New SEBA Course Leverages Two SMC Strengths: Interfaith Engagement and Business Education

mcgrawDespite the diversity of faiths at any given workplace, religion is widely considered a taboo topic at many business schools.  This fall, the School of Economics and Business Administration will give undergraduate students across the college the unique opportunity to examine the role of interfaith engagement in the theory and practice of leadership.  

Based on an existing course offered to MBA students, the undergraduate “Interfaith Leadership for Business and the Professions” course taught by Professor McGraw will encourage undergraduates to engage with the religious dimensions of their professional careers. 

“Business and professions are especially suited and situated to contribute to building religious understanding and interfaith cooperation,” said McGraw. “Research indicates that when people of different faiths and no-faith work together in common effort and common goals, mutual understanding and respect across faith differences often result.”

The course will focus on both the U.S. and the larger world, and will examine not only religio-cultural differences, but also the role of U.S. accommodation laws, examples of discrimination, and various religious perspectives on what values foster a moral economy.

The aim is to sensitize students in a variety of ways—films, narratives, role-playing, guest speakers, case studies—to better develop an understanding and curiosity about the different religious lenses through which business people and professionals, as well as the people they serve, view the world.   

“This class is relevant now and is becoming more so every day,” McGraw said. “It’s not uncommon to be in a situation where you’re in a room with five or six people, and each one of them comes from a different religious background. As a result of that, it’s necessary to know and respect the religious and spiritual orientations of those who we encounter in our personal and professional lives and be able to lead in religiously diverse environments.”

“Interfaith Leadership for Business and the Professions” will be a blend of Saint Mary’s liberal arts tradition and contemporary business theory. Students will be exposed to leadership theory and will be able to identify interfaith challenges and propose inclusive ways of addressing them. Similarly, students will be asked to develop policies and practices for an inclusive professional environment where religiously diverse perspectives can contribute to achieving common professional goals.

“People may disagree about what the true religion is, who God is, or what happens when we die,” said McGraw. “In spite of all that, there’s still so much that we can do together to make the world a better place. We can use business to better understand each other, to be more conscientious about ideas and beliefs. The collaborative environment in business can be an especially effective vehicle for this.”