Experience level: 
Intended Audience: 
Molly Pepper

Jesuit Business Education and Civic Engagement

Is the current traditional college and university system sustainable? The cost of going to college is increasing, outstanding student debt is at an all-time high, and many are questioning the value of a college education. Publications inside and outside the academy are running articles with titles like “Do You Really Have to Go to College?” (New York Times), “7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Go To College and 4 Things To Do Instead” (Huffington Post), and “An Economist Argues That Our Education System Is Largely Useless” (Chronicle of Higher Education). Many of the arguments against the traditional university assert that the return on a college education is not worth the investment. In these arguments, the return is mostly measured in monetary terms. Articles with titles like “Top 5 Highest Paying Bachelors Degrees” (Forbes) and “Top College Majors for Finding Full-Time Work” (U.S. News and World Report) suggest that salaries and jobs are the most important outcomes of a college education. However, these are not the outcomes mentioned in the mission statements of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States. While the mission statements vary, all 28 mention civic engagement. This is described in different ways such as “becoming women and men for and with others” or “working for the common good,” but it is a part of each Jesuit college or university’s mission in the United States. Civic engagement is a commonly used term on our campuses to describe service and community involvement. However, above all, civic engagement means being a good citizen. This is not a new outcome or one that is distinctive to Jesuit institutions. Civic engagement is one of the most frequently cited learning goals in all U.S. university mission statements, second only to the goal of a liberal education. Ninety-one percent of the mission statements of colleges and universities mention contributing to the community. Past studies found a strong correlation between higher education and civic engagement. As education increased, so did civic engagement. However, recent studies suggest the correlation is weakening. The average level of education is going up, but civic engagement is beginning to drop. The question this research will try to answer is “What is the role of Jesuit business education in ensuring civic engagement?” A content analysis of the mission statements of all 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States has already been conducted. It was found that civic engagement is mentioned in all of them. The next step in the analysis will be a content analysis of the mission statements of business schools. From there, the research will examine the schools with a heavy emphasis on civic engagement with the goal of discovering four or five “best practices” for presentation and discussion at the conference followed by a manuscript. The criticisms of higher education suggest the system is failing. It is hoped this research can shore up the important difference that Jesuit business education can make to the nation through civic engagement.