My Story: The Priest Who Earned An MBA

Father Pete holding mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart - Notre Dame

Father Pete holding mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart – Notre Dame

And I’ll tell you – and I can’t emphasize this enough – my classmates were just amazing…There might be a little concern about what it’s going to be like to have a priest in a business program, but they were so welcoming and they taught me so much. I don’t know if I could thank each of them enough for what they taught me, to give me an experience and perspective that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. When it comes to Mendoza, when it comes to the people working in the Stayer center, you could see that they work hard to be intentional about delivering on what they had promised. And that was clear.

[During the program], we were on two separate teams. And what I most respected about [my peers] was their willingness, amidst their busy schedules, to drop whatever it was that they were doing and offer to help. I will not claim to be a whiz in any one subject matter. Probably where my gifts lie were with people and motivation and really working with the team…But anytime I had a question on accounting, finance – the list could go on – I had teammates that I knew I could pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, I’m struggling with this. What do you think?’ There was no sense of competitiveness. People genuinely wanted to help. And I was so impressed by that, by their willingness to make the sacrifices that they made, to come back to school later in life. I was impressed by their real passion, their desire to make a difference…I was impressed by people’s willingness to help one another and to be in this for the right reasons.

That is what I will take with me. Certainly, there were lessons learned from listening to people talk about their experiences in a business setting that were very helpful for me to acquire – the facts that I learned. But what I will take with me is that real sense of being patient with me as I learn because my background was biology and theology. There was one notable absence in my background: Business (at least in the formal sense).

When it comes to the application of what I’ve learned, many people ask me this question: “Why is a priest doing a business degree – and why in campus ministry?” And I always say the same thing. As priests, we’re asked to be thoughtful and good stewards of the resources that we’ve been given – and ultimately to communicate the message of the gospel. I want to do that as effectively as possible. I feel that Mendoza gave me tools to apply that. When it comes to campus ministry, when you’re in a position where the institution is looking to you to critically assess the culture that we find ourselves in and communicate in ways that are effective and can be received, I think you have to give some real thought to the best practices out there. So when I look at both of those fronts, the executive MBA made great sense for me. I was able to continue to work and gain experience while learning from professors and teammates who genuinely cared. There were many times when I would pull my teammates aside and say, “Hey, what do you think about this? Does this make sense?” And they would say, “From my experience, with what we’re doing, this is how we handle that.” It was conversation-after-conversation like that. As I hope to use this degree, I hope to continue using what I learned in finance, marketing, and everything in between to really enhance our mission and purpose.

Most recently, we’ve been working on a strategic plan to go about tending to the needs of campus. As we got into the meat and potatoes of that plan, we learned there was actually a need to assess, ‘Where are students at spiritually? What motivates them?’ So we actually took this past spring semester to do what we call the “Campus Ministry Spirituality Study.” We looked at and spoke with over 100 different groups both on and off campus. And we also benchmarked eight of our peers (universities from around the country). We did site visits. We worked with these schools and asked them what they were being challenged by, what they’re experiencing, what they’re seeing, and what they’re doing. As a result of that project, we were able to put together a document that largely contributed to what will soon be our finalized strategic plan. It’s been very helpful. What it allowed us to do is have a conversation about where our students are and to be more strategic in going about meeting those needs so we can be good stewards of the resources we’ve been given.

Looking back, something I grew into and have a deeper appreciation for now is this: When I went into the EMBA, I thought, ‘I’m really interested in [business] from the marketing, communication, and strategy perspectives. I probably would’ve pooh-poohed and downplayed the harder stuff, the more quantitative stuff. Yet, what I’ve found on the back end is that you can’t be an effective leader unless you have both – that you’re able to do the qualitative and quantitative well. To focus on one and not the other will ultimately lead to an organization that is a little bit off kilter. That’s really what I take with me from going into this new experience and trying to remain in balance and apply those best practices.

Father Pete indulging in one of his favorite pastimes: Water skiing

Father Pete indulging in one of his favorite pastimes: Water skiing

What am I most proud of achieving at Mendoza? It was receiving my diploma because it was a special moment [with] my family, my Holy Cross priests and brothers, and my EMBA classmates – they were just exceptional. That was a great moment for me and one that I’ll cherish.

What I’d love to have written on my tombstone is, “I was able to live my life fully.” When I think about the EMBA, that was a sacrifice for me in the following way. There were times when I genuinely felt as if I was in a bit over my head. But this is what I learned – and what I’m so grateful to emphasize. I could not be the person I am without my teammates and my classmates. Period. And anyone who has an executive MBA and says, ‘Yeah, I did all by myself” – they are lying. I relied wholly and entirely upon my teammates. We worked together and we accomplished a lot.

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