As the Mendoza College of Business celebrates its centennial, many inside and outside the College are questioning the role the institution plays in both the University and the global community. Does Mendoza indeed “Develop the good in business” or does it encourage profit-seeking individuals who prioritize their self-interest over all reasonable Catholic causes?
Those who dedicate their lives and studies to Mendoza know the answer: unlike other business schools, the Mendoza College of Business seeks to develop individuals who embrace what Pope Francis calls the “noble calling” of an honorable business leader. In their studies of Catholic Social Teaching (CST), classical and modern ethical and economic theories, ranging from Karl Marx to Adam Smith, students learn that wealth and possessions in themselves are neither bad nor good, but rather than what we do with wealth and goods gives them their morale character. Mendoza teaches students not only how to maximize returns, but also how to use business to serve the universal destination of goods by recognizing the inherent dignity of all people.
The above statement is not simple”without conviction.” More than thirty years before the founding of Mendoza, Leo XIII rejected socialism and the abolition of inequalities, a position the Church follows to this day. However, the global economy still needs economic reform – a need the College and the Church recognize. Pope Francis demands that human dignity and the common good are at the center in shaping all economic decisions, and so the world needs a form of capitalism that respects this need. Pope Francis states in his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,”We can no longer trust the invisible forces and the invisible hand of the market.”
Mendoza leads this charge from the Church.
Take the example of accounting majors in Mendoza. The average student pursues minors or a major at another college to expand their knowledge through a liberal arts education. Additionally, many take one or more semesters of the Tax Assistance Program, a class in which students help marginalized families better understand their finances and the tax filing process. This program, just one example of the countless tangible efforts made by the students of Mendoza, goes beyond simple charity and instead gives choice vulnerable people helping them to develop concrete skills. After graduation, many accounting majors will become auditors or tax specialists, providing people with the confidence they need to protect and grow their prosperity.
Teachers, first responders, blue collar workers, artists, and priests more obviously provide social good because of the tangibility of the fruits of their labor. Teachers provide education, first responders save lives, manual workers produce goods that meet physical needs, and artists and priests provide people with the spiritual fulfillment necessary for human flourishing. It is not because the role of the businessman is less apparent that it is less of a social good.
Bankers provide business services that promote growth and create more jobs. Marketers are finding new ways to meet consumer needs and wants. Managers find creative solutions to develop more productive, enjoyable and diverse workplaces. The point is clear: the average person, who invests in the stock market aand works for an employer, depends on the company professionals for their own well-being. While some professionals take advantage of the vulnerable position of those they are meant to serve, Mendoza develops professionals who see their position as a way to increase the well-being of those same people.
There’s no denying that Mendoza graduates, like most business graduates across the country, have high earning potential. To say that this potential makes all businessmen “evil” would be a naive misunderstanding of how the real world works. Markets create a surplus for both consumers and producers, a concept that all Mendoza students learn in their introductory and managerial economics classes. Consumers engage in transactions where they believe they are getting something worthwhile for the time or capital they exchange. The resulting profit naturally comes from people engaging in mutually beneficial transactions – a fact that many critics overlook.
That being said, there is a fine line between mutually beneficial practices and exploitative practices. Mendoza, like all other business institutions, is subject to the same temptations that lead to exclusion that Pope Francis so vehemently opposes. Human nature leads us to struggle with greed and generosity, but recognizing this fallen nature of human existence sets Mendoza apart as a true “shiny city on a hill.” Christians can never imitate Christ in his perfection, but they do their best. In the same way, Mendoza and his students aspire to the ideal.
Despite the College’s core values, stereotypes of Mendoza students persist around the University. We all have an image in our head that comes to mind when we hear the word “Menbroza” but this image comes from stereotypes. Just because the upside-down trucker hat, crypto-loving maniac lives in your mind, doesn’t make it a reality. Although stereotypes may come from a minority of people who fit them, they are often unfounded and discriminatory. Mendoza students work hard inside and outside the classroom, in business and non-business clubs, to develop the skills needed to “build good in business.”
Mendoza has a lot of room for improvement. Like the rest of the University, we have too often overlooked the LGBTQ+ community, women, people of color, first-generation students, and other marginalized groups. We are a human institution and therefore, by definition, not perfect. Commitment to solving these problems despite the setbacks that may arise along the way defines Mendoza. Professors meet monthly in small groups to read and discuss how CST can be better integrated into their courses, students offer free tutoring to those who need it, the school strives to partner to other colleges to create new ethics programs, and the program includes new attitudes of inclusiveness in the classroom as well as intense study of socialist thinkers. These actions make the students of Mendoza much more than just moral slaves. Drive to good and success should never be confused with greed and evil.
I leave you with this thought from Cardinal John O’Hara, CSC:The primary function of trade is a service to man. Business has a code of ethics based very largely on divine principles. When this code is followed, trade can and does advance civilization.” Let us not shy away from the challenge of following this code, but let us struggle with God’s call to serve humanity.
The views expressed in this letter to the editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.