Building the Global Jesuit Case Series through Formation, Collaboration and Cultivation

By Molly McCarthy, Writer-Editor, Le Moyne College

Graphic by Le Moyne College

Graphic by Le Moyne College

In the spring of 2010, the Very Rev. Adolfo Nicolás, S.J., former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, gathered with the presidents of Jesuit colleges and universities from around the world at Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. Fr. Nicolás urged them to strengthen the already rich network that has come to characterize Jesuit education – one steeped in nearly 500 years of faith and service – in order to better prepare their students to embrace the myriad challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. It was a call for collaboration, as well as for bold ideas and visionary leadership, at a moment in history when both were urgently needed.

As Fr. Nicolás addressed those leaders in Mexico, some 2,600 miles to the north, the faculty and administrators in what is now the Madden School of Business at Le Moyne College were asking themselves a similar question: In the wake of the Great Recession and multiple serious, well-publicized ethical breaches at some of the world’s most renowned companies, how could they best prepare their students to be reflective, ethical leaders, men and women as concerned about values as growing a company’s value? It was a subject that was debated often, during meetings and in hallways, in large, structured groups and informal, one-on-one conversations.

The answer they came to was this: They would cultivate those individuals by leveraging the intellectual capacity, moral authority, and rich history of the world’s nearly 200 Jesuit institutions of higher education, just as Fr. Nicolás challenged those present at Universidad Iberoamericana to do. They envisioned the creation of an online repository of business cases, distinct from any that had ever been used before. Written by executives, entrepreneurs and educators from around the world, the cases in this series would emphasize a holistic, values-centered approach to leadership inspired by the Ignatian principles of discernment, justice, compassion and adaptability; they would reflect the Jesuit commitment to lifelong learning, and would be easily accessible to faculty and students at Jesuit colleges and universities around the world. 

Fewer than three months after Fr. Nicolás’ address in Mexico City, Daniel Orne, Ph.D., now an emeritus faculty member in Le Moyne’s Madden School, presented his idea of a Global Jesuit Case Series (GJCS) during an annual meeting of the Colleagues in Jesuit Business Education at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. The response was immediate and enthusiastic. The faculty at the Madden School soon realized that their peers at other Jesuit institutions of higher education were as hungry as they were for a series of case studies centered on the values and ideals espoused by St. Ignatius Loyola, including moral leadership, social responsibility, and a commitment to sustainability.

The GJCS was formally launched in 2015 with the singular goal of establishing a series of real-world business cases, written by executives, educators and entrepreneurs whose work would place people and planet on equal footing with profit. In the nearly three years since its inception, the GJCS is well on its way to achieving that aim. Its leaders have hired a dedicated staff, built a website, and created pilot cases – all designed to develop compassionate leaders who embrace diversity and globalization. 

“What is most distinctive about the GJCS, and what made it such a wonderful project to undertake, is that it investigates the impact of business decisions not just from the perspective of a chief executive officer or shareholder, but of employees, communities, vendors and even competitors,” said Tracy Couto, director of the GJCS. “This approach reinforces the link between prospering businesses and healthy communities. Not only is the GJCS a useful tool for students and faculty members, but it also serves as a conduit for business and social innovation as it contributes to the body of knowledge of what works in business and why, and how different approaches impact individuals, organizations, and society as a whole.”

The faculty members and administrators of the Madden School have continued to build the capacity of the GJCS, raising millions for this initiative, hiring dedicated staff, building a website, creating an advisory board, and developing a companion print publication, The Inner Compass: A Business Magazine with a Social Conscience. They have collaborated with outstanding institutions – including Boston College, Georgetown University and Saint Louis University nationally, and ESADE in Barcelona, Spain, UNISINOS in São Leopoldo, Brazil, and Saint Aloysius University of Mangalore, India, internationally – in creating editorial policies, content and pilot cases for the series. The cases address an array of issues, including moral leadership, ethics, sustainability, and author and leadership consultant Chris Lowney’s four pillars of heroic leadership – self-awareness, heroism, ingenuity and love. 

Most recently, the GJCS also established two new collaborations. The first is with the Society for Case Research (SCR). Established in 1978, the SCR facilitates the exchange of ideas leading to the improvement of case research, writing and teaching. The organization publishes three scholarly journals – Business Case Journal, Journal of Case Studies and Journal of Critical Incidents – each of which features original cases designed to be used in the classroom. SCR staff members work with authors on every element of developing a case, including the narrative structure, teaching note, learning outcomes and theory. The second collaboration is with Real Time Cases, which creates video-based case studies that bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world.

“I am proud of the work we have done to develop business cases that broaden the conversation, emphasizing humanity while concurrently fostering innovation and profitability,” said Couto. “Too often in today’s society, we lose sight of the fact that business exists for the benefit of society, not the other way around. These cases are a direct response to that disturbing trend.”