Business Ethics in Action: Jesuit Business School Strategies
for Engaging Business Executives
By Kirk O. Hanson
Jesuit business education has distinguished itself in many
ways from the business education offered by non-Jesuit and non-religious
business schools worldwide. My forty years of teaching and study
in business ethics has convinced me that this distinctiveness,
grounded in Ignatian spirituality, includes an emphasis on five
- the development of the moral and spiritual character of
- the responsibility to use one's managerial skills for the
benefit of "others,"
- a concern for the welfare of employees in the manager's
- a focus on the social impact of business and organizational
- a special concern for the poor and marginalized frequently
left out of the economy.
A commitment to develop these five themes in a business school,
and therefore five parallel capacities or competencies in its
students, requires a second mission parallel to a business school's
more common goal of developing managers and leaders who are
skilled in the traditional disciplines of accounting, finance,
marketing, decision sciences, human relations, and strategy.
But this second mission cannot be completely separated from
the more predictable objectives of a business school. Unless
the five competencies are incorporated and integrated into the
traditional themes of management, leadership, and disciplinary
skills, they will be seen as disconnected to the core educational
mission of the business school.
Unfortunately, the distinctiveness of Jesuit business education
is not universally evident. In some Jesuit universities, these
fundamental themes are as lightly addressed as they are in many
non-religious institutions. The mission statements, curricula,
and culture of many Jesuit business schools show few signs of
the five Jesuit themes.
This paper describes a series of opportunities to engage business
managers and business organizations in the distinctive work
of Jesuit business schools in addressing these five fundamental
Jesuit themes. While every business school seeks to engage local
businesses and business professionals in one way or another,
Jesuit business schools have a special opportunity and special
obligation to invite and involve executives in the distinctive
mission. The thesis developed in this paper is that this can
best be accomplished, perhaps only accomplished, by enlisting
the participation and engagement of businesses and business
professionals who can by their lives and their witness demonstrate
the integral role of these themes in the real world of business
The Mission of a Jesuit Business School
Jesuit business schools embrace a mission which is broader
than that of most secular business schools. This is increasingly
important as students in Jesuit universities around the world
flock to business education. This is as true in developing societies
such as India and it has been in the United States. A 1983 report
for IAJBS reporting on a Delphi survey of primarily American
Jesuit business schools deans already took note of this need:
"One out of four students in Jesuit institutions majors
in business. An even larger number will be employed in business.
It is our task to provide these business students with a deeply
humanizing learning experience, the skills necessary for the
distinguished professional performance, and especially a commitment
to exercise power in service of others. Only then can we hope
that our graduates will leaven the social order with competence,
compassion, breadth of vision, depth of insight and decisiveness."
The report continued later:
"Jesuit business education must help assure that the
impact of business institutions upon each person in a society
is carefully examined. "It must be concerned with creating
complex organizational social systems which enhance genuine
community, mutual interactions, and dialogue among all levels
aimed at assuring the dignity of the individual within the society."
A speaker at the 2000 Puebla World Congress of IAJBS put the
challenge to Jesuit business schools in these words:
"Jesuit Business Schools must have a soul. There is
a lot of talk today about neoliberalism and how it discounts
the poor and how it does not care about our nations' needy.
You must teach your students that they will be able to make
decisions which may be legal in the situation but which they
cannot think ethical. Business decisions in today's marketplace
should not be merely what the numbers add up to or what best
serves a company's bottom line. We have a moral obligation towards
the needy of our nations." 3
Individual Jesuit business schools have responded to this need
and challenge in different ways. The mission of a Jesuit business
school has been expressed in many different ways. The business
school at my own institution, Santa Clara University, expresses
its role in the following words:
Santa Clara University's Business School develops men and
women with competence, conscience, and compassion who can provide
leadership in technologically advanced and rapidly changing
global environments. The development of competence is reflected
in our commitment to teaching excellence and the scholarly research
necessary to animate instruction and foster the creation of
knowledge. The development of conscience is enhanced through
an emphasis on reflective inquiry that is both professionally
rigorous and ethically sound. Compassion is at the intersection
of competence and conscience, and is fostered through an appreciation
of multiple perspectives and a recognition of the human being
as part of every equation. (Santa Clara University Leavy School
of Business Statement of Purpose)4
The Challenge of Creating a Distinctive Culture in a Jesuit
Modern organizational theory has established clearly that employees
or participants in an organization are strongly influenced by
the context and culture in which they work and study. Indeed,
corporate culture has become a fundamental concern of those
who would seek to manage any organization and to influence the
behavior of those inside that organization.
Increasingly universities and their many schools have paid
attention to the environment and culture they create for their
students. Nowhere is this more important than in Jesuit business
schools. The topics and concerns addressed in classes, the content
of the extracurriculum, the concerns expressed by the university
or school administration, speakers invited to speak on the campus,
events and awards presented, and even the offhand comments of
professors in class or at social functions play a major role
in signaling to students what values are entertained, welcomed,
To create a distinctive focus on the five themes emphasized
in this article, the business school administration must pay
deliberate attention to the business school culture and the
messages, explicit and implied, which they send to students
at the institution.
A Jesuit business school also has the opportunity to be part
of the culture of the business community in its own community,
region, and nation. By its emphasis on the five key Jesuit themes,
it can legitimize and encourage reflection on these themes in
the broader business community. This too is a part of the mission
of business education and of Jesuit business education.
Engaging Businesses and Business Executives in Business
From its modern beginnings the University of Pennsylvania's
Wharton School in 1881, business education has sought to engage
businesses and business professionals in its work.
The motivation was initially most instrumental, seeking financial
support and occasionally political support to establish business
education and business schools as part of the modern university.
The creation of new business schools were occasionally driven
by active promotion of the local business community and its
needs. The enlightened university president, seeking to establish
a business school to address regional needs, usually found it
critical to enlist the support of a committee of local business
executives to support his or her efforts.
Once established, business schools found many motives for engaging
business executives. Among them have been:
- The continuation of funding for the school's operations
- Participation in the formal governance of the school
- Advice for the school as a whole, or particular departments
- Enrichment of the curriculum and extracurriculum by participation
in classes or by speeches outside of classes
- Visible support for the institution's mission by affiliation
and loaning of one's name
I believe a Jesuit business school has a more fundamental need
to engage businesses and business executives - i.e. to enable
the school to address effectively the five fundamental Jesuit
themes. I have found it may be possible for professional faculty
to teach fact and theory based business school courses to students,
but I have found that it is impossible for an academic to teach
value-oriented content without the help of businesses and business
Only business executives can give effective testimony to the
notion that values matter, and that attention to the five Jesuit
themes enhances personal fulfillment and most often business
success. Most students come to business school with the suspicion,
if not the outright belief that one must be value-neutral, if
not unethical, to get ahead in the business world. Only by enlisting
the real-world witness of executives who have found otherwise
can this belief be challenged. Neither full-time business school
faculty nor Jesuit priests can convince our students otherwise.
Sadly, the politics of most business schools also demonstrate
that the majority of faculty have come to believe as the students
do. This makes the engagement of business executives on governing
and advisory board important as well.
Core Strategies for Engaging Executives and Strengthening
the Distinctiveness of Jesuit Business Education
Each Jesuit business school will develop its own style of engagement
for businesses and business executives, but it can be useful
to enumerate the most common strategies encountered. The following
analysis is based on 40 years of personal engagement in business
education and in integrating executives into the creation of
focus on the five key themes of a Jesuit business education.
- Speakers in class. The most common and easiest engagement
to arrange is an invitation from a single professor to a single
executive to appear in class on a single day.
- Speakers may be featured who discuss one of the five themes
and how it relates to the course - for example, in a beginning
accounting class, a professional accountant can be asked
to discuss "the responsibilities of accountants."
- Speakers in classes may be asked to address the ethical
dimensions of a topic they are addressing - for example,
how revenue recognition in accounting can be deceptive.
- Speakers in classes can be asked to talk about their personal
career and how it has enabled them to serve others - for
example, a marketing executive can discuss how a career
in marketing can help make products available to the poor.
- Speakers in classes can be asked to talk about their own
spiritual and vocational development, how they express their
own spirituality through their work.
- Speakers outside class. A significant part of the culture
of any business school is defined by who comes to speak at
public forums and what they speak about. Public talks can
be organized by student clubs, by faculty departments, or
by the business school administration.
- Speakers can address questions which don't fit easily
into the confines of a course. For example - the personal
spirituality or personal ethical commitments of an executive.
- Speakers can address broad social and ethical themes which
may be of interest to students in many courses. For example,
"reducing the rich/poor gap" in the nation or
"business's role in combating global climate change."
In many cases, students in courses can be required to attend
general talks or can be given extra credit for doing so.
- Speakers can appear on panels to address topics that are
more contentious or on which no businessperson is comfortable
giving a fully developed speech. For example, "should
global business be bound by human rights standards"
or "How has your religion influenced your business
career?" On contentious issues, opposing views will
increase student interest in the presentation.
- Speakers can be invited to give differing opinions on
pending matters before Parliamentary or other legislative
bodies. For example, "Should the USA sign the Kyoto
accords?" or "Should discrimination against gay
employees be outlawed?"
- Research, particularly Case Studies. Companies and managers
have a wealth of knowledge and learning that can help faculty
and students understand how ethical and social issues arise
in business. Tapping that knowledge can enrich business education
but can also encourage business people to reflect on their
- Companies can be asked to provide access for case studies
on the five themes. For example, research may focus on CSR
programs on the environment or programs for the poor.
- Companies can be asked to participate with faculty members
in research "partnerships" to explore questions
important both to the faculty and to the companies.
- Companies can be asked to fund student research or research
assistants. For example, researchers could compile information
on the CSR activities of all companies in a region or of
companies in a particular industry.
- Individual managers could be asked to share stories of
their own struggles to implement the five themes in their
own lives. These stories could be written or videotaped.
- Individual managers could be asked to participate in surveys
of alumni or of business persons in general. For example,
surveys could identify ethical dilemmas faced by accountants,
financial analysts, or human resource managers.
- Curriculum and program advice. Thoughtful managers and
executives are generally willing and even eager to offer their
own expertise and experience to business schools.
- Individual executives can be asked to join a business
school advisory board, advising on curriculum and other
- Individual executives can be asked to advise specific
departments (accounting, finance, etc.) on formal or informal
- Individual executives and managers can be appointed to
committees to examine how the business school should address
key questions related to the five themes.
- Executives can be asked to advise a department on the
"unavoidable ethical dilemmas" in a disciplinary
field - accounting marketing, finance, strategic planning,
- Executive can be asked to help design courses that would
directly address one of the five themes - for example, what
would a human relations course focusing on "showing
concern for your employees" include?
- Dialogue on the personal spirituality of the executives
and managers. The personal spiritual journey of executives
is never finished and there are opportunities to serve business
managers with programs and to have them join students in joint
- Groups of managers can be invited to participate in a
spirituality, prayer, or meditation group led by a business
school faculty member or by a campus minister under the
sponsorship of the business school.
- Mixed groups of managers and students can be brought together
in a course or retreat format to explore spirituality questions
and spiritual development.
- Programs for the business community. In addition to seeking
how managers and their companies can become involved in the
business school, the business school can embrace a mission
to the education of the business community at large. In this
way, the Jesuit business school becomes a key element in the
"culture" of the larger business community.
- The business school can offer executive education programs
focusing on the five key Jesuit themes.
- The business school can offer a breakfast, lunch, or early
evening speaker series for alumni or the local business
community, featuring the five themes.
- The business school can offer to broker presentations
by its faculty to individual companies on the five themes.
- The business school can partner with local companies
or professional firms to offer community briefings on the
five key themes. The companies often want the affiliation
with the business school.
Assessing the Culture of a Jesuit Business School
I firmly believe that the strategies outlined above for engaging
executives in strengthening and sustaining the distinctive culture
of a Jesuit business school can do so.
But given the secular pressures all business schools worldwide
are facing, many Jesuit business deans and faculty, as well
as university administrators, worry that Jesuit business schools
have lost their distinctive commitments and culture. How can
we determine whether this is true?
At last year's IAJBS World Forum in Guadalajara, Mexico, Jesuit
Secretary of Social Justice Francisco Franco urged that this
assessment be done in a deliberate and formal manner, embracing
a new ethic of accountability:
"I propose that
the IAJBS could develop a system
of external certification in what concerns the Jesuit character
of a business school, its characteristic of being focused in
justice. The development of such certification may be a great
step toward accountability. Jesuit excellence, to be credible,
needs to be accountable, to be perceived as such by society,
and to be independently confirmed." 5
In making such an assessment, there are several core questions
which could be asked:
- Does the business school's mission reflect a distinctive
- Does the curriculum include courses which explicitly focus
on the five themes?
- Do the five themes appear as subthemes or modules in other
courses? (Is there some treatment in the accounting course
of the responsibilities of accountants and of the unavoidable
ethical dilemmas of accountants?)
- Do faculty encourage discussion when issues arise in cases
or readings concerning the five themes?
- Do speakers in courses on the core disciplines address one
or more of the distinctive themes of a Jesuit business education
in addition to the core discipline being addressed?
- Do campus visitors who give speeches outside of classes
address the five key themes?
- Do university administrators mention the distinctive themes
in orientation, graduation, and other speeches and communications
to the student body?
- Do university administrators explicitly discuss the five
themes with faculty in designing and managing the school curriculum?
- Do students perceive that the five themes are part of the
culture of the business school?
- Do alumni recall a commitment to the five themes in reflecting
on their business education?
- Do leaders in the local business community consider the
character of the Jesuit business school distinctive and reflective
of the five themes?
Whether the assessment process reflects the formality and accountability
urged by Fernando Franco, an informal assessment can serve to
clarify for the business school's own leadership whether their
institution reflects a distinctive Jesuit character. Nothing
could be more important in an increasingly aggressive secular
Nothing can help more to create a truly distinctive Jesuit
character than active engagement of business and business executives
in the Jesuit business school's work.
1"Business Schools in Jesuit Education,"
by Andre L. Delbecq, a report for the Deans of the Jesuit Association
of Collegiate Schools and Programmes in Business Administration.,
2nd edition, February 1983.
2Ibid. Quotation from "The Context of
Our Ministries," Working Papers, Jesuit Conference, 1981,
3 Fabio Tobon Londono, "Ignatian Spirituality
in Jesuit business Schools," Review of Ignatian Spirituality,
Number 95, pp.43.
4Santa Clara University website:
5Fernando Fernandez Franco, SJ, "Corporate
Social Responsibility in a Globalised World, Challenges and
Opportunities," June 2007. IAJBS World Forum, Guadalajara,
Kirk O. Hanson is University Professor of Organizations and
Society and executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied
Ethics. Hanson has been a faculty member and an administrator
at both a major secular university, Stanford University, and
at a major Jesuit university, Santa Clara University (USA).
He delivered this paper at the conference, "Business and
Education in an Era of Globalization: The Jesuit Position,"
July 20-23, 2008 in New York City. This was the 14th Annual
World Forum of the International Association of Jesuit Business