Religion and Economics the Focus of SHU Business Faculty Forum
More than 200 people filled Sacred Heart University’s University Commons recently to enjoy and participate in a “Religion and Economics” discussion, co-sponsored by SHU’s Office of Mission & Catholic Identity and the John F. Welch College of Business. The talk was an annual event—the latest installment in the University’s“Religion and…” program and part of its “The Human Journey” Colloquia Series.
Kwamie Dunbar, assistant professor of finance and associate dean of the Welch College of Business, opened the program, which was moderated by Anthony Ciorra, assistant vice president for Mission & Catholic Identity at SHU. Featured panelists were SHU faculty members, including Lucjan Orlowski, director, DBA in finance, and professor of economics and finance; Stephen Rubb, professor of economics and finance; and Peter Maresco, clinical associate professor of marketing.
The panelists were solicited for their insights about the role of religion in economics and the relationship between Wall Street and Main Street. As a discussion starting point, Ciorra offered that business and economics are on the rise as concentrations at faith-oriented universities, with Catholic-based SHU among them. He noted that there are 320 business majors among incoming SHU freshmen alone. This fact begged the question, as Ciorra posed it, “What business do business schools have in a Catholic university?”
Ciorra noted that Joseph J. Dunn, in his book After One Hundred Years: Corporate Profits, Wealth and American Society raised the issue that universities rely on endowments derived from business investments, and these endowments help contain tuition costs and fund faculty chairs. However, the investment system can easily be perverted against the common good, which can expose these schools to risk. The panelists responded to the issue by saying that the such partnerships are unavoidable and might even be beneficial.
Orlowski proposed that there’s a synergy between business and Catholic teachings with each seeking to find truth and valuing the individual. Rubb was more emphatic, stating that the two can’t be separated, that ethical teachings contribute to better dealings in the business world. Maresco pointed to the thousands of Americans who have identified themselves and are realizing success as Christian business owners as evidence that economics and religion can—and indeed do—go hand in hand.
Maresco offered further perspective on the Christian marketplace, noting that there are 140 million Christian consumers—mostly concentrated in America’s Bible Belt—driving $7 billion in sales in any given year. And what are they buying? Christian-themed T-shirts, mints, action figures, travel services, music fest tickets and movies. As an example of the latter, Mel Gibson’s 2004 The Passion of Christ garnered over $600 million in worldwide ticket sales.
Maresco also cited the growing popularity and business of Christian grave markers complete with video monitors and other above-ground enhancements. Maresco offered that the Christian—or any faith’s—association with business can be a huge boost to a business’ bottom line, whether the business provider is a car dealer, plumber or minor league ballpark owner promoting a faith-specific night for higher game attendance and revenue.
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