Navigating Business with Ethics: Saint Joseph’s University’s Pedro Arrupe, S.J. Center for Business Ethics

By Colleen Sabatino, Director of Digital Content, Saint Joseph’s University

David Steingard, Ph.D., (left) and John McCall, Ph.D. in front of the Haub School of Business' Mandeville Hall (Photo by Saint Joseph's University)

David Steingard, Ph.D., (left) and John McCall, Ph.D. in front of the Haub School of Business' Mandeville Hall (Photo by Saint Joseph's University)

In his 2013 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis called for an examination of the purpose of business and a prioritization of the common good. Though academic and business communities have been making such appeals since the modern business ethics movement began in the late 1970s, there is, according to John McCall, Ph.D., director of the Pedro Arrupe, S.J. Center for Business Ethics at Saint Joseph’s University, still much work to be done.

“Over the years, episodes of scandal have increased awareness of the need for business ethics education,” says McCall, a professor of management and philosophy who holds the John McShain Chair in Ethics.

To answer Pope Francis’ call, many believe that the first step lies with rethinking business education. Since its founding in 2005, the Pedro Arrupe, S.J. Center for Business Ethics in the Erivan K. Haub School of Business (HSB) has been helping Saint Joseph's to set the example.

“Jesuit business schools are uniquely positioned to lead reform by challenging the standard assumptions of business education and living up to the principles and values espoused in their mission statements,” wrote McCall and Stephen Porth, Ph.D. ’80, professor of management and senior editor of the Journal of Jesuit Business Education, in a summer 2015 article in the same journal. “We must prepare our students to think differently about the nature and purpose of business and to face the ethical and moral challenges of today’s business environment.”

The vision and generosity of Saint Joseph’s alumnus Frank Trainer ’68 challenged the Haub School to develop a center for business ethics. Named in honor of the 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Rev. Pedro Arrupe, S.J. (whose commitment to social justice was unyielding), Trainer intended that the Center would provide students with consistent exposure to ethics discussions in the curriculum and beyond.

“If we can get students to begin thinking about the ethical perspective of real-life business decisions in college and graduate school, then perhaps they will continue to do so in their business careers,” says Trainer.

His hope, shared by Joseph A. DiAngelo Jr., Ed.D. ’70, HSB dean, was for Saint Joseph’s graduates to enter their careers as principled leaders striving to make a positive impact in their communities, workplaces and the world.

Trainer’s challenge has not only been met, it’s been exceeded.

In 2010, just five years into the Center’s existence, HSB (the largest U.S. Jesuit business school) was ranked No. 12 in student exposure to ethics by the Aspen Institute’s global survey of business programs. Two years later, external consultants and renowned business ethicists Norman Bowie, Ph.D. and Joseph DesJardins, Ph.D. completed an external review of the Arrupe Center in which they stated, “In our experiences, few schools have been able to truly embed ethics into the culture of a business school. Discussions of ethics have truly become a part of the culture of HSB.”

Two consecutive AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) accreditation summaries (2010, 2015) concurred, citing the Center as one of the “crown jewels” of the Haub School.

“The Arrupe Center has been immensely successful in realizing Frank’s vision over the past decade,” says DiAngelo. “Not only have HSB’s culture and curriculum been strengthened, but our faculty and students are more cognizant of our mission and eager to contribute to the common good.”

The Center sponsors ethics-focused programming and student competitions and inspired the formation of the Saint Joseph's student chapter of Net Impact. It was also instrumental in the creation of the Leadership, Ethics and Organizational Sustainability (LEO) major/minor and in making improvements to each department’s course curricula. In 2014, HSB courses earned honorable mention from the Dr. Alfred N. and Lynn Manos Page Prize for Sustainability Issues in Curricula competition.

“Almost every class I took in the business school, whether for my major or not, discussed ethics and ethical practices within the business world,” says LEO alumna and former Net Impact leader Danielle Myers ’13. Now a sustainability and human resource manager for R World Energy Solutions, she says that exposure to ethics and sustainability at Saint Joseph's influenced her career aspirations.

The heart of the Center’s activity is its leadership. Director McCall has a dual appointment in the College of Arts and Sciences (philosophy) and the Haub School (management) that demonstrates the far-reaching nature of the Center and the University's distinctive business education model.

Helping to lead the Center's growth and empowering its unique model for faculty training is associate director David Steingard, Ph.D., associate professor of management. He says, “The Jesuit educational platform and basis in moral philosophy distinguishes Arrupe from other ethics centers."

To date, more than two-thirds of the tenured or tenure-track business faculty have received one or more Arrupe Faculty Fellowships, which are awarded for research, teaching and professional development. Nearly one-third have participated in an Ethics Across the Curriculum seminar, an intense six-week boot camp for faculty in both HSB and the College of Arts and Sciences, who wish to include or enhance ethics-based content within their courses.

The program has resulted in over 70 publications, 30 conference presentations, numerous research and faculty awards, and the development of over 50 new courses or course modules.

“The most effective way to change the culture of a business school and develop faculty is to provide opportunities to integrate ethics into the curriculum,” says Steingard. “We’re helping faculty put HSB values into action as a direct way to demonstrate who we are and what we represent as a Jesuit business school.”

An earlier version of this article appeared in Haub School Review.