St. Thomas Newsroom

The Purpose of Business: Advance the Common Good

Opus College of Business Dean Stefanie Lenway speaks during the graduate business commencement ceremony May 23, 2015 in the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex Field House.

Remarks by Stefanie Ann Lenway, Ph.D., Dean and Opus Distinguished Chair in the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas graduate business commencement ceremony May 23, 2015.

Good evening.  On behalf of the my colleagues, it is my great pleasure to present to you the 2015 graduates of the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.

Graduates, each of you has survived the challenge of earning your graduate degree  – a challenge connected to the rigor of your coursework, but also, for many of you, a challenge of balancing competing demands from your careers, your families, and your studies.

These challenges will not go away once you receive your diploma and make your way out into the world.  The rate of change in business practice in the contemporary  world, the world you are about to inherit,  continues to increase – requiring new skill sets including new ways of understanding customers as well as new ways of making sense of increasing amounts of data generated by social media and all the sensors increasing used to track many aspects of our lives (who has a fitbit?).

These changes impact the way organizations hire and develop their leaders. Organizations now need people who not only understand the functional areas of business, but who also bring an understanding of how to work across silos created by these functional areas and synthesize these sometimes disparate and competing areas into a coherent strategy.

Your graduate degree has taught you that problems – or solutions – no longer come disciplinary boxes. You have learned how to bring inter-disciplinary solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

You have learned that technology alone does not solve problems, but when used to facilitate interaction and support innovation and creativity, it opens the doors to creating new markets and new business models to serve these  markets.

You have learned that partnerships are a critical piece of your success – whether from an organizational perspective or a personal one. Working with classmates representing a variety of backgrounds, you have first hand experience with the competitive benefits of diversity.   This diversity is both national and global.  Evidence of the international scope of our student body can be seen in the flags from 13 different nations including: Brazil, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, and Togo. The experience you’ve gained working side by side with colleagues from different cultures, who see the world very differently from you, will be invaluable as you move into the next stage of your lives.

And you have learned that the purpose of business – any business – is to advance the common good through thinking critically, acting wisely and working skillfully.

Your close association with our faculty, who bring leading edge scholarship together with the real world of business to the classroom has helped to prepare you to meet the future challenge that you will encounter in your careers.  These passionate teacher-scholars have  given you the competitive edge you need to excel in your chosen careers. They are supported by a dedicated and talented professional staff, who have been there for you 24-7 during your graduate studies.

Please join me now as I invite our faculty and staff to stand and be recognized for their roles in preparing you for this great future. Will the faculty and staff please rise?

While each of our faculty brings a deep commitment to their roles as teachers and mentors, three of them have been especially recognized by their peers as the best of the best.

In 2007, we lost one of our finest faculty colleagues to an unexpected illness. To recognize Julie M. Hays our faculty created an award for teaching excellence to forever remind us of her gifts. The 2015 recipient of this award for teaching excellence is Dr. Philip Anderson, professor of management. Phil, please stand and accept your well-deserved recognition.

Early in 2011, the Opus College lost one of our leading teachers, researchers and faculty mentors, Professor Susan Heckler. To honor her contributions as a scholar, mentor and colleague, the faculty established the Susan E. Heckler Research Excellence Award. The 2015 recipient of this award is Dr. Muer Yang, assistant professor of operations and supply chain management. Muer, will you please stand?

Our third faculty award recognizes leadership and service to the college and university.  Professor Dawn Elm, from the department of business law and ethics, has been named the 2015 recipient of the faculty award for outstanding service. Dawn, will you please stand?

Now I would like to recognize one other group of dedicated people who also helped to make this evening possible. While you were studying for exams, working on projects and agonizing over countless assignments, your spouses, partners, parents and children were doing their part to support you.  Would everyone involved in providing support for these graduates  please stand and be recognized.

The Opus College of Business has built its reputation as a leader in graduate education.  How to we plan to sustain our leadership position?

We have a strategy. It is short and focused on making the college strong to serve the needs of our stakeholders.

Our one college commitment makes us strong.

Our commitment to the Twin Cities business community makes both the college and our stakeholders stronger.

Enriching our teaching and research though our partnerships with local companies makes us distinctive in a very competitive market.

Adapting to students’ preference for active learning in the classroom and increasing the online content of our courses makes us competitive.

Building on our legacy strengths in principled leadership, our relationships with all of the value chain segments of health care and the generous support from our donors to ensure that all Opus College graduates  sharpen their entrepreneurial skills and know disruptive innovations when they see it makes us visible.

We will  realize our strategy in partnership with the community, including you. Our programs will continue to build on the strong practical business orientation, which is fundamental to the brand of the Opus College of business and we will bring rigor together with relevance to serve our students, alumni and business partners.

Only you know the challenges you faced and the obstacles you overcame to get to this moment. But each of us in the university knows the dedication you showed in pursuing your MBA and making this commitment to better your professional and personal lives.  We have our best to prepare you to serve your employer and your community. We wish you well in all your endeavors and welcome you to the Opus College of Business alumni family. I encourage each of you to continue to nurture the relationships you have formed here and stay connected with your colleagues, your faculty and the college. Your success makes the Opus College of Business a leader in business education in Minnesota.

No pressure. Congratulations.