Catholic Business Education

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 5:50 PM PDT

On June 18 to the 20th the Eighth International Conference on Catholic Social Thought and Management Education was held at the University of Dayton.  The theme of the meeting was, "Renewing Mission and Identity in Catholic Business Education."  Over 150 faculty from more than 75 Catholic universities from around the world participated in the event.  I served on the planning committee for the event.


Dayton, Ohio is hot and humid this time of year, and it is not the easiest place to get to (particularly for international participants), but once you get there, it is a pretty manageable place.  Anyone from Seattle will notice there is a lot less traffic!


The most interesting part of the meeting for me was the participation of Cardinal Peter Turkson, who is heading up the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP).  The PCJP recently published, "Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection."  It is a very readable document that pulls together what Catholic Social Teaching means for business.  If you have ever read any of the encyclicals on CST, you know they are rich documents, but very difficult to plow your way through.  It is nice to have such an accessible document that does such a nice job of summarizing the positive role business should play in our society!  


The Cardinal kicked off the conference by celebrating mass, which of course is a great way to start a conference for Catholic business schools.  I believe it was the first time I have been at a concelebrated mass where most of the priests were Black, a result of the mix of attendees at the conference.  Four of the five priests (including the Cardinal), were Black.  I guess I should chalk it up as, "A Sign of the Times." :} [Vocations are strong in Africa and parts of Asia, and weak in Europe and the US.] I am also trying to recall the last time I was at a mass led by a Cardinal.  I think it might have been way back when I was eight or nine years old and Cardinal John Krol was presiding at my Confirmation at St. Cyril's Church in the Philadelphia diocese!


The mass was followed by a talk by Cardinal Turkson on "Vocation of the Business Leader."  He confided that they called it a "reflection" instead of a "note" because the latter would have required it to receive various approvals from the Vatican bureaucracy, which of course means it would still be awaiting publication!  The Cardinal explained the process that was followed to develop the document, including the significant consultation with business leaders and academics.  His message was that business serves the Common Good, and he challenged Catholic business schools to bring that message to students and alumni.  He also talked about leadership, using the image of the shepherd as a figure providing leadership and sustainability to the flock.  I liked his point that the good business leader sometime goes behind when the flock knows the way, but sometimes must take the lead when new paths are being taken.


The conference featured a number of papers presented by faculty in attendance on various aspects of Catholic business education.  There were several plenary sessions, including one featuring a panel of business school deans discussing the challenges they face in their positions.  I served as moderator and had the easy role of peppering my colleagues with questions on mission, working with other units on campus, the role of Catholic Social Thought in Catholic business education, hiring for mission, and how mission should influence faculty research.  These are not easy questions, but we had three deans with collectively over five decades of dean experience - Joe DiAngelo from St. Joseph's, Ellen Harshman from St. Louis University, and Tom Bausch, Dean Emeritus from Marquette.


I had to leave the evening of the 19th, so I missed the last day of the conference.  All the flights home were significantly delayed.  It's the combination of thunder storms and no slack in the system!