Ethics, Society, and the Institution of Business minor continues to thrive

By Anna Dailey | October 27, 2022

While maintaining an emphasis on a liberal arts education, Holy Cross now offers a way to integrate a holistic approach to studying business. Professor Kendy Hess led a group of faculty that pioneered the pilot program and it was approved in the Spring of 2017 as the Business, Ethics, and Society minor (BES). In the Spring of 2022, a revised version was approved as the Ethics, Society and Institution of Business minor (ESIB).

Hess had two inspirations for starting the minor. The first event was in 2014 when Hess wrote a paper about ethics and the market. “In writing that paper I actually did a lot of research into the history of capitalism and I got really interested in it,” Hess said. This research ended up becoming the syllabus for her Capitalism in Context class, which is at the core of the ESIB minor. The second, from a leave in 2015, was a growing awareness of how unhealthy our practices and expectations around work have become, which led to the development of classes on work, ethics, and politics.

The third event was a conversation with a graduating philosophy major. According to Hess, “[the senior] had just received an amazing job offer on Wall Street, it was incredible,” but the senior apologized for taking the job. “When I asked why she was apologizing, [the senior] said something like, ‘we aren’t really supposed to do that,’ and I was horrified that it had apparently been made clear to her that business was something bad or dirty, something to apologize for,” Hess said. Hess wanted to address this issue and help Holy Cross students understand that working in business could be a vocation.

“The goal of the minor is to focus on how the institution of business interacts in either an ethical or problematic way with society,” according to ESIB advisor Professor Karen Teitel, “It is a self designed minor because students choose their own area of concern, such as gender issues or environmental issues.” Twenty-three students from the class of 2022 graduated with the BES minor.

The minor culminates in a final capstone project centered around the particular issue each student studies. Students propose a solution to the issue of a company such as Amazon or a governmental entity. “There is a lot of research that goes on outside the coursework,” Teitel said. A requirement of the minor is to obtain an external ‘experience’ such as community based learning or an internship to enhance students’ understanding of the issue and actually engage with people in organizations.

Senior Bridget Eckland is an ESIB minor. “I chose this minor because I wanted more exposure to fundamental business courses that enable me to think critically about the institution of business,” Eckland said. She held an internship with Navistar Inc. in their People and Culture department. During the internship, Eckland learned how a business should hold itself accountable for taking care of its employees and stakeholders.

“Completing this minor has also helped me solidify my career goals through the selection of a capstone project alongside my internship experience,” Eckland said. She will continue to explore employee well being through the completion of her capstone project this year.

Hess hopes to continue to grow the minor. One of her ideas is to have the capstone projects be presented to graduates of the minor, or to the company the project is about. “Maybe we can make the pitch to the company instead of people just playing the company,” Hess said. She also hopes that the research the minor students conduct can be more publicized on campus.

The liberal arts approach to business gives Holy Cross students a new point of view on traditional aspects of business. The minor is currently generating a lot of interest. In Teitel’s words, “we look forward to growing the program in a sustainable manner.” More information on the minor can be found on the Holy Cross website under the Academic Programs tab.

Edited by Zachary Elias