Clara Jace, BSBA’17, wishes she were a time traveler. If she could (and if time travel was not the stuff of science fiction), then she’d head back to campus, circa 2016. But not for a particularly fun sorority party, or late-night study breaks with friends, or even one of the formative services trips she went on. Though these tempt, what really would draw her back are conversations, simple conversations.
“Looking back, I feel spoiled by how brilliant, generous and engaged my professors were throughout my undergraduate years,” says Jace. “I would love to go back in time, ask them even more questions, and get to know them even better.”
These Creighton professors, including Michael Thomas, PhD, associate professor of economics and student programs director at the Institute for Economic Inquiry (IEI), and Diana Thomas, PhD, associate professor of economics and IEI director, have inspired Jace as she teaches her first undergraduate course as a PhD student in economics at George Mason University.
Jace’s time at Creighton also fueled her current academic success. And she has enjoyed quite a bit of that. Jace has multiple published articles stemming from research begun as an undergraduate economics student at Creighton’s Heider College of Business. Her first published paper, “Economic Theory of Economic Analysis: The Case of the School of Salamanca,” which appeared in Public Choice, had as its genesis a course paper from Michael Thomas’ History of Economic Thought, as well as conversations she enjoyed with Thomas and fellow participants of IEI reading groups. The Jesuits, and their intense focus on of human dignity, also inspired her to study the School of Salamanca, which espouses that all humans share the same rights to life and liberty since they also share the same nature.
Her second paper, found in Expositions, was titled “Creativity and Cleverness within Discipline in the Study of Man and the Study of Happiness.” It was inspired by Aquinas and the Market by Mary Hirschfeld, PhD, associate professor at Villanova. Hirschfeld visited Creighton in 2017 at the invitation of Andrew Gustafson, PhD, professor of business ethics and society at the Heider College of Business, and Jace met her at a Lumen Christi seminar at Notre Dame two summers ago.
Two undergraduate experiences equipped Jace to write her third paper, a book review of Pope Francis and the Caring Economy, published in Cosmos and Taxis. The first was participation in the Catholic Social Thought reading group; the second was her experiences on a service trip to Calhoun City, Mississippi, and semester in the Dominican Republic with the Encuentro Dominicano program. Currently, Jace is also the guest editor of an economics of religion special edition of Cosmos and Taxis.
She calls this intellectual life “a great adventure,” quoting Gerard Manley Hopkins’ As Kingfishers Catch Fire: “for Christ plays in ten thousand places.”
Given the profound impact Creighton has had on her current academic and future professional career, the University played an even more significant role in her spiritual life. It’s a growth Jace treasures – and one that took her, at least initially, by surprise.
“If you would have told me before college that I would be a voluntary daily Mass-goer by junior year, I would have laughed.” But St. John’s 7 a.m. Mass is where “I learned to embrace the questions raised in my business ethics classes, the stresses of team presentations and date party invitations and the biggest questions of all: Who am I and why am I here?” she says. “Creighton’s steadfastness to its Jesuit heritage and the teaching of the Catholic Church gave me strength to be steadfast in my beliefs, even when external assurance is lacking.”
Graduate school is in many ways a continuation of the journey she began at Creighton, Jace says, and this journey hinges on clarifying her purpose.
“When I was 17, I had a lot of passion and ideas about how to ‘make the world a better place.’ But my experience at Creighton, and now grad school, has helped me realize that this was not the right question – who am I to try to control what only God controls?” Jace acknowledges. “I have a new, much lighter question: Am I letting God lead me, through my daily work and natural loves, to Himself?”