In the spring of 2016, Jack McWilliams ’16 was looking forward to meeting other Jesuit business students from across the country, anticipating the first gathering of what he believed could be one of the world’s largest and most effective business networks.

The Jesuit Business Student Alliance (JBSA), a national networking organization formalized at Saint Joseph’s University in 2013, hosted its inaugural conference at SJU on April 4, 2016. Along with McWilliams, 17 undergraduates from several of the nation’s 28 Jesuit colleges and universities gathered to discuss ethical practices in business and network with Jesuit university alumni.

“This network is key for the success of Jesuit business students around the world,” says McWilliams. “It will help us to learn from one another and evolve in our Jesuit values.”

Preceding the conference, students enrolled in an eight-week online management course titled “Ethical Practices in Business,” taught by Ronald Duska, Ph.D., SJU adjunct professor and executive director of the Society of Business Ethics. A highly interactive course that raised consciousness and sensitivity to the ethical elements of business decisions, the class was a guiding theme of the conference. SJU students learned alongside their peers from Creighton, Fordham, Georgetown, St. Louis and St. Peter’s universities. 

“I was happy to see how well the students from different universities collaborated with one another,” says Duska. “It was refreshing to work with business students who, despite their youth, have a good understanding of why ethics is important in business.”

“JBSA provided me with the opportunity to take a course that would not otherwise be a part of my curriculum,” says Kelsie Eckert ’18, a student from Saint Louis University. “I have a better understanding of what it means to be a Jesuit business school student by being able to recognize core values in the students that I met.”

The conference served as a conclusion of the course, where members of the class delivered their final presentations.

Conference highlights included a keynote presentation by William J. Byron, S.J. ’51, University professor of business and society at SJU and author of many texts on business pracitces including The Power of Principles: Ethics for the New Corporate Culture (Orbis Books, 2006) Fr. Byron shared his “10 traditional principles” including integrity and love to emphasize the necessity of business ethics.

Johnson & Johnson Health Services Vice President of Finance John Mahony ’82 (BS), ’93 (MBA) also presented a keynote session on ethical decision-making within organizations. Mahony’s discussion covered a range of day-to-day business decisions and rare company crises, including Johnson & Johnson’s Tylenol recall in 1982, and focused on the requirement, and challenge to put customer needs and well-being first.

The conference closed with a trip to Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, for a tour of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified stadium. To learn why it is ethical to function as a green business, attendees were guided through the premises to view efforts that support sustainable management, including the largest solar power system in the NFL and the Philadelphia area.

In the evening following the conference, the students attended SJU’s “Hawk2Hawk” alumni networking event, where they had the chance to speak with professionals in their fields of interest.

“This conference was a great opportunity for our students to come together to build a Jesuit network,” says Pat O’Brien, associate dean for the Haub School of Business and founder of both the JBSA and the Jesuit Business Undergraduate Group, comprised of associate deans of Jesuit business schools. “We hope this is just the beginning."