Liberal Arts Not Obstacle for Catholic Students Seeking Business Careers, Experts Argue
April 15, 2015, at 4:53 PM | By Adam Wilson |
Catholic students with a background in the liberal arts are well-suited to lead successful careers in business, even as they continue to live out their faith, two prominent educators told The Cardinal Newman Society in interviews this week.
Sometimes Catholic students who have immersed themselves in the truth, beauty and goodness of the liberal arts can discount business as a career, or even look down on the practical realities of the private sector. But they might be mistaken on both accounts, educators say.
Catholics can live out their vocations in the world of business “by applying the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity and respect for human dignity to their everyday decision making,” Stewart McHie, director of the Master of Science of Business Analysis (MSBA) program at The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C., told the Newman Society.
Dr. Andrew Abela, dean of the School of Business at CUA and an expert in business ethics, concurs that Catholic values are directly applicable to a career in business. “All of business, including accounting and finance, is properly understood to be oriented to serving the human person, whether that person be customer, employee, supplier, investor or neighbor,” he said.
Recent reports indicate that business leaders think the liberal arts is a great background for the industry. This is good news for students attending the faithful Catholic colleges recommended by The Newman Guide, many of which challenge students with a rigorous liberal arts curriculum rooted in the Catholic tradition.
In order to help liberal arts students determine whether a career in business might be right for them, the Newman Society and CUA are co-hosting a “Catholic Business Career Discernment Day” on May 11 in Washington, D.C. To learn more or register, visit the event page here.
Liberal arts students should be interested in careers in business because, as Dr. Abela said, “senior business leaders I speak to repeatedly tell me that given the fast-changing nature of today’s global economy, it is essential that anyone aspiring to a career in business have a solid grounding in the liberal arts.”
He noted that the liberal arts enables students who go into business to “understand the larger social, historical, philosophical and even theological contexts that businesses operate within.”
Edgar Bronfman, former CEO of the Seagram Company Ltd., encourages students to get a liberal arts degree. He wrote for Inside Higher Ed, “In all the people who have worked for me over the years the ones who stood out the most were the people who were able to see beyond the facts and figures before them and understand what they mean in a larger context.”
"If someone's studied literature, they know people and have insight into themselves and customers," said Michael Fromm, CEO of Fromm Electric, in an interview with CNBC. "I find people that have a liberal arts background have a broader view of the world and will go farther in business."
Additionally, CNBC reported that in a survey of 320 CEOs, “74 percent said they would recommend a 21st-century liberal education in order to create a more dynamic worker.” Additionally, 95 percent “said they look for college graduates who can think clearly and solve problems and be able to translate their ideas with good oral and communication skills.”
At the undergraduate level, there has been a growing interest and movement towards integrating liberal arts disciplines into academic business curricula. Bloomberg reports that in March 2013 more than 35 business schools convened for the second time to “discuss ways to make progress toward making liberal arts education central to the business school experience.”
While the liberal arts may be in demand, it is not always easy for Catholic students to comprehend how they can transition into the world of business upon graduation. A popular choice for many students who earn their undergraduate degrees in the liberal arts is to continue their education in a specific field in graduate school.
For those wanting to enter business, CUA’s MSBA program may be an attractive option. The MSBA program is geared specifically to students with a background in the liberal arts to help them learn the tools and disciplines that will lead to success in business.
McHie told the Newman Society that the MSBA program emphasizes “the perspectives from Catholic social teaching so that when making decisions business people will consider the effects of their decisions on all constituencies; employees, customers, the communities in which they operate.” Since “the world is moving and changing so fast today, students need to have a broad perspective of the world, cultures and experiences,” he said.
While the study of ethics may be segmented off into a separate course in many business schools, CUA’s program integrates ethical considerations into all coursework, McHie explained.
“Ethics is not so much a subject as a mindset. It is being cognizant of the consequences of your decisions and actions,” he said. “It applies to all areas of business, not just accounting and finance. So we ensure these discussions are integrated into every subject area.”
“We want to emphasize the role of commerce is not to simply maximize profits at the sake of everything else,” McHie continued. “Don't get me wrong, money is important and vital to helping improve the human condition. How profits are earned and how deployed is what we want our students to appreciate.”
Catholics can live out their vocations in the world of business because “commerce is intended to serve society and when conducted ethically and fairly is a necessary force to improve the lives of everyone,” McHie said.
“The Second Vatican Council taught that the division between our faith and how we live our everyday lives is one of the most serious problems of our age,” Abela told the Newman Society. “If one is a faithful Catholic, one must live that way even in business.”
“Catholic teaching provides deep insights into the nature, dignity, and destiny of the human person; these insights are highly relevant to all of business,” he said.
The Catholic University of America is recommended in The Newman Guide for its strong Catholic identity. To read more about CUA’s business school or to sign up for the “Catholic Business Career Discernment Day,” visit the University’s website.
Other Catholic universities recommended in The Newman Guide that have either undergraduate or graduate business programs include Aquinas College (Tenn.), Ave Maria University (Fla.), Belmont Abbey College (N.C.), Benedictine College (Kan.), DeSales University (Pa.), Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio), John Paul the Great Catholic University (Calif.), Mount St. Mary’s University (Md.), St. Gregory’s University (Okla.), University of Dallas, University of Mary (N.D.), University of St. Thomas (Tex.), and Walsh University (Ohio).
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Article originally published here.