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Dung Q. Tran, Ph.D., and Michael R. Carey, Ph.D.

Becoming More Intentionally Present, Attentive, and Aware: Integrating Ignatian Dynamics into an Online Graduate Leadership Education Course

Since contemporary workplaces, with their commitment to the maximizing of shareholder wealth through the relentless pursuit of record-breaking production and profits, can foster frenetic activity and contribute to a misalignment of life-work integration, the interior-oriented insights of Ignatius of Loyola, a historically distant and unorthodox resource for organizational leaders, continues to capture the imagination of overworked business people from various sectors and disciplines. With the recent celebration of the 500th anniversary of the iconic transformation experience of St. Ignatius of Loyola, it is an opportune time to investigate the intersection of his conversion process with the educational formation of leaders. Those of us who teach in Jesuit schools of business and leadership throughout the world know St. Ignatius as the founder of the Society of Jesus, and therefore ultimately the founder of Jesuit universities. However, Ignatius of Loyola had the transformation experience that has affected so many people over so many centuries before he was a member of a religious order or a priest (or a saint, for that matter): his transformation occurred when he was a lay person, a seeker, a pilgrim on the road to meaning. And after his transformation, he sought to facilitate the transformation of others by providing them both support and challenge in their own journeys. Consequently, our paper examines how that is still being done today, with applications to transformations in workplaces and the graduate education of business leaders, by drawing upon both the handbook Ignatius wrote to guide his work—called the Spiritual Exercises—and upon the account of his own transformation experience captured in his Autobiography. Our exploration begins with an appropriation of the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises to Graduate Leadership Education through the following questions: First, “What are my deepest desires?” (and this question has two distinct parts: “What don’t I want?” and “What do I want?”); once that has been clarified, the next question is “What does this require of me?” (In other words, what must be done to avoid the things you don’t want and achieve the things that you do want?); and finally, the last question requires an answer that lasts a lifetime: “How does this shape the person I am becoming?” After characterizing the stages of Ignatius’ own transformation as: Deconstruction (the cannonball at Pamplona); Choice (while convalescing at Loyola); Reconstruction (during his retreat at Montserrat); and Integration (actualized by his mystical experience in Manresa), our paper concludes with qualitative examples of how insights from St. Ignatius’ conversion process has helped online graduate students of organizational leadership in their quest to transition from profession to purpose since 2004.