“We have worked hard to clarify our brand as well as our message and now are customizing it to better serve our multiple markets across Ohio,” says Frank Johnson, associate vice president of the adult and graduate studies program at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Cincinnati. “Regardless of attention to brand and market-targeted messaging, we remain an intentionally Christian higher education enterprise with nearly 40 years of unwavering commitment to our founding mission and market.”
Smart Business talked to Johnson about how a Christian institution can teach morality in a business world.
How are students attracted to a small Christian-based business school?
I learned a long time ago not to presume. Schools like MVNU have to get out in the field. I’m on the road as many as three or four days a week traveling to our nine campuses across the state. We would be poor stewards of the trust companies and individual clients have placed in us to merely put a perceived innovative program in a can, spray it across the state of Ohio, and hope it sticks. Institutions like MVNU desiring to be a vital partner as opposed to convenient vendor must strive for synergy rather than superiority.
Do Christian-based schools attract only Christians?
There is an incredibly robust higher educational market for employers, employees, believers and nonbelievers alike. Especially in the adult and graduate arena, a majority of students don’t have a church background but desire an education rooted in community and integrity. An overwhelming majority of our students seek to encounter authentic professionals who can help foster self-discovery as much as career advancement. Though often misconstrued, sound ethical principles and career advancement are anything but mutually exclusive. Yet the latter shorn of the former leads not just to burn out but profound inefficiencies which undermine productivity and profitability.
When companies send employees to one of our adult or graduate programs, they are less concerned about the Christian angle because they know their investment will yield significant return. Schools like MVNU, of necessity, must be transparent every day with every constituent.
What should a Christian-based institution offer its students besides an education?
Ethics is first and foremost. It should teach real-life business skills that are relevant and are rooted in relationships: colleague to colleague, client to client, parent to child/child to parent, and so on. Christian schools like MVNU are living laboratories where people can explore, enrich, and/or better deploy their ever-expanding skill set and immediately leverage these real-world skills at work and at home even as they progress through the program.
Are personal ethics as important as business ethics?
A holistic approach to life can be easily forgotten in the business world. This is compounded by the fact that many educational providers promoting themselves as “distinctly Christian” offer little more than a faith-based veneer to volume-discounted programming. One can neither deliver nor engage in the highly esteemed and desperately needed holistic, transformational programming short of a firm grounding in ethics. This must not be an value-added component, but an intrinsic attribute to an institution’s DNA.
Who uses the adult and graduate study programs the most?
You’d be surprised at the number of senior-level people that enter our undergraduate programs. These often are people that have proven themselves in the business world but never had the chance to go back to school.
Career-transition people and others that just want to get their initial or advanced degrees also select our programs. The same is true for people on their way to a doctoral programwe get the whole mix. But anyone who walks away from a school like MVNU will know they had the opportunity to explore the inner self as much as the professional self.
Does a Christian-based theme draw more ethically inclined people?
That’s a hard question with an easy answer and the answer is no. Everybody thinks about God at some point. Even those who say God is irrelevant to their lives, have, just in reaching that decision, engaged the very God who supposedly is irrelevant .
FRANK JOHNSON is associate vice president of the adult and graduate studies program at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Cincinnati. Reach him at (740) 392-6868 ext. 4701 or Frank.Johnson@mvnu.edu.