Holy Cross Professor Talks Business and the Liberal Arts

Davey Sullivan ‘22

News Editor

On Tuesday, April 28, the College of the Holy Cross Student Government Association and the Women in Business Club co-sponsored the first virtual Agape Latte over the online platform Zoom. This event featured the Brake Smith Associate Professor of Social Philosophy and Ethics and the Director of the Ciocca Center for Business, Ethics, and Society, Professor Kendy Hess.

Professor Hess’s background includes receiving her JD from Harvard University Law School and a Ph.D. in Philosophical Studies. After receiving her law degree, she worked in corporate environmental law before moving to philosophy. Professor Hess, as a result, utilizes her experience in the for-profit corporate sector to supplement the liberal arts education offered by Holy Cross.

Agape Latte was kicked off by members of the Women in Business Club introducing Professor Hess. Following this, Professor Hess elaborated why she wanted to teach students about business at Holy Cross, with so many graduating to get jobs in the corporate world. She additionally spoke to the fact that there is no business school at Holy Cross because of the focus of liberal arts, but this does not mean that business as an institution should not be examined.

Professor Hess examined the relationship between business and the mission, meaning the ways that business can be engaged in ethically whilst complementing the whole person. The mission, in this conception, means the mission that is taught by Holy Cross. Vital to Professor Hess’ talk is the fact that engaging in business does not mean forgetting the mission and acting unethically. Professor Hess spoke of how one can live the mission while in business, pointing to those who seek to do so to ask questions, take time to be thoughtful, remain open, to form a community, and to make the best of every aspect of business. Ultimately, the mission can be lived in business as long as one is aware, challenges the notion of “business as usual”, and resists the idea that values outside of the business should be rejected.

Commenting directly to the Spire, Professor Hess speaks to what Holy Cross students should take away from her analysis, “I think I’d want people to take away two major ideas:  First, it IS hard to live the mission in business.  It’s hard to live the mission anywhere, but there are things about business practice that make it especially challenging (and not because there’s anything wrong with business!).  But second, yes, you CAN live the mission in business.  You just have to be aware of the blindspots that business practice encourages and tolerates, challenge assumptions about the amoral/impersonal nature of business practice, and resist the culture that says that moral concerns don’t belong there.  Because they do.  That said, people new to the field should exercise a little humility and learn something about the field before they start pusing for big changes.  But once you know what you’re doing … yes, go forth and set the (business) world on fire.”

Professor Hess has created the minor in Business, Ethics, and Society in order to examine the relation to business and the liberal arts that she spoke of in this discussion. The minor examines topics of ethics, the basics of business, and capitalism through a multidisciplinary lens. It is open for applications to the classes of 2022 and 2023 presently, with the requirements being revised for all future classes.

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