Cathleen McGrath, Allan Deck, S.J.
“Faith and Business” Exploring Business from a Theological, Managerial, and Historical Perspective
Considerable work has been done on what exactly contributes to the Catholic character of business education. Naughton and Bausch (1996) identify four dimensions that provide a helpful launching point. They are, liberal learning, openness to understanding the faith dimension of management, the professionalization of management, and an understanding of the role of managers to serve the good of society. In this presentation we describe a course developed by a member of the theological studies department and management department. It addresses all four dimensions of Catholic business education. We were able to leverage our different academic background and training by focusing on our shared commitment to education in the service of faith and promotion of justice. The course, “Faith and Business: An Intercultural Approach” explored the role of business in society from theological, historical, and organizational behavioral perspectives. Students were recruited from both the College of Business Administration and the Catholic Studies program. Throughout the course we discussed faith, religion and spirituality as they are experienced, lived and understood by people in a pluralistic world with emphasis on Catholic approaches. We identified moral and ethical consequences of faith particularly in society, economics, politics, business, and finance. We placed particular emphasis on understanding employment relationships and the dignity of work, environmental sustainability, business ethics, and business as a vocation. We used multiple pedagogical approaches including seminar discussion, lectures, student team projects, and even a trip to Peru to collect information about the role of faith and business in a multicultural context. Throughout the semester, we worked to develop students’ understanding of the interplay of faith and business from a personal perspective as well and a societal perspective. We identified key faith and business concepts to help students as they moved toward their own careers in business. The concept that we emphasized included: human dignity, the dignity of work, stewardship, and solidarity. The students read and discussed work such as Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection, Rerum Novarum, Laborem Exercens, and Laudato S.’ in addition to papers and book chapters from the fields of theology and management. In order to bring together the historical and theoretical perspectives of the influence of faith in business and the role of business in society, we led the students in engaged learning projects. In the Spring 2016 semester we travelled with the students to Peru where we met with local university, parish, and government representatives to discuss the contemporary and historical role of religion and business in society. In the Fall 2016 semester, students met with local not-for-profit leaders and business leaders to explore issues at the intersection of faith and business including issues of human trafficking and environmental sustainability. Students were responsible for creating presentations that explored one issue that they identified in more depth. We worked to cultivate an understanding of the living influence of the key faith and business concepts as they work both at the university and as they prepare for their own careers.