If the resources of every church were added together, the millions of employees and billion dollar operating budgets would rival the size of the nation’s largest corporations.
Faith-based organizations provide a lifeline for millions of people but despite their virtues, the finances of many are an unholy mess.
“Churches all around the country are in terrible shape,” said Bruce MacLean, Director of Graduate Programs at Valparaiso University. “The need is universal. I don’t care what faith you are from. Leaders from Catholic, Lutheran, Islamic and Jewish faith have all talked to me.”
Though divinely guided, these operations have many of the same problems that modern management principles have been developed to fix.
Among the changes it’s making in its curricula, Valparaiso University is adding a concentration in ministry administration for 2013, which will be taught at a new campus in Chicago’s Hyde Park.
In the last several years, many of most well-known business schools in the U.S. have announced major overhauls of their MBA curricula. Local universities also have updated programs in response to local market, regional needs and globalization.
The nation’s elite B-schools have also revamped programs and added courses with a focus on ethics and Northwest Indiana is no exception.
Most universities have had flat enrollments, but Valpo has grown from 30 students in 2004 to 100 students this year. MacLean expects the program to grow a minimum of 300 students in the next three years. For 2013, its part-time MBA program was ranked among the best by U.S. News and World Report.
MacLean believes faith-based organizations must tap into business professional know-how if they are to pursue their missions responsibly and effectively.
“The churches have wonderful people who are volunteering their time but they have no business background,” said MacLean. “When it comes to managing they can’t maintain financial sustainability and many of them are going out of business.”
For the ministry concentration, six unique courses will be offered. For example, the curriculum will offer philanthropy and fundraising instead of sales and marketing.
“We are trying to tailor this very specifically to exactly their needs instead of trying to adapt a for-profit business model to a church,” said MacLean who has worked with the Chicago and Gary Catholic diocese as well as Chicago’s Lutheran School of Theology.
“It’s a whole different perspective,” he said. “You have to get these organizations to focus on what the future is, where they want to be and the best way to meet the needs of their community. Is the church a business? No. But it can certainly benefit from business skills.”
Restoring public trust
Harvard Business School overhauled its curriculum in an effort to restore a reputation tarnished by the financial crises and to diffuse what many see as a money-hungry culture that some say created the crisis on Wall Street.
“If you were fortunate enough to go to Harvard, you were hired by Wall Street because your acumen was high, but what students lacked were corporate discipline, ethical training and social responsibility,” said Joe Joniec, department chairman of Business Administration at Ivy Tech Community College.
Ivy Tech now has business students volunteering within the community when possible and even has an MBA “day of service” when students help at the Salvation Army, Michigan City Zoo, Porter County Animal Shelter, Whispering Pines Healthcare Center and Miller Beach in Gary.
“When you talk about Wall Street that’s what was lost,” Joniec said. “The public perceives they’ve been shortchanged by their business leaders because they don’t see what their leaders are doing for the community.
“The idea is to understand that you have obligations as citizens and as a member of your community and of society," he said. "That all goes hand in hand with ethical training.”
Other local universities have also integrated courses aimed at creating leaders of competence and character and cultivating judgment not just analytics.
Anna Rominger, dean of Indiana University Northwest’s School of Business and Economics, was a trailblazer for ethics in curricula. “It’s crucial,” she said.
“We want to create responsible business people who not only serve customers and clients but also contribute to and run their business for the benefit of the community.” Purdue University Calumet also now has a class on ethics and governance.
Harvard’s “MBA Oath” was created to establish a code of morality and ethics and went viral in 2009. Today, 160 Valparaiso students have signed the pledge promising to act with utmost integrity.
“Values-based leadership is our goal,” MacLean said. “Our program and everything else is built around it. It’s something we take very seriously.”
Local schools have customized their programs based on local needs, which play up Northwest Indiana’s geographic strengths. Purdue University Calumet now requires coursework in international business and supply chain management.
“Even though we cater to students in this region, we have to prepare them to be global leaders because the steel industry is a global business,” said Lori Feldman, department head for Marketing, Human Resources and Management at PUC.
Courses also have been added or revised to include executive communication, leadership, spreadsheet modeling and forecasting, and negotiations. Students also can take an international trip in which they actually create a business plan for new business in that country.
“Our students with managerial experience also want factual content and education that takes them to the next step in their careers,” she said.
“These skills really differentiate the folks that are promotable from others. It helps create stronger leaders to continue to lead Northwest Indiana, help us through the economic recovery and bring new industry here to the region.”
MBA students at IUN study abroad for 10 days at the end of their program. The staff at VU has discovered their China trips and global case studies are not enough.
MacLean expects to triple the size of its MBA program in part with a new initiative, which includes a mix of students from Asia, Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Students also will be required up to take at least one eight-week session in other countries and international students coming to the U.S. for the first time will attend a summer “boot camp” to prepare them for business education here in America.
Valpo was one of four schools approached by the United Nations to be part of an initiative on global reporting and now offers a specialization in sustainability. The reporting process is the most widely-used standard worldwide to assist with ethical, social and environmental protocols.
Valparaiso University has clocked about 4,000 hours in a $100,000 classroom, which enables students to participate in a live classroom remotely from anywhere in the world. Class sessions are fully synchronized and broadcast on the Internet.
A student can be out of town on business in a hotel room or a single-parent can be at home if childcare is not available and still fully participate in class discussions and projects. Classes are recorded and the school is working on obtaining printed transcripts.
Valpo offers its MBA year round and has six eight-week terms. PUC offers a part-time evening MBA, a Saturday MBA for Executives, and Masters of Accountancy program.
IUN offers a weeknight and weekend MBA and also allows student to take foundation courses online. Rominger said the school continuously assesses the graduate program to make sure students are learning what the course objectives are.
Ivy Tech offers an associate degree in business administration, which is based on partnerships with local industries and leads to employment. “BP, Praxair, Nipsco ad Arcelor Mittal came to us and we established what they needed,” Joniec said.
“The steel industry, for example, is not the steel industry of 50 years ago," he said. "Today everything is driven by technology. They said they needed men and women who are educated enough to be able to handle the multi-million dollar equipment.
“The ultimate goal is to get students employed even if they aren’t in an MBA program. Collectively all of us have been charged with how can we better meet the needs of Hoosiers and the constant message we keep getting is we need to develop our students and give them the right kinds of skills.”