The Business of Religion: Reflections on Divinity School Management Classes

In a pragmatic requirement, some divinity students must take 4.5 credits in the business school.

Alex Ori

09:27 am, 09 September 2022

Staff reporter

Heart Tai

In 2017, Andover Newton Seminary transformed from a lone vocational school on the outskirts of Boston to an annex of Yale Divinity School. During the move, Sarah B. Drummond ’93, the founding dean of ANS in the Divinity School, had a guiding question in mind: How could the seminary benefit from this new consortium it now calls home?

One answer was found at the Yale School of Management, a neighbor of the seminary. Andover Newton students are now required to take 4.5 credits in the business school to complete their degree, making Andover Newton the first seminary in the country to require all students to take business classes. News spoke with faculty and students about this special relationship, which began in 2018 and is approaching its five-year anniversary.

“When we were in Newton, we didn’t have SOM,” Drummond said. “But really no one else has SOM –– because our School of Management is world-renowned for training leadership in various sectors of the economy. It’s not a place where you just get an MBA and work exclusively in finance or just business for business.”

Andover Newton—unlike the Divinity School in general, where students seek to enter a variety of fields after graduation—focuses on ministry in local faith communities. According to Drummond, such a role requires a deep knowledge of leadership; their responsibilities are not only specific to religion, but also affect payroll, insurance and other business matters.

Recognizing that ministers are leaders and administrators in their own right, Drummond believes that requiring students to take training at SOM would benefit their education. Other people agreed—as Drummond consulted with alumni, she found that the more successful the minister was, the more they supported the business school requirement.

Simultaneously, members of the SOM community sought new perspectives in their own classrooms. When Professor of Management Raphael Duguay joined SOM three years ago, he was tasked with teaching “How to Measure Social Impact” and wanted to open the course to students from other professional schools.

Duguay has taught students at the Yale School of the Environment and Yale Law School, but said he finds the Divinity School students “the most unique.” When considering a problem, he explained, SOM students initially address ethical business issues, while Divinity School students focus on the inherent morality behind certain decisions.

“[Divinity School students] are reluctant to focus on things like potential litigation risk for the given course of action or public relations implications if [business decisions] are perceived as bad,” Duguay said. “What they’re going to worry about is what if we’re doing something that’s fundamentally wrong as opposed to right. There’s something of that inherent notion of right and wrong or good and bad that’s definitely stronger in Divinity School students.”

Duguay’s class structure is built primarily around case studies in which students analyze primarily non-profit organizations.

According to Duguay, Andover Newton students bring a special type of empathy to these cases.

“One of the characteristics or qualities that these students have is just that closeness to the general population,” Duguay said. “When we talk about the types of populations that nonprofits serve, we’re talking about people who are struggling in life. YDS students have a really good understanding of these people’s needs, their reality.”

I’onli Hal DIV ’22 was executive pastor at his church in North Carolina before coming to the Divinity School. As an Andover Newton Seminary student at YDS with a natural interest in business, Hall “lost count” of how many SOM classes he took.

Hall recognizes the two different approaches he experienced while a Divinity School student taking business classes.

“It was certainly a different mindset, thinking about the bottom line and profitability, knowing that’s the main driver,” Hall said. “[That,] versus serving God and making the world a better place, loving people well, and addressing these existential questions. This is definitely a mental shift that needs to happen. And it can be a little jarring, you know, going from one environment to another.

As executive pastor, Hall is involved in the financial management, logistics and business administration of the church.

After completing his requirement, Hall said the courses at SOM helped him think more critically about how ministry is done and question assumptions.

“I think too often we separate spirituality from different aspects of our lives,” Hall said. “I think spirituality is a part of life and period. Spirituality informs the way we live. And if we’re truly connected to Spirit, then we’ll let that inform the way we make decisions, whether it’s in business, whether it’s family, whatever work we do.

Andover Newton Seminary at Yale Divinity School was founded in 2017.


Alex covers campus politics. She is a freshman at Trumbull College majoring in English.

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