Exploring Complex Relationships through the Use of Historical Case Studies


  • Shora Moteabbed George Mason University
  • Anne Lauer George Mason University




active learning, student engagement


These are some ideas that we use in the Business and Society course, specifically the sections we teach to INTO Mason students. This particular group of students does not have a background or experience in United States business, and this course is in reality Business in the U. S. society, and our course content is derived from a U.S. textbook. We concluded as a faculty team that students would better understand the complex and dynamic business-societal relationships if we carried our core objectives with historical examples in our curriculum. For example, at the beginning of the semester, one assignment requires each student to research a different prominent U.S. businessman from the past, such as Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan and Lee Iacocca, who had formative impacts on the current aspects of the relationships U.S. businesses have with society today. Similarly, we build our argument about the history of corporate social responsibility drawing on the comparison between how early U.S. business enterprises operated at their inception with what they do today, focusing on companies such as King Arthur Flour and Jim Beam Bourbon. Specifically, we ask students to track the various business challenges these companies have undergone to meet their customer demand during their hundreds of years of operation and to examine historical shifts in societal values that influence the configuration and power of these US corporations today. In separate assignments, we explore topics ranging from the role of corporations in politics to the consumer rights movement that has evolved during the past century. Within each topic we require our students to compare and contrast how things are done in the U.S. with what is happening in their own country. We could include representative positive exemplars from these assignments to display the sorts of insights our approach generates.

Author Biographies

Shora Moteabbed, George Mason University

Business Foundations,àAssistant Professor

Anne Lauer, George Mason University

Business Foundations, Instructor