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Interfaith Studies for Business Courses

In partnership with the Teagle Foundation, IFYC awarded 14 grants to college and university campuses developing curricular programs that used concepts, methods, and frameworks from Interfaith and Interreligious Studies to bridge liberal arts education with pre-professional preparation. One of the most popular areas of interest for these grants were in Business and Management programs, educating students to be capable and confident interfaith leaders in a variety of business and workplace settings.

Across the country, more and more colleges and universities are considering how to incorporate interfaith leadership training into courses aimed at business, accounting, marketing, and management. We have collected examples of learning outcomes, reading assignments, classroom activities, and case studies from courses developed in these programs to help faculty imagine how they might engage similar questions and topics in their own classrooms. This resource includes descriptions and learning outcomes for two courses that are entirely focused on interfaith concerns for professional development, as well as two courses that include robust activities and assignments to include interfaith learning in a pre-existing business course.


Common Learning Activities

Common learning activities for courses that examine the role of interfaith understanding and leadership in the business sector include case studies, guest speakers, and interview assignments.

Case studies can be used to explore the religious or interfaith relevance of any type of workplace or business scenario. Case studies invite students to consider how religious identities or practices may be relevant to a particular circumstance, and how religious and worldview commitments may affect individual or collective responses to situations. When examining case studies, students may consider perspectives and commitments other than their own, or even the perspectives or commitments of multiple parties in the same case. Students are invited to identify what types of specific knowledge are necessary to resolve a case, thus building their own interfaith literacy.

Guest Speakers may be invited into a class to speak to how religious or worldview identity has had an impact on their professional life and the work that they do. They can share with students what types of interfaith knowledge have been relevant on the job, how they have developed their own interfaith literacy, and what types of interfaith knowledge and skills new hires could bring with them into the workforce. Guest speakers may offer insight on the real-world relevance of students’ training and preparation.

Interview Assignments encourage students to develop important skills related to researching an individual, profession, or religious identity, as well as make connections and consider their own development of knowledge. Students may interview an individual with questions such as, “How does your worldview, religious, or ethical commitments inform how you organize teams, manage colleagues, and consider leadership?” or “What are some ways that religious diversity has been relevant to your role as a business leader, and how did you develop the skills to manage diverse teams successfully?”

Business Courses with an Interfaith Focus

Leadership, Religions, and the Workplace (University of St. Thomas)

Professors Dominic Longo & Teresa Rothausen

Course description: Religious diversity is a striking characteristic of contemporary life, including in the professional sphere. This course aims to help students develop knowledge, skills, and values for professional leadership in our religiously diverse world -- whether in business, engineering, law, healthcare, social work, education, government service, or another professional field. In this course, students will widen religious literacy well beyond the Christian tradition, foster practical leadership skills, and expose students to a range of professional scenarios where interreligious issues generate challenge and opportunity. Drawing on the fields of spirituality, leadership development, interreligious dialogue, and comparative theology, this course prepares students to contribute to human flourishing in a more just society through successful and satisfying professional lives in which they are engaged with their own and others’ religious identities, commitments, and practices.

Learning Outcomes Include:

  • Develop specific interreligious leadership skills, competencies, and points of view needed by all professionals today.
  • Empower students to apply religious, theological, and spiritual knowledge to improve thinking, problem solving, and decisions in the professional realms. They will begin gaining these kinds of knowledge from multiple religious traditions, and thus also study how to learn interreligiously.
  • Develop a clearer understanding of, and commitment to, personal values, as they pertain to religious difference and its intersections with cultural diversity, race, gender, class, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnicity, body type, and other aspects of personal identity.

Course Resources Include:

  • Heider, John. The Tao of Leadership: Lao Tzu’s “Tao Te Ching” Adapted for a New Age. New York: Bantam, 2015 [1986].
  • Interreligious Dialogue: An Anthology of Voices Bridging Cultural and Religious Divides. Ed. Christoffer H. Grundmann. Winona, MN: Anselm Academic, 2015.
  • Introduction to Interfaith Leadership online video curriculum. Dominican University and Interfaith Youth Core, 2016.
  • Jackson, Brad and Ken Parry. A Very Short Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book About Studying Leadership. London: Sage, 2011.
  • Many Mansions?: Multiple Religious Belonging and Christian Identity. Ed. Catherine Cornille.  Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2002.
  • Rosenbach, W.E., Taylor, R.L., & Youndt, M.A. Contemporary Issues in Leadership, 7th Edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2012.

Interfaith Leadership & Literacy for Business (Hofstra University)

Professor Julie Byrne

Course Description: This class introduces students to ideas and skills of leadership and literacy regarding different ways people orient around religion and how they intersect with areas of business. Colleagues, clients, and communities often respond and decide from within faith or worldview commitments. Global events, including business trends, are often layered with religious strata. Business leaders therefore need basic religious literacy; ideally, they also have skills for interfaith leadership in a multireligious world. Students will learn the fundamentals of major traditions, practice the skills of interfaith leadership, interview a business leader, and plan a campus interfaith event, as well as reflect on their own orientation towards religion. Case studies will be drawn from management, entrepreneurship, diversity initiatives, “workplace spirituality,” and international finance, among others. A semester-long reading of Eboo Patel’s Interfaith Leadership: A Primer (Beacon 2016) will provide a backbone of sustained conversation.

Learning Objectives:

  • Describe multiple intersections between the business world and religion or religions and why they matter.
  • Describe elements of major religions and different ways people orient around religion.
  • Use new knowledge and skills to be leaders in multireligious contexts.
  • Read, write, and discuss religion and interfaith matters with more nuance, ease, and competence.
  • Analyze, evaluate, and develop one’s own orientation towards religion and interfaith concerns.

Sample Readings:

  • “What American Workers Really Think About Religion: Tanenbaum’s 2013 Survey of American Workers and Religion,” Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, 2014.
  • “Business: A Powerful Force for Supporting Interfaith Understanding and Peace”, Religious Freedom and Business Foundation, 2014.

Case Studies Include:

  • The “Christmas Tree Crisis” at Sea-Tac Airport (the Pluralism Project, Harvard University)
  • Sister Mary and the Muslim Doctors (the Pluralism Project, Harvard University)
  • Driven by Faith (the Pluralism Project, Harvard University)
  • Trouble in Troy (the Pluralism Project, Harvard University)
  • A Question of Membership (Jewish Buddhist Encounters, Brandeis University)

Business Courses with Integrated Interfaith Objectives

Human Resources Management and Business (Shenandoah University)

Professor Montressa Washington

Course Description: This course provides a rigorous and comprehensive approach to understanding the management of human resources and ethics in a framework of current workplace trends, practices, and environment. Emphasis is placed on practical, theoretical, and ethical management principles as well as examples and methods for promoting good practices. The course seeks an understanding of the day-to-day legal, ethical, and moral forces impacting employees in a global economy where practices and cultural norms differ from our own. Situational case studies, analysis, and problem-solving approaches for enhancing commitment to sound practices are highlighted.

Learning Objectives Include:

  • Students should demonstrate an understanding of how religion is an integral part of the workplace, especially in human resources.
  • Examine assumptions, goals, principles, and actions as they affect the workplace and society as a whole.
  • Compare and contrast various aspects of management as they relate to human factors and ethics.
  • Utilize theological, moral, and legal values to construct the beginnings of a personal code of ethics for sound business decision-making.
  • Develop an appreciation for ethical challenges arising from Globalization.

Sample Course Assignment

Case Study: Religion and the Workplace
Students will read two of the available case studies that deal with religion in the workplace, and watch this video, Religion in the Workplace, produced by the Public Broadcasting Company in 2008. They will then discuss ways different types of organizations address the issues of religion in the workplace that may include religious expression, spirituality as a management tool, and reconfiguring work as a form of worship and religious duties. Students should answer the assigned questions and be prepared to discuss their answers in class.

Before completing the case study assignment, students must write a short reflection answering the following questions. They should write a second reflection answering these questions after completing the assignment:

  1. Do you aspire to work in management at a corporation? Why or why not?
  2. What role do you feel religion plays in the workplace?
  3. What, if any, laws exist to protect freedom of religious expression in the workplace?

Students may choose from the following case studies:

  1. Faith and Work: Hobby Lobby and AutoZone by Timothy Ewest; David W. Miller, Kacee Garner, Holly Huser (Ivey Publishing, Richard Ivey School of Business)
  2. Religion in the Workplace: The British Airways Cross Controversy by Alexandra Roth; David T. A. Wesley (Ivey Publishing, Richard Ivey School of Business)
  3. Religion in the Workplace: Tyson Foods, Inc. by Alexandra Roth; David T.A. Wesley (Ivey Publishing, Richard Ivey School of Business)
  4. The Credit Suisse Christian Values Fund by Alexandra Roth; David T.A. Wesley (Ivey Publishing, Richard Ivey School of Business)

For each case study, students should answer these questions, and be prepared to discuss their answers in class:

  1. In what ways did religion play in the workplace in these cases?
  2. Imagine you are one of the managers working for one of the corporations featured in the cases. In what ways should you incorporate religion, religious leaders, and religious practices into the workplace? Explain in detail.
  3. Why is it important to consider religion when working in diverse communities to improve business outcomes? Give examples in your answer.
  4. Imagine you are asked to give advice to a student who wishes to work in the HR department of a global corporation. The student asks how he/she should prepare to consider religion in his/her future work. What is your response?

Assessing this Assignment:

  • Fully developed: Students demonstrate a strong understanding of the connections between religion and/or faith in the workplace through detailed and fully developed responses to the questions.
  • Developed: Students demonstrate minimum mastery of the complexities linking religion and/or faith in the workplace through their responses to the questions. There are one or more weaknesses or gaps in their descriptions of the linkages.

  • Underdeveloped: Students did not demonstrate an understanding of the complexities linking religion and/or faith in the workplace through their responses to the questions. There are three or more weaknesses or gaps in their descriptions of the linkages.

International Business (Cabrini University)

Professor Erin McLaughlin

Course Description: Globalization has transformed the way we view the world. This course will look at both the political and economic implications of globalization. This undergraduate survey course will expose students to all elements of international business. Students will be able to describe trends in global business, describe how different environments influence global business strategies, and understand how business practices differ in the global context. This course will also assess the enormous challenges the EU and the world face with Brexit, banking crises, the rise of nationalism, and the re-emergence of protectionism.

Learning Outcomes Include:

  • Students will understand national differences, specifically focusing on culture. Students will understand the differences that exist within the realm of culture, including values, norms, nationality, education, religion, faith, language, social structure, and political and economic philosophy. Students will understand this by engaging in a cultural simulation.
  • Students will understand Global Trade and Investment, specifically trade theory, foreign direct investment, regional economic integration, and the role that culture plays in economic integration. Students will understand the importance of the plurality of cultural belief systems in shaping regional trade agreements.
  • Students will understand the strategy and structure of international business, specifically: entering foreign markets, export/import/countertrade, and international human resource management. Students will understand the role that culture (as discussed above) plays in this strategy.

Current Event Assignment:

Each student must bring in one current events article focused on interfaith issues and present a formal, 5-minute presentation to the class. A current event represents a news article that has been presented to the media within the last two weeks. In the presentation, each student must:

  • Address how the current event corresponds to the correct weekly topic of discussion.
  • Summarize and explain the current event article clearly and concisely.
  • Come prepared to fully discuss the issue. This means that if further clarification is necessary through additional research, the student has taken appropriate steps.

Each student must ask at least one question to one presenter for each topic week.