The Quinlan Vision
In the last decade of the 19th century, St. Ignatius College launched "the Commercial Program," an "alternate program" for those young men who either could not complete the liberal arts program, dominated by Latin and Greek classics, or who simply wanted to prepare themselves to work in Chicago's growing commercial sector.
These young men, like generations that followed them, hoped to move out of poverty and into the middle class through good training, hard work, ambition, and ingenuity. They soon discovered that a St. Ignatius degree (and later, in the early days of the 20th century, a Loyola University Chicago degree) was a ticket to jobs in management, in banking, in industries like retail and hospitality and a host of other enterprises, or to owning their own businesses. Most of the college's earliest graduates were not native English speakers. Most had parents who had immigrated to Chicago to work in the city's factories and stock yards. Many of their parents helped advocate for better wages and better working conditions. Even today, a third of our students are the first generation in their family to attend college. So, to a great extent, the legacy of those first years and decades continues.
In those early days, a good part of the program of study was not unique to St. Ignatius College. Standard business courses were borrowed from other universities, especially longer-established East Coast institutions. These basic accounting, finance, management, and marketing courses, however, were embedded in a curriculum that included philosophy and theology—as many as 12 and 15 hours of each subject area. The Jesuit fathers insisted on philosophy and theology as a part of this curriculum, because they believed that a well-educated leader needed to be able to think critically, explain his beliefs clearly, have a refined moral compass, and manage any ethical argument by calling on the great Jewish and Christian thinkers of the ages as his proof source. If he could not, his soul was at risk. So, you see, the curriculum of the Commerce Program was built firmly on the belief that character matters most in life and in business. The school's hidden curriculum, as educators call it today—the values and beliefs that faculty, consciously or unconsciously, pass on to their students—became even more explicit around mid-century, as this school was one of the first to adopt not only a required business ethics course but also ethics built into and across the entire curriculum. Character has always mattered most.
Today, we offer the top-ranked undergraduate business program in Chicago and one of the top in the country. Like many a graduate before them, our best undergraduates go to places like Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg, and other top places for graduate education. We have the third-ranked MBA program in Chicago, one of the top part-time MBA programs in the country, and an executive MBA program that has several unique features.
But we are not yet the leader in business education that we should be. I believe we can be that leader, and that is what this fundraising program is about. It will help us build an endowment to attract and retain talented students, especially first-generation students, to build a state-of-the-art building where community and connectivity can happen easily, and to attract additional top-tier faculty and community business leaders.
We're looking for faculty who share our concern about the future of business as the best hope for addressing inequality, more sustainable business practices, building healthier communities, giving people meaningful lives of productive work, and closing the income gap. Like those early Jesuit fathers, we believe that businesspeople today, as in the past, have a vocation, a calling, and that calling is a noble one. Who our students become—as conscientious men and women—is the measure by which we judge success.
We have spent a great deal of time thinking about what we need to do to advance the status and the quality of our programs in business.
First, we should learn from those schools that do a better job listening to experienced business leaders—that is, to people who manage small and large companies and who can tell us what their challenges are.
Second, I think we can do a better job of helping our students prepare for careers in business and public administration by insisting on practical experience as they spend their time with us. Most have internships, but we need to make that a universal experience, and not just one, but two and even three different experiences working in the world of management, finance, and other fields.
Third, I think Loyola should encourage and prepare more students for the good work of nonprofit administration. Our city and country are full of nonprofits on which we depend but that are poorly managed.
Fourth, I think we can do a better job understanding those situations where corporations take unnecessary and unhealthy risks. We can be better at analyzing new financial products that are too often built on excessive risk or that lack moral leadership.
We should be encouraging and challenging students to take advantage of international experiences that prepare them to feel comfortable and confident in a globalized economy. Various schools of business do some of these things better than we do, but we can easily incorporate the best in their approaches into our teaching and our curriculum. And, if we do so within an environment and through a curriculum that emphasizes the social and personal responsibility of the business leader, we will be doing something significant and something very much needed today.
The great building we have erected for our next generation of students and faculty, or the endowments we entrust to them to spend wisely, will be critical to our success, because they will help us lure great faculty and students to be a part of the Quinlan Business School family. But they are not the most important things.
Giving back is more important than taking from the community. Yes, ambition matters; breadth of experience matters. Yes, beating the competition matters. But character matters more, because, in the end, that is all one really owns and the only asset about which one can be justly proud.
Michael J. Garanzini, S.J.