Notre Dame Honors Program Focuses on Catholic Social Teaching

Mcob Atrium

This fall, the Mendoza College of Business launched an official honors program, which focuses on the moral purpose of business and how skills learned in business school can create a just and humane society, essentially doubling down on the college’s mission to “Grow the Good in Business.”

The selective program requires the maintenance of a 3.3 GPA, attendance at 15 honors colloquia over the course of three semesters, two honors courses on the moral purpose and character of business, two intermediate-level honors courses, four mentoring sessions during their sophomore year, and a capstone course during their senior year. According to the program website, several of the required courses are grounded in Catholic tradition and papal encyclicals like Centesimus Annus (1991) and Laudato Si’ (2015).

The program is run by Professor James Otteson, the John T. Ryan Jr. Professor of Business Ethics and the Rex and Alice A. Martin Faculty Director of the Notre Dame Deloitte Center for Ethical Leadership, and Professor Craig Iffland, an expert in moral theology, especially the moral thought of Thomas Aquinas.

Otteson noted that the inception of the program came from Martijn Cremers, the Martin J. Gillen Dean of the Mendoza College of Business, who wanted to push the best students both academically and personally.

“Dean Cremers wanted a program that would challenge our students not only to master the technical skills required to succeed in business, but also that would encourage them to think seriously about what their moral obligations are to steward what Pope Francis calls the ‘noble vocation’ of business,” Otteson said.

“Unlike honors programs at other business schools, however, ours also provides one-on-one mentorship and group colloquia in which students are guided to map out a plan for their lives that integrates their skills and abilities with their moral commitments. We want our honors students not just to engage in business, but in honorable business. We ask them to commit to growing the good in business, so that they can become ambassadors of a distinctively Notre Dame business education, and be instantly recognizable as not just businesspeople but as Notre Dame businesspeople.”

Josh Haskell is a sophomore in the program. He noted that the guest speakers have been particularly influential in his experience. Haskell said, “I am more confident than ever that I can do serious good through a business vocation. The business honors program invites successful executives and entrepreneurs to speak to students about what virtuous business looks like in practice. This especially has been an inspiration to me. The end goal of changing the world through business is now not some lofty ideal; I have seen exactly what it looks like through my engagement with these role models.”

He said he has also been inspired by his fellow students. Even as sophomores in the program he believes they are building the skills, mindset, and strategies to truly shift how business can be done.

“My friends here are not living for the resume—they have concrete plans to perform business virtuously and with the intention of promoting the common good. In a world where business is often perceived as immoral, it is refreshing to see so many young individuals that are going to change that perception.”