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In the twenty-fourth episode of the “Saturdays at Seven” conversation series, Todd Ream talks with Stacy Jackson, the Kenneth J. Weller ’48 Professor of Management and Chair of the Department of Economics and Business at Hope College. Jackson begins by recounting the lessons he learned while working for organizations such as NASA and Ernst & Young and then what lessons eventually drew him to teaching and research. Jackson then offers some observations concerning where organizational psychology fits within the larger fields of business and psychology and the opportunities that exist for the integration of faith and learning. Ream and Jackson shift their focus to the myriad of ways liberal arts disciplines are critical to the study and eventual practice of business. They then close their conversation by talking about the ways that laypersons who study business can be of service to the Church.

Todd Ream: Welcome to Saturdays at Seven, Christian Scholar’s Review’s conversation series with thought leaders about the academic vocation and the relationship that vocation shares with the Church. My name is Todd Ream. I have the privilege of serving as the publisher for Christian Scholar’s Review and as the host for Saturdays at Seven. I also have the privilege of serving on the faculty and the administration at Indiana Wesleyan University.

Our guest is Stacy Jackson, the Kenneth J. Weller Class of 1948 Professor of Management and Chair of the Department of Business and Economics at Hope College. Thank you for joining us.

Stacy Jackson: Glad to be here, Todd.

Todd Ream: By training, you’re an organizational psychologist. Would you please begin by sharing where organizational psychology fits in with the larger field of psychology?

Stacy Jackson: Of course, the it’s- so in the name itself, organizational psychology, there is this overlap and questions about human behavior and decision making and organizations. 

So whether you’re in a business or a college or wherever you might be, the group of humans who are there, there are decisions being made about them. They’re making decisions, the structure of your organization, a lot of organizational theory about how we think about the purposes of our organizations and how they flourish and how they perform are all part of that. 

So there’s direct relation and that businesses, we spend most of our life at work and, and nonprofits both have, have captured most of the values and, and assumptions about how you will operate in the time that you’re there. And so organizational psychology just focuses on a host of topics in that regard.

Todd Ream: And then, where does it fit into business? And so, the transition that you made and the applications that you made.

Stacy Jackson: I’d say that for me personally, there’s a host of topics, but the topics that interested me the most were around decision making and organizations that were around leadership and decision making, especially around power and politics, how those influence the organization.

They’re also caught up indirectly in strategy formation for the firm. There’s a, there’s a whole group of psychologists that also focus on hiring and a host of other things. But those are the parts that have interested me the most.

Todd Ream: Great, thank you. To what questions do you keep returning, even as your career has progressed?

Stacy Jackson: I think the ones that become in vogue again is this question of how exactly do the values, beliefs, and assumptions that individuals have and that are also portrayed in their organizations, how do we reconcile these? So for example, does a university or a college or does a bank have some kind of demand characteristic on what it is that you need to believe or need to assume and in what order?

And we, we kind of sell a congruence in all of higher ed, but especially in Christian higher ed. We sell a congruence model to our students that you’re supposed to find a place that might hold those things. 

So, because my work is focused on strategy and leadership issues and, and these differentiating organizations among others, those are really central and they just keep, they don’t lose their, their excitement. And when you add aspects of power and politics with those as we’re vying to shape the organization or persevere where we are, those still are problems.

Todd Ream: Yeah, thank you. I imagine you could take your students to any number of faculty meetings and they would see the congruence model in tension. 

Stacy Jackson: Yeah. I’m sure not at Hope.

Todd Ream: No, not at Hope College, nor at Indiana Wesleyan for that matter.

Stacy Jackson: Yeah, never would happen. 

Todd Ream: Yeah, yeah, but perhaps at another school, two or three out there. 

At what point did you know your life’s calling was to serve as an organizational psychologist?

Stacy Jackson: Well, I kind of backed into this. I was a first generation college student and grandfather couldn’t read. My parents were not able to go to college, a lot of other reasons for that. And so I really meandered through my education. So the idea of deciding to be an organizational psychologist was somewhat slow.

I started in sciences, was in chemistry for years. I took a psychology class and actually I took my second class because the young woman I was dating, who became my wife, said, you should take this guy, a professor, for a class because you think like him. And I did not know what that meant. I said, and he had a social psychology class, so I took it.

It’s the long line of me saying yes to whatever she tells me I should do. And later in that semester, he asked me to get into a graduate course with PhD students and some Master students on social cognition, and that, he directly introduced me to research. I ended up doing several research projects as an undergraduate.

And I knew there was some intersection between organizations, including my own assessment of what, how I fit at the university I was at. But I didn’t know exactly what that would be. And so long, long story short, I had two sets of graduate programs. One were, were business schools that had ties to economic programs as well and psychology programs.

And I first went to- I did not choose organizational psychology. I went to Carnegie Mellon in a program that was focused on decision making, using economics and math, but it was in the business school. And then transferred to Rice University where finally organizational psychology, and I think that it was at that point, I just realized this intersection of how we understand human behavior and decision making and organizations was going to be a calling for me.

Todd Ream: Thank you. Fun fact we should also mention at this point, this young lady that you referenced that you were dating, her name is also Stacey, just a slightly different spelling.

Stacy Jackson: That’s true. Same middle initial too, which is, which creates no privacy.

Todd Ream: As an organizational psychologist then, what are some of the ways you think through the relationship that faith and learning share with one another?

Stacy Jackson: I think on some level, most people think of intersection of faith and Christianity in particular, ethically. And of course, in Christian higher ed, there’s a lot of questions that go further than that as we engage the intellectual engagement of the Christian faith and how it affects everything that we teach. 

So in that sense because it’s a human directly, a human the study of human decision makings decision making the, the assumptions and values and beliefs that you take into anything that you study in organizational psychology are open to these questions. So I’ll just give you a couple. 

So, one is a very popular comment. Whether it’s called careerism, or vocation, or calling, the decisions students make, the decisions adults make about transitions, are all psychological, and they tend to be at this intersection of the person and organization. 

And so there are just a variety of questions, and very good questions, and I think also indicators of how a Christian might approach those, those things, as well as leadership and how we care about all our stakeholders in business as well.

Todd Ream: What are some of the questions you anticipate you and your colleagues will be grappling with, say, in the years to come?

Stacy Jackson: There’s some that I don’t know that they’re going to go away. So, for example, I think that it’s hard to imagine the United States being on a different trajectory than Western Europe in regard to the openness about faith and Christianity, and I’m not saying that in a, in a kind of a damning way. I’m just saying that that’s, it’s hard to imagine that’s not the case. 

And so I think the idea of living in a more and more pluralist society and how to sustain Christian education, and maybe even more importantly, how to sustain the education that helps an individual make sense in a very pluralist world, where they may not have a preferred or even access to thinking about things from a Christian perspective out loud. And I hope that doesn’t sound too negative, but I think that this isn’t going away. 

And so our ability to help those who are invited to Christian education to engage in that way and help them to formulate, not memorize, but formulate a way of thinking that is Christian and is founded and rest on the historic Christian faith in a way that they’re able to navigate that world. I just, I don’t, I think the need for that will increase and the access to it will decrease. So that I think is a challenge. 

Todd Ream: I want to ask you a little bit about your work experience then, leading up to your current service at Hope College. And in particular, I want to start by asking you, what lessons did you learn while working at NASA’s Johnson Space Center?

Stacy Jackson: I was there for several years. I, at that time, I would have told you I don’t know that I’ll be in higher ed. I was doing research and I was caring about problems that were more academic, but it was about a year or so after return to flight after the first space shuttle had gone down. It was a difficult time for the center and for the agency.

And I was part of a very small group. In fact, there were just two of us that started but grew into a larger group that we’re being hired to address some issues around the organization and its development, its decision making, the values that were inherent. There was a lot of examination of how decisions were made prior to the Challenger going down.

And I was given a lot of jobs that were way above my head, that otherwise said, as I was probably not qualified for, but it was asked to jump in and do things with some great colleagues and a lot of trust from leaders at Johnson Space Center for the work that we did. 

And so in terms of lessons learned, I had to learn very quickly how to be helpful with people that had a lot more power and were a lot more intelligent than you were. I had to figure out how to share my ideas and how to measure things and understand things in a way that both was valid, but also had a clear goal for what the impact of it might be. 

And so for this, at the start of Space Station, we had a lot of questions around areas like mission operations and the Space Shuttle office itself. And so, so, I, I had to learn a lot fast and I, I found what that means is I failed a lot fast and had people, though, that were there to support me. 

And I had a really difficult decision after four or five years as to whether to stay or to move on. And I, I, in the end I decided aerospace was not where I was called to be. And everyone was saying, why would you not want to spend your career at NASA? I felt I was holding somebody else’s seat. I made the transition.

Todd Ream: It must have been a rewarding time to sort of begin your career amongst people, though, that were willing to allow for failure and to see that as the way growth occurs in terms of answering questions versus seeing it as a threat.

If you tell me a little bit about the lessons then you learned at Ernst & Young.

Stacy Jackson: So I left. It’s one way that I frame it is I left an organization where if you watch the movie Apollo 13 because I’m getting old, the people they were playing in the movie were still Gene Kranz and several others that were in the movie were there. I left there to go into consulting where there was no movie, at least no movies that anyone thought were very moral or, or, or worth looking at in management consulting. It was growing rapidly. And I did realize that what I loved about my role at NASA was about problem solving and decision making. 

And so that was the same, in an advisory way, that was the same at, at Ernst & Young. And so initially at that growth of the firm, you had a portfolio of projects. And so I was able to work with a real variety of different industries. And the growth was so fast that I was given a lot of independence and had to build out my own teams. And that’s the first time I started having to manage larger groups of people or larger projects. And I was very grateful that that went well.

And, I really wrestled with whether to stay. I had been there for a while. If you saw my bio, I left as a senior manager. I would have been a partner in my next promotion if they would have decided that. 

But I had several things on my mind. One was this, this question about research and teaching. And the other was my family. We had adopted three kids from my wife’s extended family and had had two others biologically and was wrestling with my role in the Church and my engagement at Church. I was engaged, but my work, church responsibilities, community and family, I was wrestling with all those and continued to come back to teaching and research.

And so, and I learned a lot about competition and about how to listen and when you’re with people, senior, most people at places like Southwest Airlines or Occidental and working on projects with people who are responsible for very large organizations, you have to be there to serve them and to hear their needs. And fake does not work. 

And so those, it really disciplined me to be first and foremost focused on, although this wouldn’t be talked about this way with all my colleagues, where God was at work or not, and where there were opportunities to have an impact and not, and how you could add value or not. So that went very well until I transitioned to WashU in St. Louis as a professor after that. So another interesting stage of my life that is different than now.

Todd Ream: You’ve now served on the faculty at Hope College, if my math serves me well here, for 17 years.

Stacy Jackson: That is correct, yeah.

Todd Ream: What advice would you offer colleagues who are trying to determine how to think through the demands for their time as teachers and scholars and the demands for their time as consultants?

Stacy Jackson: An interesting thing was that, when I was at the business school at Washington St. Louis, they were more than glad for you to be engaged in organizations or businesses, but they were cutting you no slack on tenure. So there was no- you still had to keep up, they were more than happy for you to engage. It only helped them. You can imagine how that makes sense for a business school. 

I think though that over time, the question became what is the right- I knew that I could only do that if I wanted to just work in some consultative manner, but the question was, how can I do that in a way that, that informs the research topics that I cared about and my teaching and might help the college and not just the business school? 

So once I ended up at Hope, there’s, there was a lot of questions for how that would, would work and how do you do it in a way that’s not taking advantage of the role that you’re in and how do you do it in a way that’s still very rigorous ways to engage organizations?

So, what I would say, and this is this, I’ve had several people ask advice about public speaking and there’s a lot of speaking at different events and places that I do and, and consulting, as well, and I’ve told them the honest truth is I didn’t try to do more consulting. In fact, I got a call from a firm, a well-known firm, well, notorious now for other reasons, and when they got me on the phone, they said, are you trying to disappear? Because we had a very hard time- of course, LinkedIn’s made this a much easier thing, but I, I don’t know that I’m trying to disappear, but I, I, I’m called to where I am. 

So I think that my advice would be to realize that these two things, that the higher ed and the thinking that goes on in higher ed, is not merely important to 18 to 22 year olds in their undergrad years, or to those who have a Master’s or PhD program. And I think higher ed really wrestles with how to convene and how to engage a broader community, whether it’s their alumni or their local city. Most cities don’t necessarily feel loved by or engaged by the colleges or universities that are there. 

I’d say, I don’t even think this has to be as a Christian, but I’d say this question of if I have information insight that could be helpful to a broader community and I’m inclined, that’s the question, and I’m inclined to engage them, I think it’s beneficial to the university and the college and to those that are around if, if we’re a vibrant member of our communities and not just for our own reasons and for our own priorities. So, I think if you approach it in that way, you find opportunities that are scaled the right size that you can engage in. 

Todd Ream: So along those lines then, when thinking about your research, how can those efforts contribute to the base of knowledge that the academy curates while also being of service to businesses and corporations?

Stacy Jackson: Well, so one, maybe I can say this now, but there’s, there’s, there’s one of my early studies is a study about organizational politics in an organization that happens to be a large federal aerospace organization. That’s how it’s described. So you’ll have to guess what that might be. Um, it’s decades ago.

Todd Ream: It’s not SpaceX then is what you’re saying.

Stacy Jackson: It’s not SpaceX. No. And I think that it is exactly that, that example. 

And, yet it was basic research on a set of questions about how, how do the perceptions of politics in an organization affect a host of things? And when we say things become political in our organizations, what are we, what are we saying? Are we saying that there’s scarce resources? Are we saying that there’s a disregard for the formal structure and how decision making happens? 

There’s vibrant research in this, in organizational psychology and in management, and in psychology generally. And that was a real organizational problem. And in fact, what had happened with that problem was that there had been a massive, at that time about a dozen NASA centers. So Johnson Space Center, Kennedy Center, everybody knows, but they don’t know Marshall and a host of others. 

But the questions that were being answered in the organization led to a request to take the data and do some things with that. It was a massive data database, and we had an opportunity to do some things in terms of causal modeling, looking at factors that predict certain things. But it did both, and that was also true for several other studies that I’ve done as well. 

And they weren’t, weren’t mercenary. It wasn’t, can I go in and get paid to do this so that I can use it as research? It was literally seeing what a real problem was in an organization and then asking, and no surprise, a really well developed methodological, statistically valid way of looking at data would be the best thing you could do for the firm.

Todd Ream: Thank you. I want to transition now, if I could, to talking about your service as chair and the relationship that business programs can share with, say, the liberal arts on a college and university campus. 

The business programs, as with other professional programs, can at times find themselves navigating uneasy relations in college and university settings that are historically defined by the liberal arts. To ease the nature of those relations, what do business faculty need to understand about the unique roles that their colleagues carry in the liberal arts?

Stacy Jackson: Sure. Well, first, I am a complete proponent of liberal arts. I when, when meeting with families, I often share with them what liberal arts- there’s many ways we define liberal arts, but the most general way that I try to invite them to that conversation is that if their, if their son or daughter was to cross the stage at graduation, I shook their hand, I’d want to shake the hand of a well-educated and broadly educated young man or woman. 

And in part, because we don’t know what God’s going to bring our way. We have these, we have this really somewhat broken process. I think that it were at 18, 17, younger, if you go to a junior day, you go visit a college or university and one of the first things they ask you is what do you think you’ll major in? And they send you off across campus to that department and the data says they don’t know. 

And high schools have ratcheted this up. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with shadowing jobs or things to just get exposure, especially in the history of our jobs, if you will, it was pretty simple. If my dad was a rancher and my grandfather was a rancher, I was a rancher. And if I came home and told them I’d like to raise cattle or like to be a farmer, they would say, grow up, you’re a rancher. There’s that. So that part was typically learned when we were growing up. 

But the complexity of the world right now demands liberal arts education, even more so. And so I think that for my colleagues, I think there’s this interesting war on some level. It seems like a war for enrollment and resources around majors like engineering and business and others. And I think that it’s not as much a war as it is a reality of the current culture and where we are and I would say good education. Good education.

I, with my example that I gave you Todd, if Professor Reardon hadn’t come to me after class at, at 20 and said, I’d like you to get into this doctoral, master seminar. And we’ll count it as one of your required classes if you choose to major in psychology or minor. If he hadn’t done this, and if I hadn’t been introduced to- and I want to try to make this parallel. 

I don’t think it’s a fake parallel, but make this parallel help in the question you’ve asked. What he was doing was taking me to work. I want to teach you how to do research. I want to show you what this looks like. And so the projects that I got on were training. It was research, but it was a hands on understanding of what it would mean. In fact, I would have never gone to Carnegie Mellon, to a PhD program, if it wasn’t for those opportunities to have a hands-on understanding of what’s going on, if I was to become a researcher. 

Now, what happens is the students who get degrees in areas who broaden their mind and help them to understand and be broadly educated can often be at loss for what it is they’re going to do. And so I’m going to come back to what my colleagues need to know. I’ll just go to the other side first, that the world is more complicated than it’s ever been. And what we say is a job just isn’t one anymore. And in our area, it’s not like finance is finance. Finance is private equity and venture capital and corporate, corporate finance and wealth advising.

And it’s, even in the Army, the MOS’s have doubled or tripled in like two or three, those are the jobs, in two or three decades. So there’s, there’s too much complexity to know what’s next. And so I think for my colleagues who are in the traditional liberal arts, what I try to portray is  I, whether a student becomes a business major or whatever it is, the, the world is providing them with a question they cannot answer and having someone help them build a résumé does not answer this question.

I hope if they end up going to be a professor and going to grad school, I hope they’re well-trained in that and get good exposure for that in their undergrad years because then they’ll have a better application for their PhD program. 

But I also- it’s a realistic preview. So I think that there’s this tension that the, and it’s not, and it’s real, the demand for someone paying the amount of money they’re paying to understand the world they’re going into with the liberal arts background is important. It’s why almost 40 of the top 100 liberal arts schools have a business program of some kind. And it’s not just Washington and Lee, and it’s not just Richmond.

On the other side, I think that you have a total, a hostile takeover of credits and classes by applied majors, and some of that we can’t avoid, but if you get accredited, there’s certain strictures that are, that are put on you. But you have some business schools, for example, that will require 80 of 120 credits that a student has.

And it’s not like this was the four years, freshman to senior, it’s not like the 80 credits are at the back. They, they come get you at the start. And if, and, and God help you if you change your mind, because it means now I’m in for five years cause I’m switching. And this is, this is a major problem.

We, so our business and economics program is one of the oldest in the States. We were a business program in the 1930s. We’ve been around a long time. So we’re most, most older liberal arts colleges did not start in business that early or not. But we have always managed our major to be smaller.

So what I would say to my colleagues is you have to be a little bit countercultural on what you think business education is. And I think it’s much more important that these are things that I learned as I got older. What was great is I got a liberal arts education because I wandered around so many majors for five and a half years. Not on purpose, but I, but I did. 

And when I took history classes, when I took economics, these, I got an economics mind. I got more of a history mind. And, and, and I think that in perspective, and by being in sciences and a lot of math classes and psychology, I got those things. 

But I think that in the field of business, in particular, this idea that they have to have more and more precision as opposed to they need a marketing mind. They need an operations mind, my colleague Tom Smith says this. They need to understand an economics mind for how to see a problem, but not forget that there is a philosophical and historical and in a broader even humanities perspective to think about truth in ways that are not merely a spreadsheet. 

So I think that smaller majors and partnerships are essential on campus and not capturing students. They’ll pick business because they gotta answer the question. Their whole identity starting at 17 is where are you going to college and what are you going to major in? And when they get to college, they just are relentless on what is your major.

And we tell them we won’t even let them declare until their sophomore year. And that you don’t have to be a- in fact, when we do our gatherings, some of our big events, we bring in tons of students who came in thinking they were business but they ended up being English majors. They ended up being comm majors. There’s other things that were there. We just fill them in to say that we are not selling. Um, if it makes sense and you feel called, that’s great. 

The one last thing I’d say that is helpful for my colleagues in the business side is to remember, a framing I often give is University of Michigan graduates 1,400 undergrads in business every year. We graduate about 150 or 160. And then I like to remind them, at Northwestern University, graduated zero. At Princeton, zero. At Harvard, zero. And I’m not saying that to be provocative as much as to say, the answer to your purpose in your life is not your major.

You want to be a well-educated person and, and it’s also not merely congruence. It’s not merely take an assessment to see what you think you’re good at, and go find a place that needs that, and you’re done. I know narratives aren’t normative, but that is never, almost never, God’s story. It’s usually have us do things we’re not good at, and a host of other things. So, sorry for the very long answer.

Todd Ream: That’s very, very helpful. Thank you. I want to ask you about, so you mentioned partnerships for example, between them in, in what ways can faculty in an area such as business, can they collaborate with faculty in the liberal arts and vice versa?

Stacy Jackson: It’s funny to look back at the experiences God gives you to see, you find out much later why. But one of the tasks I was given when I was at WashU in St. Louis was to take over all the experiential programs and some of those stretched across the campus. So think entrepreneurship. 

Um, we had a quality education program as well, which had been copied shamelessly from Northwestern, but it was this question of public schools and private schools, K-12, that don’t operate organizationally well, on average. Most organizations don’t operate well on average, right? But this seemed to be worse where we were.

In fact, long before Detroit city schools were taken over by the state, St. Louis city schools were taken over by Missouri. They had probably like eight superintendents in seven years or some horrible statistic. And so there is this in terms of partnership, it was how do we engage with our colleagues in education, colleagues that might be in sociology or social work?

How do we think through those things? In the same way, we had a separate program focused on a host of nonprofits where there were psychology and other fields that are involved in saying, how can we help students come together to see these situations and help the organizations and the students grow together?

For a long time, WashU had the number one social work program in the country. If you take a social worker and an MBA student and put them on a project together, you’d think this would blow up. But the reality is that it actually helps us see the world even more broadly.

I think in some of the humanities areas, we’ve had a lot of questions, or in the arts, these questions of, is there some kind of arts administrative or the arts industry, or even when, even you think about how you understand the publishing industry, and these, these probably think very tactical but these are not things we’re doing. There’s these questions of how we can contribute these latter ones? 

And so those experiences I had years ago, it played forward here, whether we’re working with Christian nonprofits or other large, well-known nonprofits across the country, all over the globe, or even projects in Jamaica, working with rural farmers who are like the government’s trying to incent to for honey production and working with a host of other groups that will go from campus ministry to others. But I think there has to be creativity about how to do applied and curricular things together. The curricular can be a bit challenging.

Todd Ream: When we think about the disciplines and subdisciplines that define business, what are some of the unique contributions that they can offer in terms of the relationship that faith and learning share with one another?

Stacy Jackson: A colleague of mine who is out at Biola had a book once we and we we did a session together at Calvin and got to talking about one of his diagrams, which I’ve completely, I probably destroyed it, but I’ve completely taken over this diagram and and made it my own. But it was a pyramid and the pyramid had all these different jobs and roles that you might do in life.

And I had a vocational discernment crisis when I was in my first senior year. I ended up with, they thought I had rheumatic fever and I was hospitalized, had to drop out of college and they thought I had heart damage. There’s a lot of things that were going on. 

But the pyramid, which I did not have formed as well as he does in a Great Commission book that he wrote, paperback for InterVarsity Press several years ago, but, in my mind, it just had this pyramid of jobs. And it seemed to me, and this is, this will divert a little bit from his thoughts, but that at the top of the pyramid was this really small number of things you could do that were actually worthwhile and valid. Getting to your question on what particularly do we see this here? 

And, and the things that I felt were in common with everything at the top was that you made almost no money, and you probably would die. And so if you were a missionary somewhere where they might kill you, and lived off of almost nothing, then you’re at the top. And so purpose and calling was at the top. Okay, but so was no resources and, and, a threat to your life. And then at the bottom, which is fatter, right? It’s the fat end, the bottom, was things like investment bankers, lawyers, people who are marketing, sales, advertising. They’re all down here at the bottom. 

And so at that point in my time at school, my first senior year, my plan was to go to med school. And I had taken a lot of science classes and I had also been adding psych. And I wanted to be a pediatrician. Now I know the reason was I thought it was in the middle. It was like a good deal. You could do well and do good. 

That was kind of, and so it was a compromise and, but I was in the hospital for a while and I remember I woke up one morning and I just thought, I don’t like hospitals. I don’t even know if I like sick people. I don’t, I don’t even know if I like science. I just had a complete crisis in vocation. 

But I was attracted to these other things. Um, sometimes I throw lawyers down there too, but I was attracted to these things that everyone said was broken. And part of that was because I had worked full time all the way through college. And so because I was working mostly night shifts, I was working all the time. And so I always thought about work and I never thought of org psychology till I got out and I met with one of my professors after this. 

And he said, have you ever heard of organizational psychology or have you ever heard? I said, no. And I, he said, well, every example you bring up in class has to do with organizations and work and even criticisms of how the college is organized. And I said, well, it’s because I work all the time because I don’t, I think, I think you can’t stop thinking about this. Now we’ll get to your answer.

I think that finance, for example, in the financial world when we tell people we’re taking our students to Goldman Sachs in New York, I don’t know that there’s like exuberance about that but I think it’s an example of where we have to be able to portray how, just like any field, that finance is good, just as law is good. I mean, the pyramid’s false, right? It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, that’s not God’s economy at all. There’s no pyramid. 

And, and so the ways that we do that, like for example, when we visited Goldman Sachs last, we went in, in their main building there in Manhattan, had a presentation on investment banking, room full of students and as it ended to two people stayed and that I knew one very senior still at Goldman and another and we shut the door.

I said, okay, we got another hour and here’s where I’ll start. Um, can you be a Christian and work at Goldman Sachs? Can you raise a family and be a good parent and live in Manhattan? Um, is this place changing you or are you changing it? Can you redeem global banking? And the students, because we train them to ask really good questions and push them for all kinds of stuff, and I said and they’re gonna keep coming. And we went on for the whole time. 

And both of them, they both happen to be at Tim Keller’s church at that time and I would say that it is an example of one of the areas that seems very dirty and there are others. And it doesn’t seem very noble. And I happen to think that dirty is normally distributed in the Church and in all fields, including non profit Christian organizations. We just hide it differently. It doesn’t always show up as greed. It’s vanity and all this other stuff. 

But I think we have to spend a lot of time with our students on how profit is not the measure of value creation. It is a good but broken measure because I can cheat at it. I can move. I can move expenses around. It’s not an irrelevant measure. We do care about shareholders, but we have all kinds of people we serve in business. And that doesn’t mean finance is unimportant. It actually means it’s really important. And we need it. We need to find a way to transform our thinking about finance and to transform our organizations so that we can serve others and God well.

So, I think it’s probably the biggest lightning rod in advertising, probably the ones that are the ones critiqued from a distance. But they’re the ones we have the most fun in getting into and helping others think about, even our alumni.

Todd Ream: Yeah. So along these lines then, in what ways can business faculty at Christian colleges and universities help foster an appreciation between the Church and business professionals? 

Stacy Jackson: That’s a great question, especially when you say the Church. I think there’s a question, Todd, for me, when I hear that. I mentioned Tim Keller just a moment ago. It’s amazing, Tim, how God worked through Tim Keller and how in Manhattan he is talking directly to an audience that has so many people that are in business and he’s doing it from the church and he’s doing it in a way that his sermons reveal he is curious about business. 

And I think there’s a, this will sound counter to what most people would say, what I find is most interesting- we’ve been able to do some good things in our department over the last several years and we’re very thankful for the growth and a lot of things that have happened. We often have really high enthusiasm. You guys are doing a great job. Very low intelligence. Very low curiosity. Are you following me? 

So from when it was just great colleagues on campus and they’re so supportive, like you guys are doing. It’s like, would you like to know what we’re doing? Would you like to know how we’re doing it? Would you like to give us feedback on how we’re doing it? Can we talk about how the Church unites? 

So I think one of the things is, is that the Church, I think does a very good job of engaging business leaders in leadership roles in the Church, especially in regard to the organization of the Church or an elder or deacon or deaconess roles or whatever those might be, does a good job and they’re thankful for the thinking and the experience organizationally they have, as well as hopefully their theological foundation.

I do not think the Church is very curious about business. And I believe that faith integration happens when we can get the two things we’re integrating, understood at the same level of detail. And if we’re, and if we just have kind of a general love for your neighbor, which is true, and we keep it almost atmospheric and try to knit it into what does this mean about the time value of money. And so there has to be a greater, a greater interest. 

I’d add that business, directly to your question, that business leaders or those in business don’t need to come to the Church to think that it’s merely a business and to think that the only thing they’re bringing with them is their expertise in these organizations. As opposed, if a painter was in session or in a leadership role at the Church, they don’t have to think they’re bringing their painting. It’s how God shaped them, who they are, how they think, where they are conviction wise and what they can do to help continue to live into what we’re called to do by Scripture. 

I think that often, too often, business people come in and just say, this is how the organization has got to run more efficiently. Now, sometimes they’re right. I really get tired of people saying colleges are not businesses and I’m like, well, they’re nonprofit organizations, but if you mean they don’t have processes, they don’t need good structure and they don’t need resources, they have good research, and if you’re saying that, then yeah, it’s exactly like a business.

So, we need to get the resources for our faculty that they have to have.

Todd Ream: Turning to the last set of questions for our conversation today then, what questions and or concerns should the Church be asking business professionals to address in terms of how their efforts may create opportunity for employees, for consumers, etc…?

Stacy Jackson: I think that inefficiency is a disease. Poor management, and you add poor management and inefficiency, we just aren’t good stewards of what we do. I don’t think churches should become businesses, but I think churches should, the Church should care deeply about efficiency and they should care deeply about management.

I’ll give you an example that I think many seminaries are trying to address, but I’d say this is a probably a rampant concern among people I know in business when they are engaged in churches is that the preparation for pastors is for an old job and not the new job, and I’m not even saying I like the new job, but I say the new job, I’ll give you two examples of this is that, especially post COVID, the culture has shaped a world that wants information differently and how that happens in any given church, it doesn’t mean you have to throw Scripture or anything out the window. 

But these are real changes in our culture and the drop in attendance at Church and all is not only because they got used to not going to Church. It’s a question I think on some level, and it’s not just a relevance, can you tell a story, use a popular book at the Church? It’s not that. It’s an understanding of what it means to be a good communicator. I’m firmly convinced that, and I’ll get beat up when I say this sometimes, is that faithful preaching and effective preaching are related but not the same. 

You can be faithful in what you’re talking about, but if it is not effective to the culture and the people that you are with, it can’t be received. And I think the same about the operations of the Church. It’s a real challenge for how the Church manages the organization, manages its communication and staying faithful. 

And I do think there’s a lot there that organization leaders, whether they’re at a Bethany Christian Services or whether they’re at a bank, doesn’t matter, has had to deal with. And I think there’s ways to help in that regard. 

I think the Church has to hold leaders in business feet to the fire, on their not being a divided kingdom, that somehow business church on Sunday, work on Monday, that this, this is, you’re an agent, an active agent in this world, as a Christian, all the time.

And you don’t get a hall pass to not transform something broken at work. And so I think that maybe I spent a little too much time on one end, but there’s another, and just as important there as well.

Todd Ream: That’s a very important note to end our conversation on today. Really appreciate it. 

Our guest has been Stacy Jackson, the Kenneth J. Weller Class of 1948 Professor of Management and Chair of the Department of Business and Economics at Hope College. Thank you for sharing your insights and your wisdom with us today.

Stacy Jackson: Thank you, Todd. Very grateful.

Todd Ream: Thank you for joining us for Saturdays at Seven, Christian Scholar’s Review’s conversation series with thought leaders about the academic vocation and the relationship that vocation shares with the Church. We invite you to join us again next week for Saturdays at Seven.


Todd C. Ream

Indiana Wesleyan University
Todd C. Ream is Honors Professor of Humanities and Executive Director of Faculty Research and Scholarship at Indiana Wesleyan University, Senior Fellow for Public Engagement for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Senior Fellow for Programming for the Lumen Research Institute, and Publisher for Christian Scholar’s Review.  He is the author and editor of numerous books including (with Jerry Pattengale) The Anxious Middle: Planning for the Future of the Christian College (Baylor University Press, September 15, 2023).