When asked about the reasons for Catholic University of America’s new Master of Science in Business Analysis program, Andrew Abela, chairman and associate professor of the Department of Business and Economics, spoke of supply and demand.
“Look around at all of the bad press,” he said. “There is a strong demand for a re-moralization of the business world: Employers want to hire people with integrity.
“The supply side is that for over 100 years the Catholic Church has been developing great insights about how to think about economics, business and politics: Catholic social teaching — unfortunately often described as ‘the Church’s best-kept secret,’” Abela said. “We see a desperate need to bring morality back into the marketplace, while we have in our hands this great set of documents and ideas from the Church. We are bringing the supply and the demand together.”
Abela was present at Pope Benedict XVI’s meeting with Catholic educators in April of 2008 at CUA, where the Pope said, “The Church’s primary mission of evangelization, in which educational institutions play a crucial role, is consonant with this nation’s fundamental aspiration to develop a society truly worthy of the human person’s dignity … a powerful instrument of hope.”
Abela took the Pope’s words to heart. And this fall his inspiration will become a reality with this new graduate degree.
The Master of Science in Business Analysis has been created to meet a practical need as well as contribute to evangelization. The one-year full-time program is designed to provide graduating seniors from liberal arts and other non-business programs with business skills and tools, giving them a more competitive edge before entering the job market.
“On average, our CUA undergraduate business students are hired with a starting salary around $50,000 a year,” Abela said. “Our liberal arts students, on the other hand, get hired at an average salary around $30,000 to $35,000 a year and have more trouble finding a job. They have developed invaluable thinking and communication skills but are missing the practical business knowledge and training to make them more competitive in the business world. This degree aims to close that gap.”
The new CUA program incorporates classes in business research and analysis, management, accounting, communications, marketing, leadership and problem solving. It also includes opportunities for internships with local businesses, government agencies or nonprofit organizations, affording students hands-on experience to complement their coursework.
Each student in the program will have a personal mentor from among a 14-person advisory board, made up of chief executives and senior business leaders from the Washington area and beyond. Mentors will offer firsthand advice on career planning, interview skills and networking.
The value of such an education is evident in today’s slow economy: Graduating seniors are finding the step from campus to corporation more challenging than in previous generations.
Stewart McHie, a 34-year veteran of Exxon and ExxonMobil, where he most recently served as the company’s global brand manager, was named the program director and member of the faculty of the M.S.B.A. earlier this year.
“What I like about this program is it encourages students and their parents to feel good about pursuing a liberal arts degree,” McHie said. “Employers typically recognize the many strengths of a liberal arts education, and we want to encourage that. This is like having a five-year program that offers you all the benefits of a liberal arts education, along with a strong preparation in business.”
McHie also speaks from experience. After a long, high-level career in the corporate world, McHie left business to invest both his talent and experience in educating a new generation.
“Commerce is a service to society,” he said, “not in the service of greed and avarice. This is what we want to instill in these students, so they leave understanding the ethically right way to conduct business.”
Yet the inspiration for the M.S.B.A. goes beyond the merely practical. It has been created to meet a societal need as well.
Inspired by Pope Benedict’s statements at CUA in 2008 and his 2009 encyclical on economics and development, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), the M.S.B.A. aims to form a new generation of ethical business leaders by arming enterprising students with a solid foundation in Catholic social teaching.
“Our goal is to have Catholic social teaching penetrate all the courses that we teach,” Abela said, “so students understand its principles and how to apply them in real-world situations.”
In order to make the inspiration a reality, Abela and McHie have brought together a top-notch team of educators and professionals.
Dennis McFarlane is founder and CEO of Infinitive, a Washington, D.C.-based process engineering and project management firm, and a member of the board of advisors and mentors for the program. “When I went to the first board meeting and saw the group of business professionals there, all with extraordinary résumés behind them, I got really excited,” McFarlane told the Register. “When asked if anyone would be willing to mentor and coach a student, all of the board members immediately raised their hands. We see our role of mentor as integral to the students’ experience.”
William Bowman, president and CEO of U.S. Inspect, the nation’s largest home and commercial inspection company, agrees. “The program will be looking to us who are active in business for a ‘reality check’ — making sure that students coming out of the program have the skills that we would find competitive if we were considering them for our companies,” Bowman explained. “But we do all of this with a strong focus in business ethics, which has as its foundation the promotion of the dignity of the human person.”
Board members include Karen Walter Goodwin, founder of Fifth Avenue Entertainment; Gellert Dornay, founder and CEO of AXIA Financial, LLC; Andrew Gatto, president and CEO of Russ Berrie and Co. (retired); Mark Poirier, vice president of Science Applications International Corp.; Amy Smith, vice president of communications at Raytheon Technical Services Co.; and Richard Thrasher, vice president and general manager of Enterprise Holdings. Besides mentoring students, the board of advisors will be regular lecturers for the program.
The newest addition to the faculty is Brian Engelland, chairman of the Department of Marketing, Quantitative Analysis and Business Law at Mississippi State University, winner of the national “Great Teacher in Marketing” award and former president of both the Marketing Management Association and the Society for Marketing Advances.
Building from the principles of the social teachings of the Church and equipped with a team of expert academics and business leaders, CUA’s M.S.B.A. program is sure to become one of the most significant and sought-after programs of its kind.
Kirsten Evans writes from Washington, D.C.
Please contact Stewart McHie at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 319-5433, or visit MSBA.CUA.edu.