Sellinger School—Unique? Why?

July 10, 2011

Rev. Jim Connor, S.J., professor of theology and member of the Sellinger School Board of Sponsors, explores what makes the Sellinger School unique in teaching leadership.

What makes the business school at Loyola University Maryland so attractive, if not unique?

Loyola University Maryland, and therefore the Sellinger School of Business, is a liberal arts educational institution.  It is not a trade school where people come simply to learn the contemporary tools of business and to master the specific details of the way in which business is done today.  It does that, of course, but not simply that.

A liberal arts education is concerned not only to tell people how the job is done today but how it was done yesteryear and how it very well might be done 20, 30, or 40 years from now.  A liberal arts education aims to get down to the basic foundations of how people work and therefore how, predictably, specific patterns of work will unfold in the future.

The "product” of Loyola's enterprise is not a degree, but a person – the person who is the student today and who will be a leader tomorrow.  The saying goes that "Education is what's left when everything you have learned in school has been forgotten."  By that we mean that at some future tomorrow skills will be replaced, content will be out of date, systems will become passé, but the liberally educated person is one who is able to adapt to new times with imagination and innovation, and continue to be a successful leader within his or her company and even beyond their business within society at large.

To study at Loyola’s Sellinger School is, therefore, a transformative experience. Our aim is to help people to understand their own gifts, their own promise, their own best way of operating, and the role they play as team members and team leaders.  By knowing themselves they can live and work with great self-confidence and with the assurance that they have the resources to respond even to threatening changes of circumstance and whatever else the future may bring.

A Jesuit dictum is that "we train a whole person who is wholly for others." This point is convincingly made by Jim Collins in his book, From Good to Great. After interviewing and researching many dozens of corporate leaders he concludes that the really successful CEOs are personally humble and passionately committed to the success of their company. A greedy person is a loser, he says.

Therefore, one of the main dimensions of a Jesuit education is what is called in the Latin, cura personalis. It means concern for the person. Since the person is the primary product of this educational enterprise every member of the staff and faculty is concerned to engage personally with each and every student, ready to listen to where he or she is coming from so that, in companionship faculty and staff can assist them and go with them on the road on which they desire to travel in the years ahead. Graduation at Loyola never means a parting of the ways. It is a new beginning in personal relationships.

There is also an old saying that "Unless you see your business from the moon you have it out of focus." A liberal arts education assists the person to have a broad, even comprehensive, perspective not only on their business but upon their own life.  Business aims to flourish within society, within particular cultures, in relationship with many other businesses, and under the watchful eye of a certain political system or perhaps many political systems throughout the world.  If this is the era of globalization, then every business needs to be able to locate itself where it lives and works on the surface of the globe. 

This breadth of perspective is precisely the concern of a liberal arts education—an education that is sometimes called a "humanistic" education because it is concerned with and about human beings.  Our interest—the interest of both student and faculty—is in learning about human beings: who they are, how they work, how they collaborate together and what their deepest desires are for their personal, professional, and social fulfillment.

We are interested not only in a current snapshot of the globe.  As a liberal arts educational experience we are interested in knowing where we have come from historically, where we are right now, and where we very likely are headed in the future.  Business has not always been done in the capitalist system.  But do we know why capitalism arose?  Do we know who the major movers and shakers were?  Do we know the glorious assets and the threatening liabilities of the capitalist system?  Do we realize how capitalism exists in many different forms across the face of the globe?  And do we realize that even American capitalism is undergoing a process of radical change under the pressures and opportunities of the globalization process? 

Unless we are aware of the historical and geographical dimensions of economic life and growth we will not be prepared to be innovative, imaginative, and productive leaders in the years ahead.  We need to be people of the past, present, and future—simultaneously—if we are to be the kinds of leaders that successful business requires.

And, finally we need to be “persons for others.”  “No Man is an Island,” the famous poet John Donne wrote centuries ago.  It is equally true that “No business is an island.”  Donne’s point is that each and every human being is essentially social by nature.  We all were born of a “mommy and a daddy”—whether or not they lived under the same roof.  Unless someone had fed, warmed, bathed, and otherwise nurtured us we wouldn’t have lived for three days.  Unless someone had spoken to us, read to us, and continued to educate and socialize us, we would look today like thoroughly intimidated animals in someone’s back alley.  Without the care of society and our participation in society, we would not be human in any ordinary sense of word.

And even today we cannot continue to grow and develop as humans unless we are cooperating in the human growth of others and of society at large.  Shorthand, the way we GROW UP is by GROWING OUT in our concern and support of OTHERS and in our companionship with them.  Philosopher Bernard Lonergan, S.J., puts it more technically: “Humans achieve authenticity through self-transcendence,” i.e., we become ourselves by rising OUT of ourselves in engaging with others.

At Loyola’s Sellinger School of Business, concern for others—customers, investors, employees, suppliers, neighbors, and the physical environment—are central, not just for business success, but for the personal and social growth of all involved.  

These are not simply things we do in the Sellinger School. It is who we believe we are—persons with and for others.  And that belief sets the focus of the Sellinger School of Business and Management.  It is the core of our mission statement.  It regulates every other decision of policy or practice.

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