The Conference for the Dignity of Work

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By Abby Anderko

The Busch School of Business and Napa Institute co-hosted a three day conference with political and religious leaders focused on the important relationship between human dignity and work, October 3-5.

This three day conference consisted of keynote speakers and panel discussions to explore themes of work and human dignity, including the sanctification of work, innovation, growth and prosperity. The conference was held in three locations, the Mayflower Hotel, Catholic University and the Museum of the Bible. The event was free for Catholic University students, but cost $2,000 a ticket for outside individuals. Although this event was free for students, it was targeted towards business professionals to explore their faith in their fields of business while networking with top professionals in their fields.

Attendees had the opportunity to hear from many influential speakers, including political figure Carly Fiorina; the President of the American Enterprise Institute and contributing writer for the New York Times, Arthur Brooks; and the president of Hobby Lobby, Steve Green. The professional business attendees had access to the network with these public figures. The conference included many other speakers who all gave lectures or participated in panels on how they use their success and relate it back to their Catholic values.

“The things that were talked about was not only dignity with treating your workers with dignity, but the fact that dignity runs through everything we do, in all work in general even blue collar jobs that we don’t often see and that there is dignity in doing work,” first year Master of Science in Business Analysis (M.S.B.A.) student Quoc Tran said.

Speakers were invited and scheduled by Dr. Maximilian Torres, the Associate Professor of Business Ethics & Organizational Behavior for the Busch School.

“We took the opportunity of speakers’ participation to share catholic social doctrine on the topic with them. Speakers were selected to appeal to the cross section of our constituents: students, academics, business leaders, and donors/investors,” Torres said.

The first speaker of the conference was Steve Green, the president of Hobby Lobby, an American arts and crafts store involved in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. This decision was championed by conservatives and allowed private for-profit corporations to be exempt from regulations the owners reject to based on their religion. Green spoke at the Museum of the Bible, which he helped found, with a speech titled “The Bible as a Guide for Work.” Green was followed by fellow headliner, Carly Fiorina, Former Hewlett-Packard CEO and 2016 Republican candidate for president, who spoke on “Work and Spirituality”. To finish the day, assistant research professor from the Busch School of Business and Fellow of the Institute for Human Ecology, Jay W. Richards, spoke on “Work and Innovation: Why Machines Won’t Replace Us.”  

The second day of the conference was the only day held at Catholic University. As the conference was open to University students to attend for free without charge, the presentations on this day were the easiest access for those who had classes on campus and could not make the trip off campus to see the other speakers. Students piled into the auditorium, sitting in designated seating on either side of the stage, with the business attendees sitting at tables set up in the middle of the room. University President John Garvey opened the event, followed by Arthur Brooks, who is a contributing opinion writer for New York Times and the President of the American Enterprise Institute. Brooks spoke about “How to Live an Start-Up Life,” based off of his journey of becoming successful in the business world.

The last day of the conference was held at the Mayflower Hotel, where conference attendees were staying.

Unlike past Busch school conferences, this was in multiple locations. This made it more difficult for Catholic U students to get to the conference.

“All three places were well chosen, I just think you do lose the convenience of having one place centralized for for your staff and for people to go to and remember where they are going,” Tran said.

Catholic University’s Busch School of Business was founded in 2013, when the School of Business and Economics split from the School of Arts and Sciences. In May of 2016, the Busch Family Foundation donated $15 million to the School of Business, dedicating it the Tim and Steph Busch School of Business and Economics. In spring of 2018, the School of Economics rejoined the School of Arts and Sciences, and the school was renamed the Tim and Steph Busch School of Business.

The Napa Institute was founded in September 2010 by Rev. Robert J. Spitzer and Timothy R. Busch, of the Busch School of Business and Busch Family Foundation. Founded on principles to help business men and women remain influential and evangelical leaders within a more secular America. The Institute hopes to bring people closer to their faith through conferences, pilgrimages and events throughout the world.

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