Reflections on Jesuit Business Education

I recently spent two days at an annual conference for the International Association of Jesuit Business Schools (IAJBS) and Colleagues in Jesuit Business Education (CJBE).

I learned more about Jesuit business education resources, notably the Inspirational Paradigm for Jesuit Business Education and the Journal of Jesuit Business Education, which I was grateful for. One challenge I’ve struggled with since I began teaching undergraduate coursework at Saint Peter’s University is: how do I more fully integrate mission into my basic and advanced accounting courses? I am excited to learn of new resources, perspectives, and colleagues who can shed light on this important aim.

So I’m sharing some reflections here for anyone else interested in Jesuit business education or Jesuit education more broadly.

1-Read, experience “An Inspirational Paradigm for Jesuit Business Education”

I was not deeply familiar with the Inspirational Paradigm until the conference. My relative ignorance was validated by one of the papers presented there; Dr. Joan Lee of Fairfield University shared in a presentation that awareness of the IP is limited (her draft paper is here). Her paper included survey data from Colleagues in Jesuit Business Education (CJBE) faculty to support the findings. The clarity of the data was interesting, including limited hits on the IP website, lower awareness among junior (vs experienced) faculty, and more.

I have since read the Inspirational Paradigm white paper and I’m energized by its frame. It explains the broader Jesuit pedagogical framework and its relation to business that includes, more recently and pointedly, Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’. Laudato Si’ was referenced repeatedly over the two days in Georgetown; its influence is clear and compelling. The IP ends with this following call to action:

“A Jesuit education in business is firmly based on an ethical framework that emphasizes the fundamental questions of the dignity and the potential of the individual, the centrality of the common good, and the importance of social networks that affirm and support human flourishing. Each academic field marketing, finance, accounting, management, human resources, etc. — acknowledges that the present approach to business education, with its emphasis on the profit motive and neglect of social good, contributes to an unsustainable economy that does not support human flourishing. Each academic field should then offer an alternative vision based on ethical principles and the promotion of virtue. What is best for all and for the planet? It is the responsibility of each faculty member, department, and school to articulate their position vis-a-vis the Ignatian paradigm. Now is the moment to respond to this critical challenge for business education.”

An Inspirational Paradigm for Jesuit Business Education, 2020

There is an urgency here that we are being encouraged to embrace which I find both empowering and cathartic. I feel a sense of: yes, this is what our work is about.

But challenges abound including finding the space and time to deepen understanding and discern with intent. Reflecting on St. Ignatius and finding space for sacred time are two follow-on reflections related to this challenge.

2-Revisit “St. Ignatius of Loyola Spiritual Exercises and Selected Works”

My renewed interest in revisiting Ignatius of Loyola was sparked by a slide shared by Father Joseph Christie, SJ in his talk about the Inspirational Paradigm; the prompt was simple yet powerful: “Should Jesuits be in business education? What would have been St. Ignatius’s response if he were alive today?” This was my favorite visual from the entire conference.

I want to know more about St. Ignatius to approach this question. This book is a fantastic resource to do so.

This book was part of a Jesuit seminar I took with other faculty in my first year at Saint Peter’s University. The seminar was offered under the guidance of Father Claudio Burgaleta, SJ, who is concluding his leadership post for the New Jersey Jesuits this July. The book was on the heavier side of the course materials; also offered was “The Olive,” a lighter introduction to St. Ignatius from Fairfield University.

I am not formally Jesuit educated, having attended public schools through college. I was immersed in Ignatian values through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, an intense year of formative, context-rich experience. The 2018 seminar at Saint Peter’s helped deepen my academic understanding of St. Ignatius and most recently, the 2022 IAJBS conference feels like an invitation to dig deeper into who he was.

This question – “what would have been Ignatius’s response?” is one we can dialog around but we have to endeavor to understand Ignatius to do so.

An animation based on the life of the founder of the Jesuit order, St. Ignatius of Loyola, written, produced and narrated by Jason Kapell of the Fairfield University Media Center

3-Make space for “Sacred Time”

Making space to do this work seems so simple, is such an imperative, yet can be challenging.

On day two of the conference I listened to an excellent presentation by Dr. Cathleen McGrath of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Her presentation was titled “Preparing Business Leaders to Find Peace at Work through Sacred Time.” She described a concerning increase of anxiety broadly (“a 2021 poll by the American Psychological Association found that sixty-two percent of Americans felt more anxious than the year before”) but more specifically how we, as Jesuit educators, can help our students grapple with this anxiety. One response, she explained, can be that of “sacred time.”

Self interestedly, I found this helpful for personal reasons, as a way to fuel my own tank. Several insights from Dr. McGrath resonated with me including sacred time possessing an “intensity” (this frame was revelatory for me as I’ve had this experience yet had never put language to it) and sacred time including “rest, gratitude, community, and reverence.”

Sacred time possessing intensity. When possible, I attend daily mass at my parish, St. Aedan’s, a 100-year old cathedral with stained glass, stone floors, and echoey acoustics that pick up every footstep, kneeler thud, and hushed whisper. The daily mass is a shorter version of its livelier weekend cousin, stripped of music down to an efficient 30 minutes inclusive of opening prayers, readings, homily, and Eucharistic. It’s bare bones and that’s what I like about it. There is space for meditative reflection, peace, and quiet solitude yet still be in community with others.

Sacred time including rest, gratitude, reverence. I recently visited the Grand Canyon and I felt an intensity there for perhaps obvious reasons (extreme heights) but the majesty of looking back through time, millions of years, is awesome. Nature can be a person’s channel for faith/belief in a higher power (I’m thinking of a close friend as I write this) and can serve as a “thin place” for many, myself included.

How we support students (the focus of Dr. McGrath’s presentation) with sacred time is not something I feel I can necessarily do in my classroom (I feel it is outside of my professional wheelhouse), but it does make me think outside the box (or classroom) to Jesuit values and tenets about interfaith dialog, some of which can be accessed through resources like Campus Ministry.

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