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Spirituality Monday reflects on business, faith

| Monday, April 14, 2014

Saint Mary’s hosted another installment of its faith-based discussion series, Spirituality Monday, with guest speaker Jill Vihtelic, professor of business and economics and chair of the Department of Global Studies at Saint Mary’s, director of the Center for Spirituality Elizabeth Groppe said.

“[This series is] an opportunity for us to gather as a community to learn from the wisdom that our faculty, staff and students have about the relationship between spirituality and different academic disciplines,” Groppe said.

This is Vihtelic’s 27th year at Saint Mary’s and her second year as chair of the Department of Global Studies, a new interdisciplinary program that Saint Mary’s launched in August of 2012, Vihtelic said.

The conversation focused on the intersection of global business and faith, Vihtelic said.

Over the past decade, Vihtelic has gradually switched from teaching upper-level business courses to teaching the required introductory course in finance ethics, she said. She challenges her students in this class to list their top three or four personal values, and she did the same for those in attendance at Spirituality Monday, she said.

Attendees responded with answers such as family, faith, social justice and care for creation, Groppe said.

Vihtelic then asked participants to think about their three or four top priorities in the workplace, Groppe said.

Students need to understand which values they hope to find in a workplace and get their priorities aligned before they graduate and start working, Vihtelic said.

“Standard business texts teach students to make decisions from different perspectives but do little to incorporate religious perspectives, so when I started teaching, I thought I should start teaching with an intersection between faith and business,” Vihtelic said.

Vihtelic said she likes to focus on how ethics and moral principles apply to business, and she hopes to apply this approach to other courses.

“Sometime in the future, I hope to teach Global Studies 101, which is a new critical-thinking seminar, and it’s also certified for social teaching,” Vihtelic said. “Students will investigate people, planet and profit and explain sustainable business property and demonstrate their role in all of those aspects.”

“So where do my students find intersection between values and business? They understand faith influences those values. Many don’t understand what it means to be a professional with integrity. When they begin to understand that they can’t separate their personal lives from their professional lives, they must prioritize their values they first assessed.”


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