Infusing Business Education with Jesuit Values

By Joseph G. Eisenhauer, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Business Administration, University of Detroit Mercy

Dr. Joseph G. Eisenhauer


Dr. Joseph G. Eisenhauer

Exhibiting Ignatian values is both a duty and an opportunity for Jesuit business schools. Because we prepare students to become successful corporate executives and entrepreneurs, we incur a special responsibility to inculcate a sense of business ethics and social justice, as well as spirituality and discernment to help graduates balance demanding careers with fulfilling personal lives. But a mission-driven education is also an opportunity to differentiate our business schools from secular institutions. Although it’s not a comprehensive list, some ways of doing so are described below.

Promoting the Mission

Identity begins with an organization’s mission statement. Like our fellow Jesuit business schools, the University of Detroit Mercy’s (UDM) College of Business Administration (CBA) explicitly references Jesuit (and, in our case, Mercy) values in our mission statement, which is displayed inside our building as well as on our website, syllabi, and promotional materials to remind ourselves and others of our purpose. A visible mission statement promotes a self-selection of students, faculty, and staff who are attracted to the institution’s vision. And while hiring for mission is essential, professional development for mission is equally important. We therefore encourage participation at mission retreats as well as conferences and workshops conducted by organizations such as the International Association of Jesuit Business Schools (IAJBS), the Jesuit Education in Business Network (JEBNET), and Colleagues in Jesuit Business Education (CJBE), where faculty and administrators from all Jesuit business schools collaborate and share best practices.

One consequence of this orientation is that faculty research tends to emphasize issues of ethics, social justice and sustainability. We’ve estimated that roughly 20 percent of our College’s scholarship is directly mission-oriented, including recent articles such as “Catalytic Social Entrepreneurship to Combat Desperate Poverty” and “ROE and Corporate Social Responsibility: Is There a Return on Ethics?” as well as others published in such outlets as the Journal of Business Ethics and the Journal of Jesuit Business Education.

And to ensure that Ignatian ideals are incorporated into planning at all levels, the CBA’s external Board of Advisors includes Rev. Henry Chamberlain, S.J., who serves as an auditor for the Society of Jesus of the Midwest Provinces.

Mission-Based Curricula and Social Outreach

Because Catholic Social Teaching involves principles such as the dignity of work and the preferential option for the poor, business courses provide an excellent forum for introducing students to these ideas. All CBA students—undergraduates and MBAs alike—study business ethics, both as a required course and as a theme that’s woven throughout the UDM curriculum. Indeed, we are fortunate to have an endowed professorship in business ethics, currently held by Rev. Gerald Cavanagh, S.J. Of course, high-profile corporate scandals, such as the recent Volkswagen fiasco, provide a never-ending source of case studies for such courses. But these incidents also demonstrate why firms increasingly seek to hire students from Jesuit business schools, where integrity is emphasized along with technical skills and leadership.

In addition, every CBA student engages in service-learning as part of the business curriculum. One example is the provision of financial literacy classes to public school students around Detroit each year. Another is the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, in which students pass rigorous IRS training in tax preparation, and then provide free income tax assistance to community residents. In each of the past several years, a grateful Detroit City Council has issued awards to the CBA for its VITA program.

While students sharpen their skills and gain real-world experience through service-learning, they also develop compassion and appreciation for the responsibilities we all have to share our gifts with others. Our alumni have supported these efforts by endowing a special scholarship to promote service-learning among business students.

But community outreach doesn’t end with service-learning. Our Student Advisory Board undertakes service projects such as clothing drives, and each year, student leaders are inducted into honor-and-service business societies, including Beta Gamma Sigma and the St. Ignatius Chapter of the Global Jesuit Business Students Association.

In addition, the CBA sponsors an annual Mission Retreat for students, featuring a visit with a recent alumnus or alumna who consciously attempts to infuse Jesuit values into a business career—and we have many of those. Indeed, CBA Alumni Board members volunteer at soup kitchens, collect Christmas gifts for needy families, and engage in other forms of social outreach. The CBA also partners with the Archdiocese of Detroit in celebrating an annual Mass for Commerce.

To celebrate the blending of professional success, integrity and community service, the CBA presents Business Leadership Awards each fall. This year’s recipients include Rev. William Beauchamp, C.S.C., ’64, ‘66, former president of the University of Portland, and Cassandra Moran, ’08, an accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers who has served as Chair of the CBA Alumni Board’s Social Outreach Committee for several years.

Social Entrepreneurship

During its centennial year in 2016-17, the CBA will launch a new Center for Social Entrepreneurship in a city eager for new ventures designed to benefit the underprivileged and society as a whole. Of course, we won’t be the first Jesuit institution to do so. Indeed, Rev. Phillip Cooke, S.J., who’s been hired to initiate and direct the Center, previously conducted similar work at Santa Clara University. Nor will those who develop their business plans and skills through our Center be the first persons affiliated with the CBA to become social entrepreneurs. Alumna Caitie Goddard, ’06, for example, is already an internationally recognized social entrepreneur, having co-founded the IC3 (I Can Create Change) Academy. Borrowing expertise from such innovative leaders, the Center will link the CBA even closer to the community, promoting social justice in new and hopefully transformative ways.

Conclusion

Ignatian values are not the exclusive province of a Jesuit university’s core curriculum or campus ministry office, but rather, shared principles that guide the entire institution. By preparing business majors and MBAs to be compassionate servant-leaders, Jesuit business schools are able to distinguish themselves from competitors while simultaneously promoting a more just and sustainable world.