Activities and History

History and Purpose of the John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought

In 1992, Robert Kennedy (founding director) and Michael Naughton (associate director) established the Center for Christian Social Thought and Management at the University of St. Thomas. With close to 50% of students matriculating from University of St. Thomas in business (undergraduate and graduate), it was important for the university to examine the larger question of faith and work and, in particular, the relationship between Catholic social thought and business theory and practice.

In 1996, the center was renamed the John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought and became a part of the Center for Catholic Studies (Retired). Msgr. John A. Ryan, a graduate from St. Thomas and its seminary, was one of the great pioneers in Catholic social thought in the first part of the 20th century. His two major texts, A Living Wage (1906) and Distributive Justice (1916), inform the work of the Institute. 

Purpose: The John A. Ryan Institute explores the relationship between the Catholic social tradition and business theory and practice by fostering a deeper integration of faith and work. Drawing upon the resources of the university, the Ryan Institute promotes this integration by sponsoring seminars, conferences and publications that engage:

As an integral part of the University of St. Thomas’ Center for Catholic Studies, the Ryan Institute relies upon the rich theological and philosophical resources of the Catholic tradition and its unique contributions to the academy, business, society and the Church. The Ryan Institute has become an important voice in Catholic higher education by helping to build a community of scholars and practitioners dedicated to examining issues at the intersection of business and the Catholic social tradition. 

Research: The Ryan Institute provides opportunities for a sustained reflection on the relationship between the Catholic social tradition and business by:

  • Organizing international conferences and seminars on Catholic social thought and business education
  • Publishing a wide variety of books and articles
  • Posting conference and seminar papers and electronic books online
  • Developing an extensive database of international scholars and practitioners
  • Creating a comprehensive, online, searchable database of institutes and organizations working in the area of Catholic social thought

Curriculum Development: The institute explores creative ways to incorporate the Catholic social tradition into business education. By offering creative new courses, as well as innovative and ethically based approaches to business issues, the institute supports faculty and curriculum initiatives that reflect the Catholic mission of the university.

Faculty Development: The Ryan Institute offers a variety of faculty development seminars on the mission and identity of the Catholic university, especially as it relates to business education.

Leadership OutreachThe Ryan Institute works with business leaders to engage the practical challenges of organizational life and the spiritual and moral claims of faith. Current collaborations include:

  •  Seeing Things Whole Project: As a leader-based project, the institute works with Seeing Things Whole to bridge faith and organizational life through roundtables, retreats and case studies.