Dr. Siarhei “Serge” Liabetski-Lukin is a Ryan Fellow, visiting Fulbright Scholar, and chair and professor of the International Management Department of the Economics Faculty at Belarus State University in Minsk, Belarus. A professor of economics and management, his research interests include economic and managerial Christian thought and corporate social responsibility. In addition, he is the president of the European Research Association Oikonomos (era-oikonomos.org), Vilnius, Lithuania, which brings together researchers in the fields of social market economy and Christian (Catholic and Orthodox) economic thought.
How did you come to know the work of the John A. Ryan Institute, and how did you get here?
The area of my research interests is close to the sphere of activity of the John A. Ryan Institute. In the early 2000s, I found information on the international forum in Bilbao, which is organized by the institute. I began to get acquainted with the scientific publications of the institute scientists. I then received an informational letter about the upcoming conference on Gaudium et Spes in Rome, Italy. I sent my proposal, received an invitation and went to the forum. I met Dr. Michael Naughton at the conference and saw the high level of research of the Ryan Institute. Of course, I now had a dream to conduct research in St. Paul.
In 2013, I participated in the competition for Fulbright scholarships in the United States. As part of the application, it was beneficial to have a letter of acceptance at the university where I would do my economics research. I wrote to Dr. Michael Naughton, and he agreed to accept me as a researcher for a semester. My work here has surpassed all my expectations.
What was the topic of your research?
My topic was “The Modern Concepts of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Their Practical Application in the U.S. Corporate Activity.” I explored the contemporary state of the theory of CSR in the United Staes and internationally, especially the development of the deontological and religious concepts, to show local businesses how their involvement in local communities can be beneficial for them in particular and for the nation in general.
I explored how to change the motives of managers in the development of CSR programs and how these programs and specific actions conform to the theoretical concepts.
In my research, I rely heavily on Catholic social thought–on the conceptual approach of Michael Naughton, Ken Goodpaster and other American authors.
How did you spend your semester of research?
It was a very busy semester spent in research libraries. I found a very large number of sources in the library of the Ryan Institute and also in the library of St. Thomas. I researched a number of reports on U.S. corporations and interviewed CEOs of major corporations that are headquartered in the Twin Cities.
Throughout the semester I attended classes taught by Naughton. Christian Faith and The Management Professions: An Entrepreneurial Perspective was a very important experience for me both in terms of an integrated approach to education and original methods. I’m going to use much of what I saw here at Belarus State when I return.
I participated in several events as a speaker. I am very grateful to Professor Ken Kemp and Seanne Harris for the opportunity to participate at a very interesting event, “Hot Topics – Cool Talk: Cross-Border Joint Ventures: Cultural, Business, and Legal Perspectives,” at the School of Law. My wife, Lana, and I also spoke to the students, faculty and staff of Catholic Studies on the topic “Belarus in Brief.” There were a lot of interesting and sometimes unexpected questions regarding my home country and the culture.
We also had the opportunity to take part in a conference on poverty at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, at the beginning of November 2014. One of the speakers was the Nobel laureate in economics, James Heckman, whom I had greatly admired and wanted to hear. We are very grateful to Naughton, Kemp and Laura Stierman for this opportunity.
What was most interesting about United States companies and business ethics?
I collected very important information that will be useful for Belarusian researchers and business. The working hypothesis which has been confirmed was the following: Regardless of the ethical motives, managers and business owners build similar Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity. This occurs when a society has dominant ethical principles. Corporations that care about their reputation are trying to do what society expects from them. In this area, there is even a kind of competition. It is very important to know that normative ideas are most powerful in society. For this reason, the importance of the Catholic doctrine of CSR cannot be overestimated.
What are your most vivid impressions of Catholic Studies?
As I said earlier, everything exceeded my expectations. In addition to the excellent opportunities for research, there is a very peaceful, collaborative and positive atmosphere. This is truly a community of work. Lana and I especially would like to thank the coordinators Mary Kay O’Rourke and Maureen Huss, who were our guardian angels and helped us every day in every aspect of our lives in St. Paul. We also are grateful to Dr. Robert Kennedy, Dr. Jeanne Buckeye, Dr. Billy Junker and Dr. David Foote for their kindness and helpful advice. We were very happy to have been welcomed into the homes and families of Michael Naughton, Robert Kennedy, Laura Stierman, Jeanne Buckeye, Seanne Harris and Mary Kay O’Rourke. Thank you so much.
Your wife, Lana, accompanied you. What were some of the most memorable occasions you both experienced?
We traveled a lot. We visited New York City, Chicago, South Bend (Indiana) and various places in Arizona and Nevada; nevertheless, it seemed to us that the Twin Cities is the most interesting and comfortable place among those we visited.
Most of all, we were impressed with the youthful energy and optimism of Americans and their friendly and respectfulness to each other and to us. It seemed to us even more important than high welfare, strong economy and unique culture.
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