SARASOTA, Fla. (July 15, 2016) Immigration reform. Climate change. Gun control. For a group of USF Sarasota-Manatee MBA students tackling a recent classroom assignment, one of the toughest tasks was to look past the headlines.
Members of Dr. Thomas Becker’s Strategic Human Resources class were asked to devise a job description for President of the United States. The assignment, to teach students how to attract the right job candidates, proved harder than it sounded.
Everyone has preconceptions about how a president should look and act, said Dr. Becker, who urged his students to look beyond assumptions on their part and view the job from a human resources perspective. That meant thinking objectively and delving into aspects of the presidency that have nothing to do with hot-button issues of the day.
“Often times when we choose a president, all of these factors come into play that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the skills and abilities of the person we’re being asked to vote for,” said Becker, a professor of business management. “When we go into the voting booth we think about this issue or that issue, we even have ideas about what a president should look like, but how often do we think about the actual skills and abilities of the person?”
His students were no exception. The assignment triggered a widespread discussion about biases as the students split into teams to delve into the skills, knowledge and abilities needed to be president. In addition to examining the Constitution, they perused news and political sites to develop a sense of the position. Then they spent a couple more classes whittling down the job description to its basic elements.
“He wanted us to forget all the media hype and the ads and get to the core of what the job is about,” said MBA student Mariale Ryff of Sarasota, one of the team leaders.
She called the assignment “challenging,” but interesting because it forced the students to focus on what’s required of presidential aspirants – practically speaking as well as constitutionally.
The result after a couple of draft revisions was a two-page document that spells out the president’s “primary tasks, duties and responsibilities” along with another list of “knowledge, skills and abilities” required of all applicants. Several “preferences” were added as well.
The students said applicants must be able to “motivate self and others” (required) and possess a “knowledge of advanced management and accounting techniques” (preferred).
Under “Primary Tasks, Duties and Responsibilities,” they said the president serves as “Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces,” “directs acts of war” and can “authorize the use of nuclear weapons.”
Interestingly, per the Constitution the description did not require applicants to hold college degrees, have military training or possess any actual work experience, although when the students considered the job’s practical side they added more items, such as “outstanding” communication skills, “exceptional” organizational abilities and a thorough knowledge of the Constitution, laws, governmental regulations and the democratic process.
“Distinguished military service” and “management and leadership expertise” were listed as preferred traits.
Also, according to the Constitution, which provides few details, applicants must be at least 35 years old, natural-born U.S. citizens and U.S. residents for at least 14 years – requirements that if posted by private employers would land them in hot water with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
John Noe of Lakewood Ranch, another student team leader, said he was surprised after researching the Constitution and other sites that so few requirements are placed on presidential candidates. In addition to not needing a college degree or previous military service, presidents aren’t required to have any real job experience.
“If you think about it, we ask more of people applying for a job at McDonald’s,” he said.
The assignment had him examining biases about the position as well. Noe, who holds bachelor degrees in history and interdisciplinary social sciences from USFSM, said that initially he suggested the applicants be versed in history, but then he realized that seemed to be more of a preference than a requirement.
“We all have our own little slant,” he said. “Mine was education, but what we had to do was look past those biases and figure out what actually is required for the job.”
The class ended a few weeks ago, but Dr. Becker is hoping to introduce the assignment to undergraduate students this fall as well.
“I thought they did a really great job,” he said. “The students were engaged in the class and they understood that when you go through the hiring process you have to do a careful analysis of the job, its actual requirements and then what it takes to do that job.”
About USF Sarasota-Manatee (USFSM)
USF Sarasota-Manatee is a regional campus of the University of South Florida system, offering the prestige of a nationally ranked research university with the convenience of a hometown location, including classes in Manatee County, Venice and online. Separately accredited, USFSM is ideal for those interested in pursuing a baccalaureate or master’s degree, professional certification, or continuing education credit in a small, personal setting with distinguished faculty and a dynamic curriculum of over 40 academic programs. Website: www.usfsm.edu.