By J. Michael McGuire
Special to the LOGOS
Have you ever wished the magnificent mission statement of Incarnate Word were somehow integrated more fully into our courses?
We all treasure the mission, and we would love to have our courses enriched and distinguished from the purely secular approach often found in textbooks.
But integrating the mission into courses is a delicate issue. It has to be real. It has to contribute to living fuller, happier, better lives. It has to makes us wiser, better people. Here is one experience that might help.
Sister Walter Maher, vice president of Mission and Ministry, and Dr. Forrest Aven, dean of the HEB School of Business and Administration, introduced to the business school the document “The Vocation of the Business Leader” by the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace.
This document points out that while we all know how bad business can be and has been, there is another side. Businesses can be – and probably usually are – tremendous tools for living out our vocations to lead in service to one another.
Just think of all the wonderful goods and services that business provide — and how they make our lives so much better. For this wonderful computer I am typing on, I thank you, Dell Computer. For the unbelievable software I am using, I thank you, Microsoft. For my printer that has served so long, I thank you, Hewlett Packard. For the future technology leaders at the UIW Help Desk, I thank you profusely. For the incredible airplanes that have carried so many fine students to UIW, I thank you, Boeing Aircraft. For the wonderful breakfast I enjoyed this morning, I give thanks to all you unnamed, unknown businesses.
The first vocation of the business leader is to provide products and services that are good for people. Yes, some businesses provide products that are not good for us. That’s a “no-no.” Our vocation and commitment is to provide products and services that are “good” for people.
A second vocation of the business leader is to provide incomes so households can purchase the goods and services that enable us to live dignified, happy and fruitful lives. Yes, some businesses rip off their employees. Shame on you. Our vocation and commitment as business leaders is to remunerate fairly and even generously.
We put this document to work in two ways in the HEB School of Business and Administration. First, five students generously volunteered to serve on a panel in which they each chose a theme from the document and reflected upon it. Steven Montelongo reflected on living an undivided life – we can’t be one type of person on the job and another type at home. April Musquiz shared her positive experience of living out her faith on the job. Richard Montelongo shared experiences in which he learned the fruitfulness of servant leadership. Carlos Valdez reflected on serving the common good. Hector Mellen spoke on collaboration and how it builds morale and productivity.
The reception given the panel was warm. Everybody liked it. The speakers prepared well, and they dressed up to make their presentations. Students joined in, commenting and applauding. We were glad to be talking about the subject, to be integrating the mission into the course.
The second way we are putting the document to work is to integrate it into class presentations. The economics class on the Circular Flow Model is a good example. The model describes the way in which our scarce resources are allocated: households earn income in the production process and use it to demand goods and services that businesses supply. OK. That’s nice. But putting a model into the context of the vocation of the business leader brings the class to life in a whole new way. The business leader is not just supplying goods and services. He/she supplies “good” products and services that improve life in countless ways. The business leader is not thus hiring people as factors of production. She/he is providing employees opportunities to live out their vocations of service and to earn the incomes necessary to support and give life to their families.
What are the lessons? For starters, let’s check out the Church documents – there is a wealth of wisdom out there. Let’s take some time to explore it. Students and teachers can think about how easily organized events can be used to put the insights to work for themselves and others. Teachers can think about how Wisdom can be “incarnated” into secular treatments of course Topics.
Dr. J. Michael McGuire is a longtime professor of economics in the HEB School of Business and Administration.
E-mail McGuire at firstname.lastname@example.org