WASHINGTON — The Catholic University of America in Washington is spinning off its current economics and business curriculum from its School of Arts and Sciences and fashioning a new business school with the idea of infusing ethics into all course offerings.
In 2014, graduates will receive their degrees from the new School of Business and Economics, the university’s 13th school. This year’s business and economics graduates will still receive degrees from the School of Arts and Sciences.
The action to create a new school was taken in a December vote by the university’s board of trustees, following three years of evaluating and planning. The new school’s creation took effect Jan. 1, and it was announced Jan. 8.
Enrollment in business courses has jumped from 300 to 450 since 2008, according to Andrew V. Abela, an associate professor of marketing who is currently chair of the university’s Department of Business and Economics and will slide over to the new business school. On Jan. 17, he was made the dean of the new school.
“We have very small classes, and we want to keep it that way,” Abela, a native of Malta, told Catholic News Service in a Jan. 8 interview at Catholic University.
“There’s something about the program that the students find appealing,” Abela said. He believes it is the correlation of societal institutions with the economy and the application of natural law within the curriculum.
Natural law and Catholicism are “right at the heart of what we’re teaching,” he said.
In Abela’s view, if the society is not moral, the economy will not act morally either, and he sees the family unit as key, too.
“At the root of the failings of 2008 and the economic decline, at the root of all that is a moral decline. … A society that isn’t living morally is not likely to prosper for very long,” he explained. “The single biggest example of this is the family. … If you don’t have a strong family, kids don’t grow up to be disciplined and they’re not productive contributors to the economy.”
While he applies that principle to the U.S. economy, Abela said it fits the situation as well in Europe, which has seen a series of debt crises in European Union member nations.
“The decline of the family (in Europe) is so much greater” than in the United States, he added. “It’s difficult to see how they can dig themselves out of the hole that they are in.”
Since the U.S. economy took a tumble in 2008, business colleges have offered ethics courses because there has been “an increased concern with ethics” but most courses are an add-on to the curriculum, Abela said.
At Catholic University, ethics is a part of every course in the program, he added. For example in a marketing course, students learn how to be” a good marketer – where ‘good’ is understood as both effective and ethical,” he explained.
Abela had worked in advertising, marketing and consulting before joining the Catholic University faculty 10 years ago. “I found that whenever I was teaching, I was happiest,” he said.
The new business school will carry over degree programs it offered as a department.
In addition to undergraduate degrees in accounting, economics, international business and business administration, the school offers graduate programs. One is in accounting. Another is an integral economic development management program, which focuses on management skills and the role of family, community and societal institutions in development.
“If you don’t have strong families, then it’s hard to have sustained economic development,” Abela explained, adding that society also needs a strong “rule of law, clear property rights, strong local institutions,” such as churches, clubs and citizens groups, for successful development.
A third graduate degree is a master of science in business analysis. Abela described it as a “crash course” in business for the history major or English major who needs a job but doesn’t want to be, say, a historian.
The program uses CEOs as mentors; among them is Bill Pulte, the father of 14 who started Pulte Homes. A number of local Washington CEOs and senior executives also mentor students.
The program also brings business leaders to speak on campus, like John Abbate, who owns 25 McDonald’s franchises in California. They illustrate for all Catholic University students that “one can be a successful person and a highly moral person,” Abela said.
The new business school also offers an interdisciplinary graduate program in international political economics.