prior relation”. Maybe this should not be teached at school.

  7. Dr. Misner: Well!! It is about time. Even if we now have only one academic who sees the light.

    That social capital and networking are not taught on colleges is not surprising – most of the instructors feel that business is, somehow, dirty. They feel that the world will beat a path to your door (if you are one of the annointed) because that is what (they believe) has happened to them. They truly do not know the actual, hand-on aspects ot the subjects they teach.

    I used to believe that way; at least, until I was introduced to BNI. Now, I know better: networking is THE WAY to Go!

    Congratulations on your convert. Now, we have to find the second believer in academia.

  8. Enfin!

    Quelle magnifique initiative. Je me souviens d’une formation généraliste des années 80 permettant de choisir parmi de nombreuses voies professionnelles : elle me paraissait alors d’avant-garde.

    Que de temps gagné, d’efforts épargnés cela aurait permis à de nombreuses générations d’étudiants entrant dans la vie active.

    La constitution d’un réseau, le choix des personnes y participant, les objectifs partagés, une forme d’entraide, sont en effet des éléments essentiels d’une vie professionnelle et personnelle de qualité.
    La principale préoccupation : construire des relations humaines durables, fortes, pleines de sens, et souvent profitables aux intéressés.

    Le capital social ne connaîtra pas les aléas de ses homologues moins bien nés. La raison est simple : il place au plus haut l’être humain, sans considération de différenciation autre que la qualité des personnes et leur préoccupation d’aider les autres.

    Des connaissances essentielles nous ont fait défaut, et je me réjouis de voir enfin cet enseignement dispensé en université.
    Notre société se promet des lendemains très intéressants en mettant au premier plan ce qui rend les gens heureux : des contacts humains, réels, qui n’ont rien de virtuel!

    J’invite nos universitaires français à rejoindre au plus vite ce mouvement naissant qui, je n’en doute pas, se propagera à tous les continents.

    Bienvenue dans le village Terre!

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