Last week I traveled to Rome for a board meeting of the International Association of Jesuit Business Schools (IAJBS). This was my first visit to Rome, and the meeting took place in the Jesuit Curia, which is very near the Vatican. The Curia is a series of buildings containing offices, residences, and meeting rooms, something like a very crowded college campus (not a lot of open space). Although not in the boundaries of Vatican City, it is considered part of the Vatican from a legal standpoint and not part of Italy.
Most of the IAJBS board consists of business school deans from around the world. In addition to board members from the US like me, board members came from Belgium, Spain, India, the Philippines, and Korea.
The meetings took place the afternoon of March 8thand all day March 9th. The highlight of the meeting was our visit with Superior General Adolfo Nicolas. I was very impressed with the Father General. He has a very deprecating sense of humor and seems very humble. He was amused that everyone wanted a picture with him and maybe even puzzled by it. The purpose of the meeting was to familiarize him with IAJBS and to learn how IAJBS could assist the work of the worldwide Jesuit order. Here is a picture of me meeting the Father General:
The Father General emphasized the important role of business schools at Jesuit universities, noting that business 'has more attraction" than philosophy and theology. He noted that business without ethics leads to "disaster," and said that due to recent events the world is now more open to an ethical approach to business. He would like to see the Jesuit business schools lead the way in thinking about business in a different way, one that is more holistic and dedicated to the Common Good.
The rest of the meeting was taken up with planning for the IAJBS conference in Barcelona in July, reviewing the finances of the organization, and discussing the relationship between IAJBS and Colleagues in Jesuit Business Education (CJBE). CJBE has historically been a US-centric organization, but the plan is to become an organization to serve business faculty at Jesuit schools around the world.
We also were updated on plans to establish Jesuit business schools in Africa. Projects in Kenya, Rwanda/Burundi, Ivory Coast, the Congo, Burkina Faso, and a new one in Nigeria are all at different stages of planning. The hope is that IAJBS schools in other parts of the world will assist with this initiative. It does not seem like much progress has been made in this effort, and at this point there is not an obvious way that the Albers School can assist. We will continue to monitor how this develops and how we might contribute.
Outside of the meeting, my wife and I were able to squeeze in some tourist activity since we arrived on Wednesday, March7th, and left Sunday, March 11th. While the meeting ended on March 9th, it would have cost more than $600 more to fly home on Saturday, so I reluctantly stayed until Sunday!
The afternoon of the 7th we toured the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica. We moved quickly through the museum because there are rapid diminishing returns in viewing statues and medieval art, at least for me! The Sistine Chapel is quite amazing, and therefore crowded!
St. Peter's is also quite striking inside, and we walked the 320 steps to the top of the cupola for an excellent (but very crowded!) view of the city.
On Thursday morning, before the meeting started at noon, we walked over to the Pantheon, and also saw San Ignatio Church, Trevi Fountain, and the Gregorian University, as directed by Fr. Sundborg (he earned three degrees there), as well as several churches containing paintings by Caravaggio (famous artist for those not knowing). That evening, after having dinner near the Pantheon, we walked to the famous Spanish Steps to see what they looked like in the evening.
Saturday we headed to the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum. The interesting thing about Rome is it has so many antiquities that something really has to be stunning to get your attention. Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum have all sorts of Roman structures and statues but in the shadow of the Colosseum they just don't grab your attention. Anywhere else and they would be the center of attention, but nothing compares to that 75,000-seat stadium, more seats than CenturyLink Field!
There is one very important piece of advice I have for Rome, and that has to do with getting into the Colosseum. Don't arrive without a ticket, or you will stand in a very long line! If you don't have a ticket, go to the entrance of the Palatine Hill, which is just south of the Colosseum and buy a combo ticket. You can tour the hill and Roman Forum first, or buy the ticket and go to the Colosseum instead of going through the turnstiles at the Palatine Hill entrance.
We toured Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum first, then went to the Colosseum. As we did, and figured out the long line was for people buying tickets and the line to the left was for ticketholders like us, it seemed as if there was something wrong and we were going to be sent back to get at the end of the long ticket line. How could we be passing so many people?? But it is true. If you have a ticket, stay to the left and get right in, passing a lot of people spending a long time in line. So much for an economist assuming perfect information!
After the Colosseum, we toured Capital Hill that boasts the Victor Emmanuel Monument and the nearby Galleria Doria Pamphilj Museum. The latter is interesting because it is located in a large aristocratic opulent residence and has works by such well known artists as Titian, Caravaggio, and Raphael.
Unfortunately, by the time we got out of the museum the Gesu Church was closed, and it was another place we were instructed to see by Fr. Steve, since it is the Jesuit Church and contains the remains of St. Ignatius of Loyola. We returned later that evening on the way to dinner.
To all these places we walked. We never used a cab or public transit. That is a great thing about Rome. You can do a lot of walking and most of the places you are interested in seeing you can walk to (assuming your hotel is somewhere in the area - ours was near the Vatican). Of course, all this walking was facilitated by excellent weather. The sun was out the whole time, and temperatures reached a high of 65F during the day and dipped down to about 40F at night.
One problem I always have with Europe is Jet Lag! In this four-day visit I never adjusted, and I don't think a longer trip would have been much better. It is so much easier to go to meetings in Latin America where the time zone does not change much!
As everyone knows, technology makes it a lot easier to travel to Europe and not fall behind on emails and continue to stay in touch. What I really like now is being able to listen to my voice mail messages in Seattle on my iPhone in Rome!
Leaving Rome early Sunday morning was interesting. We got to the airport just before 4:00 AM for our 6:00 AM flight. Two hours ahead of time is a good rule of thumb for the airport in Rome according to the experts, but that does not factor in that our flight was the first out that morning! How many flights are out of Seattle before 6:00 AM?? Things don't get going early in Italy, I guess. We were literally the first people through security. It was so weird, we were not sure we were in the right place or doing the right thing because there was no one in front of us! The airport was completely empty in the walk to the gate and no stores were open, of course. That has to be a once in a lifetime experience!
Was this trip worth it? Yes, I think so. It's hard to hash out IAJBS issues when you are not face to face and how often have I met the Father General, any Father General, in my 30 years in Jesuit higher education? Once is the answer! Plus, I got to see almost all of Rome that any tourist wants to see!