The business of religion: reflection on management courses within the Divinity School

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As a pragmatic requirement, some theology students must complete 4.5 credits in business school.


Staff reporter


Tim Tai

In 2017, Andover Newton Seminary was transformed from an isolated vocational school on the outskirts of Boston to an appendage of Yale Divinity School. When moving, Sarah B. Drummond ’93, the founding dean of ANS at the Divinity School, had one guiding question in mind: How could the seminary benefit from this new consortium it now called home?

An answer was found at the Yale School of Management, neighboring the seminary. Andover Newton students must now complete 4.5 credits of business school to graduate, making Andover Newton the first seminary in the nation to require all students to take business courses. The News spoke with faculty and students about the special relationship, which began in 2018 and is nearing its fifth anniversary.

“When we were in Newton, we didn’t have SOM,” Drummond said. “But really, nobody else has a SOM –– because our School of Management is recognized globally for leadership training in different sectors of the economy. It’s not a place where you just get an MBA and work exclusively in finance, or just business for business’s sake.

Andover Newton—as opposed to Divinity School as a whole, where students seek to enter a variety of fields upon graduation—focuses on ministry in local faith communities. According to Drummond, such a role requires a deep understanding of leadership; their responsibilities are not only religion-specific, but also relate to payroll, insurance, and other business matters.

Understanding that ministers are leaders and administrators in their own way, Drummond believed that requiring students to undergo training at SOM would benefit their education. Other people agreed – as Drummond consulted with alumni, she found that the more successful the minister, the more they were in favor of the business school requirement.

Simultaneously, members of the SOM community were seeking new perspectives in their own classrooms. When management professor Raphaël Duguay joined SOM three years ago, he was responsible for teaching “How to Measure Social Impact” and wanted to open the course to students from other professional schools.

Duguay has taught students at Yale School of the Environment and Yale Law School, but he said he finds Divinity School students to be “the most unique.” When considering a problem, he explained, SOM students are initially concerned with ethical business issues, while Divinity School students focus on the intrinsic morality behind certain decisions.

“[Divinity School students] don’t tend to focus on things like potential litigation risk for the given course of action or public relations implications, if [business decisions] are perceived as bad,” Duguay said. “What will worry them is whether we are doing something that is inherently wrong, as opposed to right. There is something about this intrinsic notion of right and wrong, or right and wrong that is definitely stronger in Divinity School students.

Duguay’s class structure is primarily built around case studies where students primarily analyze non-profit organizations.

According to Duguay, Andover Newton students bring a special kind of empathy to these cases.

“One of the characteristics or qualities that these students possess is precisely this proximity to the general population,” said Duguay. “When we talk about the types of populations served by nonprofits, we are talking about people who are struggling in life. YDS students have a very good understanding of the needs of these people, of their reality.

I’onli Hal DIV ’22 was an executive pastor at his church in North Carolina before coming to Divinity School. As an Andover Newton Seminary student at YDS with a natural interest in business, Hall “lost count” of how many SOM classes he took.

Hall acknowledged the two different approaches he experienced while a student at Divinity School and taking business classes.

“It was definitely a different mindset, thinking about the bottom line and profitability, knowing that’s the main driving force,” Hall said. “[That,] instead of serving God and making the world a better place, loving people well and answering those existential questions. It’s definitely a mental shift that needs to take place. And so it can be a little shocking, you know, to go from environment to environment.

As executive pastor, Hall was involved in the financial management, logistics, and administration of church affairs.

After completing his requirement, Hall said the classes at SOM helped him to think more critically about how ministry is done and to question assumptions.

“I think too often we separate spirituality from various aspects of our lives,” Hall said. “I think spirituality is part of life, period. Spirituality informs the way we live. And if we’re truly connected to Spirit, then we’ll allow that to inform how we make decisions, whether it’s in business, whether it’s in the family, whatever work we do.

Yale Divinity School’s Andover Newton Seminary was founded in 2017.




ALEX ORI


Alex covers campus politics. She is a freshman at Trumbull College majoring in English.

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