2017 Business, Faith and the Common Good Symposium
2017 Business, Faith and the Common Good Symposium

“Business can benefit humanity, particularly when it is done humanely,” says Andy Gustafson, PhD, associate professor of business ethics and society at the Heider College of Business. This belief, that business is a powerful means by which to elevate the general welfare, is the crux of the symposium Gustafson established four years ago and its lecture series that emerged two years ago. Business, Faith and the Common Good explores the intersection of business — in particular capitalism — and faith in promoting the common good.  

“For the symposium and lecture series, I want all of our Creighton students and faculty to realize that there are a lot of people who practice business and who teach about business who are motivated, informed and driven by their commitment to the common good and often by their faith commitments,” says Gustafson.  

Over 200 attended this year’s symposium, held Oct. 5 at the Mike and Josie Harper Center. Its theme, “Vocation of a Business Leader,” was derived from the title of a 2011 study by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. The work highlights the concepts of good goods: goods that genuinely help humanity, good work: work that empowers and helps individuals be more fully human, and good wealth: wealth that is created through productive and sustainable business activities. It is a resource for business professionals, offering guidance based on Catholic social teaching. 

“When businesses and market economies function properly and focus on serving the common
good, they contribute greatly to the material and even the spiritual well-being of society,” the study says. “Recent experience, however, has also demonstrated the harm caused by the failings of businesses and markets.”

The day featured two panel discussions on good goods and good work followed by a keynote that addressed good wealth. Tom Deall, owner of the Bellevue, Nebraska Chick-fil-A; financial advisor Tyler Mainquist, who is well-versed in socially responsible investing; and Verdis Groups’ Daniel Lawse, an environmental consultant, were good goods panelists. Good work panelists were Kari Yost, human resource director for Thrasher; Flywheel founder and local entrepreneur Dusty Davidson; and Mark Ruch, director of consulting services at Object Partners, a software solutions company.

Charles Clark, PhD, professor of economics at St. John’s University in New York, served as the day’s keynote speaker. He specializes in the intersection of Catholic social thought and economics as well as the history of economic thought, poverty and income inequality. Clark’s address compared Christian anthropology to the neoclassical view. He posited that viewing wealth from a lens of abundance — wealth the promotes the well-being of many — rather than from scarcity’s point of view — wealth is only possible if one gets his or her dibs in before others are able — serves the common good.

“I think students and people in general are seeking meaning in their lives and work. Millennials in particular want to change the world for the better, and Catholic social thought offers resources to think about these issues whether or not you are religious,” says Gustafson. “Jesus said to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Even my atheist friends at least can get on board with the second of these two directives from Jesus. Focus on the humanity of business — the importance of keeping it humane — is exactly what we need to hear in today’s search for a better way for business.”

This year, Gustafson synchronized speakers for the lecture series with his undergraduate and graduate Business, Faith and the Common Good seminar classes. All lectures are open to the general public, and response has been so positive that attendance numbers have often exceeded seating capacity. Directly after the public address, guest speakers join Gustafson’s class to discuss their works, which students have read in advance.

“It’s a phenomenal opportunity for students to have face-to-face interaction with these well-known experts in the field, and generally the students seem to appreciate it very much,” Gustafson says.

The 2017 lecture series includes:

  • “Economics: A Theology of Scarcity or Something More?” by Bonnie Wilson, PhD, associate professor of economics and theology at St. Louis University
  • “Achieving Social Justice through Liberty” by Gary Charier, JD, PhD, associate dean and distinguished professor of law and business ethics at La Sierra University in Riverside, California
  • “Why Does Harry’s Pal Hermione Keep Much of Her Money in Panama?: The Ethics of Wealth Management” by Graham McAleer, PhD, professor of philosophy at Loyola University Maryland
  • “The Quakers: Friends of Business” by Richard Nielsen, PhD, professor of management at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College
  • “On the Inhumanity of Profit-Seeking” by Lance Sandelands, PhD, professor of organizational behavior and management at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Management.

Business, Faith and the Common Good — the symposium, lecture series, seminar courses — help individuals to think of their work in more meaningful, purposeful ways. For more information, click here
To read “Vocation of a Business Leader,” click here.