Maxima Tumusiime’s path to St. Thomas started nearly 8,000 miles away in Africa at the Uganda Martyrs University (UMU). As an undergraduate student there, she had Peter John Opio as an instructor in a business ethics class.

Professor Opio, who is the dean of UMU’s business school, has the ongoing challenge of hiring and retaining faculty who can teach business theory and practice in a way that fulfills the Catholic mission of the school. Struggling to find such faculty, he decided to “grow” his own. He turned to Michael Naughton, who teaches in Catholic Studies and directs the John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought, to set up a UMU faculty development program at St. Thomas that would integrate Catholic social thought with business thought and practice.

While some UMU faculty have been trained at very good business schools in Europe, Opio felt a more holistic education would be necessary for UMU’s business school to fulfill its Catholic mission. He saw the St. Thomas MBA program and the new Master’s in Catholic Studies program as an ideal combination for the school’s new faculty. He also saw that a partnership between the two institutions was an opportunity to mutually enrich the Catholic mission and identity of both UMU and St. Thomas.

When a grant became available through the Aquinas Foundation and the John A. Ryan Institute, Opio offered the scholarship to Maxima.

Maxi, as her friends know her, had previously traveled within Africa and to England, but her arrival at St. Thomas marked her first trip to the United States. She comes from a close-knit family of three brothers and two sisters, and tries to e-mail and phone her parents in Uganda whenever she can. While attending university in Uganda, Maxi got a job at the National Water and Sewerage Corp. where she worked as a commercial officer and supervised 25 people. It was there that she got her first taste of the business world as she continued to work after graduation.

She arrived in the Twin Cities in August 2002 and enrolled in the MBA program. By the time Maxi had settled into her room at Morrison Hall and classes had started, the weather began to change, and the differences in the climate became striking. When asked about the change in climate, Maxi observed, “Uganda is warm and wet throughout the year. Minnesota is cold but bearable. No one can fix the weather, so I just accept it.”

Maxi is in her second semester in the MBA program and has taken a variety of classes. “My best class so far has been Management Challenges and Purpose, because I got to learn more about myself, and that gave me more self-confidence,” Maxi says. “I also liked Venture Management, because we got to discuss current issues and were involved practically in the business world.” Currently, one of the classes Maxi is taking is Christian Faith and the Management Professions with Michael Naughton and Jeff Cornwall from the College of Business. She finds that this class helps her understand the integration of faith, the Catholic social tradition, and complex pressures of business practice. “It helps me see how to do business with both God and your neighbor in mind.”

Maxi will be returning to her home in Africa when she completes the MBA program in about a year and a half, and will be teaching business courses at Uganda Martyrs University. Maxi also has been involved with the Center for Catholic Studies. She attended the Catholic Studies retreat in October, has attended Catholic Studies lectures, volunteers when she can at the Casa Guadalupana, and works as a research assistant for the John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought. She has met many friends and mentors through the center, and says, “Catholic Studies is like my home.”