The University of St. Thomas

Center for Catholic Studies | John A. Ryan Institute

Portland Curriculum Seminar

Portland Curriculum Seminar

Curricular Project on Catholic Business Education

 Examining the Uniquely Catholic Dimension of
Undergraduate Business Education


University of Portland

August 2-4, 2010



I. Context: We are now moving into the third stage of this project on Catholic business education.  The first stage (2006/07) was examining and reflecting on business education within the Catholic tradition which culminated in a seminar at the University of St. Thomas (2007).  This seminar produced several reflections on this topic as well as a collaboration among several Catholic universities. The second stage (2008) was the University of Notre Dame conference, where we brought together faculty from around the world to examine business education within the Catholic university.  This conference generated approximately 60 academic papers as well as a platform that provided conversations, discussions and debates on the principles and practices of a Catholic business education. Our third stage (2009-10) will develop curricular materials that serve faculty to address the Catholic mission and identity of their schools.


The outcomes of this overall project are the following:

·         Participants will develop a clearer understanding of and appreciation for the Catholic mission and identity of their business schools.

·         Participants will develop a richer and more robust understanding of the challenges posed by modern culture and the implications of these challenges for business education at Catholic universities.

·         Develop high quality materials that provide practical guidance to deans and faculty on business education within Catholic universities.  

·         Produce over 50 academic papers on theoretical and practical implications of Catholic business education. This will include a series of concrete ideas of how to integrate the Catholic intellectual tradition into the business curriculum.

·         Develop a stronger international community of scholars and practitioners who want to integrate Catholic social thought and business.



II. Focus for the Third Stage:  As we move to the third stage of this project, we want to be sure that we capture and build upon the success of the Notre Dame conference.  There was a spirit at this conference that can be amplified as we move to this third stage.  Similar to The Good Company conference held in Rome (2006), where people wanted more case studies on what the good company looks like, participants from the Notre Dame conference want to see more practical ways in which to incorporate the uniquely Catholic dimension of business education within the curriculum.  When we say uniquely Catholic, this means both what is explicitly distinct about the Catholic tradition (e.g., Catholic intellectual tradition, Catholic social thought, Catholic moral thought, Catholic spirituality, etc.) as well as things that may not be explicitly Catholic, but enhance and are complementary to a Catholic business education (other religious traditions, other philosophical contributions, disciplinary insights, etc).


This third stage of the project is to gather a group of faculty to develop curricular materials on two major areas of the undergraduate curriculum—theology and philosophy within liberal education and functional disciplines within business education.  We recognize that an institution’s curriculum is based on many factors, including its particular mission, its traditions and pure historical accidents. While there is not a “one size fits all” realm for developing curricular materials, we believe that there is enough commonality among Catholic universities with business programs to provide materials that will be of use to enhancing and determining one’s mission driven character.  


Courses for a business student at a Catholic college or university can be structured within two broad categories of liberal and professional education.  Liberal education courses situate and contextualize business education for undergraduates.   At most schools, theology and philosophy play an important role in the liberal education experience.  Liberal education is an important component to an undergraduate business education, since a liberal education explores the fundamental meaning of the person and society through a wondrous encounter with creation. This wondrous encounter cultivates the capacity (both natural and grace-given) of the student to understand herself as a person, that is a free and intelligent subject with the capacity to the true, the good and the beautiful, which enables the student to see business within a moral and spiritual context. While all sorts of disciplines play a role in this wondrous encounter (literature, music, art, sciences, social sciences, etc.), theology and philosophy play a particular central role in defining a liberal education at a Catholic university.  A driving question for this section is the following:  “What are appropriate ways for Catholic universities to introduce the Catholic intellectual tradition and the Catholic social tradition in their philosophy and theology courses?”  (See appendix for a description of the Catholic intellectual and social tradition.)


Business education courses introduce students to the practical and applied areas of business (economics, marketing, management, finance, accounting, etc.).  These courses focus on providing the knowledge and skills necessary for students to function in the field of business. A business student must learn the skills of reading a balance sheet, calculating cost of capital, providing statistical analysis, targeting and segmenting markets, managing group dynamics, generating creative thinking, initiating problem solving techniques, mediating conflicts and so forth. Without such knowledge and skills that match the necessities of the business world, students would not only be unprepared for their respective job markets, but they would be unprepared as moral agents to contribute to the common good.  A curriculum cannot promote a more just world without introducing students to the actual skills and knowledge necessary to function in the discipline.  But these skills are never simply skills, but forms of work that impact the businessperson and the world. A driving question for this section is the following:  “What kind of education in these courses can promote principled and virtuous businesspeople in light of the Catholic intellectual and social tradition?” While all sorts of disciplines play a role in this kind of education, we will focus on marketing, economics and organizational behavior.


III. Outcomes: The specific outcomes of this third stage of the project are the following:

·         Develop high quality materials that provide practical guidance to deans and faculty on how to be more mission driven in relation to the curriculum of Catholic business education. This will entail developing syllabi, background essays, teaching notes, learning outcomes, annotated bibliography, etc. that can help faculty to think more concretely about how to be more intentionally mission driven in their teaching.

·         To develop a user friendly and accessible website in which this material can be distributed and communicated.

·         To develop other effective means to communicate and institutionalize the materials developed.

·         To deepen the community of scholars within Catholic business education.

·         To begin to plan the next international conference on Catholic business education. 



IV. Specific Themes and Teams: In order to achieve these outcomes, each of these two  sections (liberal and business) should produce usable curricular materials that provide ideas and practices of how to be more mission driven in the curriculum. It is important to be clear that we are not attempting to be exhaustive here, but rather to begin to be explicit about the specific character of what a business education looks like at a Catholic university.  This means we will be limited in scope in the disciplines that we will cover and in the kind of curricular materials that we will produce in this stage of the project.   We will focus in providing quality materials in a limited number of areas in the hope that if this project is successful, we will expand more broadly and more deeply.



1. Catholic Intellectual and Social Tradition in Philosophy and Theology Courses

  • Background Essays:  (10 single spaced pages, with bibliography)

o   Catholic Intellectual and Social Tradition in Philosophy and Theology Courses (see Appendix) (Br. Ray)

o   Should a theology requirement seek an integration with business as a capstone course; bridge courses; etc. (Naughton)

o   Should general ethics be taught differently at a Catholic university and if so how and why? What role should the Catholic intellectual and social tradition play in teaching ethics? (Pat Johnson; Greg Beabout)

o   Should business ethics be taught differently at a Catholic university and if so how and why? What role should the Catholic intellectual and social tradition play in teaching business ethics? (Bob Kennedy)

  • Teaching Notes of Important Themes: The teaching notes would consist of 1) an introductory essay on the relevance of the topic to the issue of business education; 2) how to integrate the theme into the course itself; and 3) brief annotated bibliography on good readings that would illuminate the topic both as background and assigned readings (5-10 pages)

o   The Natural Law Tradition and Virtue Ethics – including practical wisdom and the other character virtues.  (Greg Beabout, Pat Johnson)

o   The preeminence of practical wisdom and justice in business ethics (Kennedy)

o   Provide teaching notes on 2-3 cases that would illuminate issues highlighting practical wisdom and business as a profession (Kennedy)

o   The History of the Natural Law Tradition of Moral Inquiry in Dialogue with other Ethical Traditions – deontology, utilitarian, relativism, post-modernism, feminism, etc. (Beabout, Johnson)

o   Catholic Social Principles and the Highly Principled Business Leader (Naughton)

o   Business Leadership as a Profession and a Vocation:  (Naughton)

o   Purpose of Business and nature of property: Theological understanding of property:  explorations of Genesis, Aquinas and the Catholic social tradition on property and its relationship to modernity (???).

o   Provide teaching notes on 2-3 cases that would illuminate issues highlighting principles and concepts from the CST (Naughton)

  •  Sample Syllabi that illustrate how the themes above would be integrated into a set of various courses in theology and philosophy.

o   Intro to Moral Philosophy (Beabout, Johnson)

o   Intro to Theology/Religious Studies (???)

o   Business Ethics (Kennedy)

o   Catholic Social Thought and Business (Naughton)

  • Team:  Mike Naughton, Br. Ray Fitz, Greg Beabout, Pat Johnson,  Bob Kennedy


2. Business Disciplines:

  • Principles of Marketing:
    • Background essay on first principles on the relationship between Marketing and Catholic business education. 
      • What are the first principles operating in marketing today—about language, communication, relationships, goods and services, etc., and how do such first principles compare and contrast with a Catholic view of such things.
      • If one teaches marketing at a Catholic university what are some “must do” issues that students should encounter? 
    • Syllabi: provide a couple of different syllabi on one course (Principles of Marketing)
    • Teaching Notes: provide a set of extensive teaching notes on 2-3 critically important topics that you believe are critical to a Catholic business education in the course Principles of Marketing.
    • Provide one or two cases that would illuminate issues that one can connect with CST in a course Principles of Marketing. Provide teaching notes.
    • Annotated Bibliography--
    • Team: Pat Murphy and Gene Laczniak


  • Introduction to Economics (micro or macro):
    • Background essay on the relationship between Economics and Catholic business education. 
    • Syllabi: provide a couple of different syllabi on one course
    • Teaching Notes: provide a set of extensive teaching notes on 2-3 critically important topics that you believe are critical to a Catholic business education in the area of economics.
    • Provide one or two cases that would illuminate issues that one can connect with CST. Provide teaching notes.
    • Specify Learning Outcome
    • Annotated Bibliography
    • Team: Charles Clark (macro) and Andy Yuengert (micro)


  • Management and Organizational Behavior:  
    • Background essay on the relationship between OB and Catholic business education. 
    • Syllabi: provide a couple of different syllabi on one course (Intro to Org. Behavior)
    • Teaching Notes: provide a set of extensive teaching notes on 2-3 critically important topics that you believe are critical to a Catholic business education in the area of OB.
    • Provide one or two cases that would illuminate issues that one can connect with CST. Provide teaching notes.
    • Specify Learning Outcomes
    • Annotated Bibliography
    • Team: Steve Porth and John McCall



3. Summary Materials: Critical Elements of a Catholic Business Education: 

  • What would we consider the key themes, principles, concepts, conflicts, experiences we would want a business student to have at a Catholic university?
  • What principles from CST would we consider to be essential for business students?
  • What would be an essential 10 issues that every student of a Catholic business school should encounter?
  • What would be considered success of students graduating from a Catholic business school (undergrad)?  What would we consider to be failure for students at a Catholic Business School?  


A Note on the Catholic Intellectual and Social Tradition[1]


Importance of the Catholic Intellectual and Social Tradition in Catholic Universities

Alasdair MacIntyre in a provocative essay on Catholic Universities argued the following:

What the Catholic faith confronts today in American higher education and indeed in American education more generally is not primarily some range of alternative beliefs about the order of things [Catholic, Protestant, Islam, Buddhist, Marxist, Kantian, etc.], but rather a belief that there is no such thing as the order of things of which there could be a uni­fied, if complex, understanding or even a movement toward such an under­standing. There is on this contemporary view nothing to understanding except what is supplied by the specialized and professionalized disciplines and subdisciplines and subsubdisciplines. Higher education has become a set of assorted and heterogeneous specialized enquiries into a set of assorted and heterogeneous subject-matters, and general education is a set of introductions to these enquiries together with a teaching of the basic skills necessary for initiation into them, something to be got through in order to advance beyond it into the specialized disciplines. The under­graduate major, when taught by those whose training has led them to pre­suppose this view—for it is often taken for granted, rather than explicitly stated—becomes increasingly no more than a prologue to graduate school, even for those who will never go to graduate school.[2] 


In order to overcome this fragmentation of knowledge, this overly specialized and disconnected understanding of the university, MacIntyre proposes that the Catholic university must become ever clearer on the role and place of philosophy and theology in the curriculum. It must both resist the academic temptation of ever greater specialization and fragmentation of its own unity, and “it must be true to its own greatest past achievements” of integration of faith and reason and of faith and work.  


One of the major resources for an integrating education at a Catholic university is the Catholic intellectual tradition.  In the Common Academic Program of Catholic universities (a program of studies for all students in the university) there should a rich introduction to the Catholic intellectual tradition.  The Catholic social tradition, i.e. how the Catholic community addresses important social questions, is an integral part of this Catholic intellectual tradition.  The Common Academic Program should also have an introduction to the Catholic social tradition.


The Catholic social tradition “informed and embedded in the Catholic intellectual tradition” is an important resource for integrating professional education in Catholic universities.  For example, in Catholic business education we would expect students to be introduced into ways the Catholic social tradition can be an important intellectual resources in addressing business issues – such as plant closures, living wages, work-life balance, the role of business in the good society, etc.


At any university curriculum design and integration depends on the faculty.  The major question is “Do our faculty members at Catholic universities have a sufficient knowledge of the Catholic intellectual and social tradition that they can utilize it in the design and integration of curriculum?”  Most Catholic universities have a core group of faculty with knowledge and appreciation of the Catholic intellectual and social tradition.  Yet, on many Catholic campuses this group is quite small in both the Arts and Science and the Professional Schools.   In Catholic higher education, there is a need to dramatically increase the number of faculty members who are experts in their discipline and have knowledge and appreciation of the Catholic intellectual and social tradition as well as an enthusiasm in using it as a scholarly resources. 


We need to engage some key faculty at our Catholic universities in a scholarly conversation on the meaning of the Catholic intellectual tradition and the Catholic social tradition and how these traditions shape the curriculum and the research agenda of Catholic universities.  The results of this conversation must be sufficiently rigorous and intellectual compelling so as to engage our most thoughtful faculty in our liberal arts and sciences disciplines and our professional fields.  To initiate this conversation we need to develop some working concepts on the Catholic intellectual tradition and the Catholic social tradition.


The following thoughts begin to describe what we mean by the Catholic intellectual and social tradition and what are its implications for a business education at a Catholic university.


I. The Catholic Intellectual Tradition:

The Catholic intellectual tradition is a tradition of rational inquiry that engages Catholic beliefs with the great human questions and situations as they unfold across centuries and civilizations. Catholic beliefs are informed by the Scriptures, the texts and art of the tradition, and the authoritative interpretations of the tradition by the Hierarchy and Councils of the Catholic Church.  The Catholic intellectual tradition is a set of shared but developmental beliefs that have been sustained over time by institutions (Christian communities, monasteries, universities, etc) and social practices (worship, personal prayer, teaching and learning, etc).  This tradition has evolved and developed through conversation with the world of ideas and prevailing philosophies, the contribution of great thinkers, as well as, the reflective application of its beliefs to the personal and social life of those who share the tradition. In short, the Catholic intellectual tradition is a way of thinking and exploration, as well as, the beliefs, art, and artifacts that have been produced from these ways of thinking and exploration.  The Catholic intellectual tradition provides a conceptual framework that structures a way of ordering reality, intuiting and discerning meaning and arriving at and realizing choices.


Key Beliefs in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition:  Among the beliefs that shape the Catholic intellectual traditions are:

1.        Complementarity of Faith and Reason: The Catholic intellectual tradition affirms an intricate relation between faith and reason.  As important as discursive and logical formulations and critical thinking are, they are not able to capture all that can and ought to be learned.  Horizons are expanded, relationships are made possible, and understandings embraced when individuals and communities learn to rely at appropriate times and in thoughtful ways on both faith and reason.  John Paul II’s insistence on the fact that a Catholic university was paradoxically committed both to an ongoing reflection on the truth it has received in the Logos (faith) and an open search for truth (reason), we recognized that these fundamental claims were rarely explicit in the intellectual life of our campus.

2.        Unity of Knowledge: Acknowledging a consistent Catholic emphasis on the unity of knowledge with a robust interdisciplinary engagement a Catholic university the search for truth is based on the belief that truth is ultimately one and can be know through human inquiry.  To realize the unity of truth, intellectual inquiry must be interdisciplinary and integrative.  In searching for truth we realize that many important truths are only partially grasped and our insight into these truths develops over time.

3.        An Understanding of the Human Person: The Catholic intellectual tradition has a fundamental commitment to the dignity of the human person as a both a creative and social being created in the image of God.  The tradition recognizes that the human person is capable of sin, but through grace informing human capabilities the human person is able to enter into partnership with God.  The human person is constituted and sustained by relationships; humans seek solidarity with others.  Society and its institutions serve a common good in that they allow persons, either as groups or as individuals to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.

4.        The Mystery of God is manifested in a Sacramental Manner:  Through the eyes of faith, the Catholic intellectual tradition sees the world as a gift of a creator God which is blessed with grace, beauty, and meaning.  There is a deep appreciation that God is present in the world, in life’s most significant events and the ordinary things of life. All of these events reveal in a sacramental[3]  manner the mystery of God. The tradition sees in creation the ways that God mediates or accomplishes God’s plan.  Our understanding of the world will be made coherent because it is created by God.

5.        Centrality of Jesus Christ:  The Catholic intellectual tradition recognizes that the Catholic vision of the intellectual life springs ultimately from revelation in Jesus Christ.  The mysteries of Christ’s life allows the continuing uniting of the human and the divine and to explore the implications of the Gospel for all of humanity.

6.        Engaging Other Traditions Through Dialogue: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition engages the questions, situations and issues of the age in a spirit of dialogue – a spirit of respect, sincerity, freedom, critical inquiry, and charity.  Recognizing the variety of cultures and understandings of reality, and the incompleteness of our knowledge, the Catholic intellectual tradition pursues the discovery of truth, the integration of knowledge, the development and dignity of the whole person, the fostering of a just society, the respectful, wise and productive role of humankind in the cosmos, and an appreciation of the mystery of God




II. Catholic Social Tradition:[4]  The Catholic social tradition is an important element of the Catholic intellectual tradition that addresses important social questions.  The Catholic social tradition can be seen as the ongoing practice of practical reasoning by the Catholic community in responding to important social questions, such as the conditions of labor, international relations, or war and peace.  In this exercise of practical reasoning the Church discerns how to respond to these important social questions by bringing the resources of the Catholic intellectual tradition into reciprocal conversation with the best human knowledge on these subjects.  This continuing exercise of practical reasoning yields a set of practical arguments[5] or content of the Catholic social tradition, i.e., principles for reflection, criteria for judgment, and directions for action that can guide the exercise of practical reasoning on current and future social questions.  These practical arguments are expanded, refined, and critiqued as participants in the tradition, in dialogue with others, apply practical reasoning to the new situations and questions they encounter.


1.        Contributions to the Catholic Social Tradition[6]: Contributions to the Catholic Social Tradition has come from three inter-acting streams of inquiry:

a.        Catholic Social Teaching: Through conciliar and synodal documents, encyclicals, and pastoral letters, the social teachings of the Catholic Church seek to bring the light of faith and the Church’s tradition to address “the social question” in its local, national, and international dimensions.

b.        Catholic Social Thought: The church's social teachings inform and are informed by the various disciplines of knowledge.  Theologians, philosophers, economists, political scientists, management theorists, educators, sociologists, and others have, throughout the years, developed a tradition of thought that extends the church's social teachings into the specifics of cultural, economic, and political life.

c.         Catholic Social Practice: Catholic social teaching and thought will not develop without the contributions of managers, lawyers, peace activists, politicians, social workers, unionists, and the various organizations of such practitioners.  Pope John Paul II has strongly pointed out that more than ever, "the Church is aware that her social message will gain credibility more immediately from the witness of actions than as a result of its internal logic and consistency.”


2.        Some Characteristics of the Catholic Social Tradition[7].

a.        Theologically grounded: The Catholic social tradition presumes the broad horizon of the biblical vision of reality.  It is grounded in the belief that the God of Abraham, Moses and the prophets is uniquely manifest in the person of Jesus Christ, who simultaneously reveals humanity to itself and makes clear its own calling to relationships of love with God and other persons. The tradition thus approaches professional work in terms of the vocation to become fully human in this sense, and to help others do the same, as a response to God’s love.

b.        Publicly argued:  The social tradition has confidence that the teachings can be presented in such a way that they are intelligible and persuasive to people of all backgrounds, religious or secular.  This impulse to speak broadly can challenge professionals to move beyond the jargon of their own specialized area to give an account of their work to the wider community.  Moreover, the philosophical character of the tradition provides resources for faith-based principles of work to be expressed in more reason-based terms that will resonate with the wide range of workers represented in the workplace.

c.         Comprehensively engaged: While a theological vision is integral to this tradition, its full potential is realized in an interdisciplinary synthesis.  Professionals formed within this fuller expression of the tradition will see, not only the limits of their particular specializations, but the deeper possibilities for their own work.  By contrast, professionals who are trained to think in terms of only one area will never be good judges of that one area.

d.        Institutionally embodied:  The tradition insists on virtues, such as justice, being embodied in the small and large bodies of organized relationships ranging from the family and the workplace to larger economic and political organizations.  The laity and, a fortiori, professionals, are called in a particular way to implement the church’s teaching and thought in the structures in which they most immediately participate.

[1] This note on the Catholic intellectual tradition has been developed through conversations at the University of Dayton.  Critiques and additions of this note should be sent to Bro. Raymond Fitz, S.M., and Fr. Ferree Professor of Social Justice, University of Dayton, Dayton, OH 45469-1424 or


[2] “Catholic Universities: Dangers, Hopes, Choices,” in Robert E. Sullivan (Ed.), Higher Learning & Catholic Traditions (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2001) pp. 1-21.


[3] In the Catholic tradition a sacramental is a symbol that reveals an aspect of the mystery of God

[4] These notes are a working summary of conversations at the University of Dayton on the Catholic Social Tradition.  Critiques of and additions to this working summary are welcomed.  Please send them to Bro. Ray Fitz, S.M.

[5] A practical argument is a line of reasoning that starts with some basic principles as initial premises and links these to some middle principles or premises about the social reality that is the context for the practical reasoning and then moves to a conclusion about the action to be taken.

[6] These elements are taken from Stephen Miles, Michael Naughton, and Deborah Ruddy, “Educating Practically Wise Professionals:  The Role of Catholic Social Tradition,” Journal of Catholic Social Thought, 4:2 (2007): 437-457.

[7] Taken from Miles, Naughton, and Ruddy.