Business and Catholic Studies faculty member Dr. Jeanne Buckeye recently conducted research with St. Thomas business faculty on the issue of Catholic business school mission. She presented her findings at the Seventh International Conference on Catholic Social Thought and Management Education held at Notre Dame. Here is a summary of her research.
Good management practice recognizes the importance of mission in setting business direction and shaping a culture. An effective mission expresses unique values, purpose and aspirations, becoming a touchstone for both strategic choices and routine practices. Mission is equally important for universities. In hiring and tenure decisions, universities usually emphasize qualifications in the discipline and the research and teaching skills best suited to their academic goals. But other attributes may be equally important in serving mission. The history of religiously affiliated schools in the United States offers evidence that without faculty who have a positive regard for and understanding of their institution’s faith tradition, mission may be at risk.
My interests in mission, business education and Catholic identity came together as I worked with UST John A. Ryan Institute A Business Faculty Perspective on Catholic Mission colleagues and others from around the country to explore how a university’s Catholic mission could – or should – influence business education. At the Notre Dame summer conference, I reported on research conducted among my own faculty colleagues in the St. Thomas Opus College of Business, about 50 of whom participated in hourlong interviews to help me explore these subjects. In particular, I wanted to know what role mission and Catholic identity played in employment decisions, and how a new faculty hire’s initial perceptions might change upon entry into the UST community. Eventually, I want to explore how ideas about mission might influence the delivery of business education.
The study suggests that few faculty have a good understanding of or concern for the Catholic nature of the university when hired. Mission attracted just 6 percent, and Catholic identity was less often an attraction (14 percent) than a concern (29 percent). As candidates, some faculty questioned how much influence Catholic dogma has over the curriculum and whether they could discuss Catholic issues critically in the classroom. Many reported knowing little about a Catholic institution because they had attended public schools and taught in state universities all their lives. Still, most faculty expressed an appreciation for the university’s Catholic culture and an openness to learning more.
Designing and delivering a business education – or any professional education – that reflects a university’s Catholic mission requires such receptivity. In order to strengthen mission, steps must first be taken to help deepen faculty’s understanding of it and then build commitment to it throughout the curriculum. But perhaps the most basic requirement is that faculty exhibit a willingness to explore how the university’s Catholic mission might uniquely strengthen business education and offer our students a perspective on their careers unavailable at a secular university.