Author: Patrick Jensen (BBA '05)
The Notre Dame Family. Loosely defined to include students, alumni, faculty, staff, friends, and benefactors, one becomes a member of the family once Notre Dame touches one’s life. As with our biological family, one does not exactly know how this “big F” Family will impact one’s life until a moment is taken to reflect back on it. What is assured is that our families are formative. And in similar fashion, the educational experience at the Mendoza College of Business reflects the formative effects of the Notre Dame Family in its own particular way, by inculcating a sense of greater purpose in enterprise and management for those that pass through its halls. That formation ended up impacting me in a rather unique way that I had not foreseen when stepping foot on campus for the first time as a student.
With my Uncle and Father having attended Our Lady’s University in the ’60s and ’70s, respectively, I grew up in a Notre Dame (lowercase “f”) family as so many have. Also like many, I wanted to go to college at Notre Dame since I was young, by virtue of my own Notre Dame family. But, while I may have wanted to follow in my Dad’s footsteps to Notre Dame, perhaps unlike my father — a proud government major who also obtained his master’s in government – I knew that I had an interest in business.
Outside of my family upbringing, I consider my first real foray into the Notre Dame (big “F”) Family to be in the University’s pre-college program where I was accepted into the Investments track of study staffed by Mendoza faculty. I was thrilled that I was in some way a Notre Dame student for three weeks during the summer before my senior year of high school, complete with an “@nd.edu” email address and calling Sorin College home, if ever so briefly. Little did I know that having access to the likes of Scott Malpass (including a dinner for all of us at his home!) was as big of a deal as it was — I still remember talking with him about Akamai’s stock that night. Fast forward and I was most fortunate to fulfill my dream and become a full-time Notre Dame undergraduate student the next year, naturally choosing to pursue my studies in business. It was over the next several years as a business major that I learned (both “from the book” and “outside the book”) from the likes of Professors Conway, Halloran, Keating, Loughran, and Schmuhl, among others.
While one may have thought the generational crossroads checkbox may have been satisfied by virtue of me participating in the Band of the Fighting Irish and learning philosophy from the legendary Ralph McInerny as my Father had 30 years before, one would be wrong. You see, business studies at Notre Dame are not content to focus exclusively on mechanical instruction of accounting techniques, financial analysis, and marketing terms. Instead, there is a soul that is recognized above and beyond these basic building blocks of business — of an inherent recognition of the people that make up an organization and that organization’s place in the greater world. This difference led to a unique experience for me — and my Dad.
At Notre Dame, it is not enough to consider the pursuit of profits — there is also the drive to “fight the good fight” and apply principles of management and economic responsibility to non-profits, charitable organizations, and the Catholic Church. It was Mendoza’s Masters in Nonprofit Administration that called my Dad back to the University, desiring to augment his decades of business experience with a greater sense of enterprise acumen that recognized how the importance of managerial and fiduciary responsibility has a direct impact on the greater good of humanity. As a result, I had the highly improbable circumstance of my Dad being a fellow student at the same time I was, including have a couple of the same professors (even one professor we both had in the same semester). While surreal, it was a way of sharing and growing in Notre Dame with my Dad that I could not have expected when I was just a boy.
Ultimately, the driving ethic that I learned as a Mendoza student (and that I believe played a part in drawing my Dad back to Notre Dame) permeates my conception of what authentic management and enterprise should be — it echoes in my mind still to this day in my business endeavors. It’s not enough just to seek profits, as good as they are for shareholders and stakeholders. It’s not enough to undertake management initiatives that speak to betterment of employees and the marketplace unless they are done out of a genuine desire for the good of the other. One has to “Ask More of Business.”
Most dedicate an overwhelming portion of their lives to their labors, and when applied in the employ of a business or organization that is well-formed, the result is a positive and beneficial experience for employees and stakeholders. It becomes a mutually beneficial relationship, a development and application of one’s talents not just for one’s personal benefit, but for the benefit of another and society. An outcome that is just like what one might expect from the formative experience of family — whether big “F” or small “f.”
Patrick Jensen is a member of the Class of 2005, having majored in Finance and Theology. He is a partner in the Washington, DC, office of the international consulting firm HKA, where he specializes in expert witness testimony on and analysis of economic damages, cost, and pricing issues for matters in dispute.