Introducing a New Dean in SBGE
Dr. Ross Stewart has been appointed as the new dean in the School of Business, Government, and Economics at Seattle Pacific University.
Dr. Stewart is no stranger to SPU. A native of New Zealand, he came to SPU in 1986, after completing his doctorate in Accounting at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. He also earned a masters of Theological Studies from Regent College, as well as a masters and bachelors of Commerce from the University of Auckland. He has been a Chartered Accountant (New Zealand) since 1980.
Over his 30 years at SPU, Dr. Stewart has served the SPU community and his professional guild in a multitude of ways. In addition to a number of all-campus committees, including his recent service as the co-champion of the Global Initiative, he has served on the SBGE Steering Committee for more than a decade. Over the past 15 years, he has been selected as the recipient of the SBGE Teacher of the Year (on two occasions), the SBGE Scholar of the Year, the SBGE Dean’s Award, SPU’s Faculty Teacher of the Year and the Joseph C. Hope Professor of Leadership and Ethics. In 2012, he also served as a Fulbright Scholar at Daystar University in Kenya.
This academic year, Dr. Stewart served as interim SBGE dean, and began his new appointment as SBGE dean on April 1. SPU Provost Jeff Van Duzer says he is “confident that the School of Business, Government, and Economics will continue to flourish under Dr. Stewart’s capable leadership.”
Comments from Dean Ross Stewart:
I am honored to have been appointed as dean of SBGE. I have a deep love for and investment in the mission of our School. I am delighted for the opportunity to work with this talented and dedicated faculty and staff. I'm also looking forward to increased engagement with our wonderful alums including our alumni breakfast during the Grand Reunion this October 7-9. In the meantime, if you have some thoughts for me as to how we can better serve you, please do be in touch; I would love to have a conversation with you.
This issue of Shareholders highlights the role of entrepreneurship in human flourishing. I am confident that you will find the articles both instructional and inspirational!
Ross Stewart, Dean
The Beauty of Entrepreneurship
By Dr. Bruce Baker
There’s something beautiful in entrepreneurship. Like art, it’s an expression of human creativity. Sure, there’s money to be made when a venture succeeds, but the entrepreneurs I’ve known and worked with are not driven by money. They’re driven by the passion to create value: specifically, to solve problems, build products, and offer opportunities and services that people need and want.
Entrepreneurship thus bears witness to the divine source of human creativity, freedom, and willpower. God empowers the ongoing work of keeping and cultivating the beauty and the bounty of the garden. Creativity, willpower, work, and the cultivation of beauty are the hallmarks of the entrepreneurial spirit and also signs of the imago Dei. We see these traits in the original call to cultivate the garden (Genesis 2:5–8; 15), and also in craftsmanship. Following gardening and animal husbandry, the artistic crafts are the first occupations to be named in the Bible. In Exodus, the Spirit of God fills Oholiab and Bezalel with intelligence, knowledge, and craftsmanship (Exodus 31:1–11) and calls them to create beautiful works for worship. Not all products are intended for use in worship, of course, but the talents of intelligence, knowledge, and craftsmanship used to create all products are gifts of God. How beautiful it is to see these gifts put to good use to serve the common good!
The desire to make objects of beauty and usefulness has been an essential mark of human nature since the dawn of history. These are the telltale signs of human presence found even in prehistoric cave dwellings. Creativity and beauty are so embedded in the heart of God’s image bearers that it seems almost necessary to define human nature in terms of the spirit of innovation which we see displayed in entrepreneurship. Charles Handy, writing from a secular point of view, sums up the fruits of capitalism as: “Creativity, choice and responsibility, morality and community.” These are indeed the same characteristics that we would expect of God’s image bearers.
Edmund Phelps, Nobel laureate in economics, identifies this creative streak as “the better part of human nature.” Phelps approaches the topic of human nature through the lens of economics, and comes to the conclusion that at the core of human nature, at the very heart of the imago, there lives an innovator, a creator of radically new, useful and tangible benefits for humankind and for all nature. To speak of the humanum (the essence of human nature) therefore requires discussion of the innovative spirit. Phelps elaborates:
“The positive moral content of economics [is] to realize an anthropology that starts with innovative human nature: homo innovaticus, not homo economicus.”
The drive of God’s image bearers to create beauty, and their inspiration for doing so, all point to the grace of God who reveals himself as the ultimate and primordial Creator and as the source of all creativity. But entrepreneurial activity is different from art for art’s sake. The distinctive trait that sets the spirit of entrepreneurship apart from artistic endeavors in general is this: the focused investment of creative energy into inventive problem-solving for the sake of the common good. This gift of creative passion is conveyed in four specific traits of entrepreneurial behavior:
- Innovation: There is an element of clever inventiveness (ingenuity) in the application of technology.
- Intentionality: There is a concern to provide something — a product or service — which makes a desirable contribution to society.
- Pragmatism: These innovations must be delivered in an economically feasible business model that yields tangible benefits for societMere creativity and inventiveness, no matter how artistic or original, are not enough.
- Newness: These businesses offer benefits that in many cases are so new that they open up unforeseen opportunities for customers and society in general, occasionally offering solutions to problems previously unrecognized.
To the extent that entrepreneurship is motivated by virtues — compassion, creativity, honesty, fortitude, perseverance, and caritas, for example — it bears witness to the reality of common grace. For this reason, entrepreneurs are frequently admired for their virtue, passion, and dedication to do business with a higher calling that transcends profit. They are capable of inspiring others to transcendent purposes and higher values. Steve Jobs, for example, did not see money as the motivation to create products or do business. He explained that entrepreneurs are not motivated by the desire to make money, but rather, they desire to “make a contribution and add to the legacy of those who went before.” He saw his greatest achievement as building a company that would “stand for something a generation or two from now,” and that’s why he spoke admiringly of Walt Disney, Bill Hewlett, David Packard, and the founders of Intel. Similarly, Jerry Sanders, co-founder of the Silicon Valley company AMD said, “It wasn’t a quest for fame and fortune that drove us in those early years of isolation and struggle. It was passion — a passion to develop, proliferate, and evangelize technology to empower people everywhere to lead more productive lives.”
Whenever business people work through right relationships to serve the common good, they bear witness to their embodied spirituality, which is a sign of common grace. God is thus at work, blessing society through people doing virtuous business. This is the profound truth which inspires our teaching in the SBGE, across the whole realm of “political economy,” which includes the disciplines of business, government, and economics. Our mission shines through the witness of our students as they grow in knowledge and character. Some will become entrepreneurs, some will pursue social ventures, others will take a wide variety of roles in society, but all will be taught to understand God’s grace as the sustaining power at work in cultivating economic shalom and serving the common good.
You can access many brief “parables” by Dr. Baker on the topic of Faith and Work here.
Featured Alumni: David Flory, Class of 1988
David Flory is the managing partner of PowerField Energy LLC, a ground-mount photovoltaic solar power company headquartered in Virginia. Prior to founding PowerField Energy, he was a Senior Director at Kawa Capital Management, a hedge fund and private equity investor in renewable energy.
“To me, entrepreneurship is exercising creativity and drive to make the world just a little bit better, no matter where we are.”
Before joining Kawa Capital, Flory was the vice president of North America Finance for Silver Ridge Power, a global solar company and a joint venture of independent power producer The AES Corporation and Riverstone Holdings, one of the world’s largest renewable energy investors. While at Silver Ridge Power, he raised more than $800 million from the capital markets, commercial banks, and tax equity investors, including MetLife and Google, to finance nearly 300 megawatts of ground-mounted photovoltaic power plants. Prior to joining Silver Ridge Power in 2009, David held various leadership positions with the AES Corporation.
He graduated with the Class of 1988 at SPU and received a masters in Business Administration from the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1996.
What positive memory or appreciation do you have about your time at SPU and in the School of Business (now SBGE)?
There are many, but three memories of my time at SPU are especially meaningful. One was meeting regularly in the early morning with Steve Hayner in his office over at the Student Union Building. He was generous to share with me his experience of following Jesus, which was something he modeled so well. The second was going on SPU’s first student mission trip to South Africa. We landed in Cape Town just after martial law had been declared and many of the people we were to meet there had been detained by the government. Before that trip, I had never been abroad. But on that day, my education and sense of engagement with the world began. Third, I did a semester at the American Studies Program in Washington, D.C. through SPU. Some of the closest and truest friends I have today, I met there.
Briefly, what has your career and personal path been since those days?
After a few false starts, my first real job was with a young and growing power company called The AES Corporation. They create and operate power plants around the world. I remember my dad asking me, knowing I’d not seen a power plant (much less known how one might work), why did I want to work for AES?
“Well,” I answered, “they have a real commitment to fun, fairness, integrity, and social responsibility, and that sounds like a good place to work.”
My first job at AES was in London. Then I spent two years in Belfast, Northern Ireland, helping to manage two power plants — and I was an English major! It was an amazing environment in which to grow. After AES, I worked in private equity. These days I am working hard to get a brand new solar company off the ground.
I’m intrigued by your mention of “false starts.” What would you say is the place of false starts in the journey of an entrepreneur… or for any of us?
When I finished my undergraduate degree, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I also didn’t know what I could do. So I waited tables. I did some freelance writing. I managed commercial real estate. And I led a foundation that supported educating Catholic and Protestant students together in Northern Ireland. It turned out that God used that last experience to catch the attention of people at AES when I went to talk with them. My many false starts gave me an opportunity to experience grace at the very start of my career. God took all those loose ends and sorted them out. When I wonder if God knows me and if He cares about what I am doing, I think back to that time. In life’s ups and downs, that’s one of a handful of memories I keep to remind me that God is personal and present.
And what eventually led you into your current path?
I was at AES for more than a decade, both overseas and in the US. I learned a lot about people, organizations, and how to lead change. But also, I was a student of the social importance of electricity (and its essential role in improving people’s quality of life) and the business of power plants (and how to get Wall Street to lend you lots of money to buy and build them). But a while ago I became concerned about the pollution thermal power plants create. When AES started a solar business, I was asked to be part of it and I jumped at the opportunity.
I think it’s important we realize that today there are no easy answers to the tension between electricity’s role in improving people’s quality of life and the pollution that it generally produces. Resolving that tension soon is one of the great challenges of this early part of the 21st century. Important solutions are still to be discovered, financed and implemented. There is a lot of good work to do. I want to be a part of that. I think I have something to contribute to that process.
So, these days you are still in the energy field but specializing in renewable energy, and specifically solar energy. In what way does your current work feel “entrepreneurial” to you?
This year I launched a solar company with some former colleagues. Based on my experience of building and financing hundreds of megawatts of solar in the United States, I see an opportunity to make ground mounted solar radically simpler. When things are simpler, they work better, they are less expensive, and more people can enjoy them. As a result of our innovation, we expect investors to be able to invest in our company and earn the predictable returns that have been elusive for many investors in this young and volatile industry. Starting a company has been creative and challenging. It also feels useful to me.
What are your beliefs about the relationship of entrepreneurship to human flourishing?
People thrive when they are both free to be creative and responsible for their decisions. Entrepreneurship requires large amounts of both creativity and accountability.
We also thrive as leaders and as people when we understand that we all are fallible. None of us is a cog in a machine perfectly fitted and flawlessly executing all the time. That’s what some “high performing” companies would have us believe we should be. But that is short-sighted. Instead, we are human. And if we are to build humane organizations, we must know we are capable, competent, responsible, and made in the image of God — yes — but also that we are fallible. We all have broken bits that don’t work so well. As leaders, that means we must learn the language and practice of grace and accountability. We must learn that the purpose of power is not control, but connection.
What is your dream for seeing entrepreneurship contribute in full capacity to human flourishing?
I am working to build a solar company that my children’s children can be proud of.
What practical ways can those of us who do not count ourselves as entrepreneurs develop an entrepreneurial mindset?
To me, entrepreneurship is exercising creativity and drive to make the world just a little bit better, no matter where we are. Playing a role in improving things is deeply satisfying. A practical way to experience that is to look for an opportunity to make a small improvement in someone else’s day today. Then, do it again tomorrow. When that mindset becomes a habit, you won’t be able to keep yourself from seeing creative ways to make things a little better. Maybe that will lead to a business, but that’s not really the goal. To paraphrase Jesus: “They will know you are my disciples by your love.” Love in action is the goal.
SBGE at the Downtown Business Breakfast
SBGE was pleased to be highlighted in the program insert for the annual Downtown Business Breakfast sponsored by SPU on April 8. We were also represented in a video on civil discourse featuring SBGE faculty member Bradley Murg and two of our students, Andrew Bell and Bruna Afonso. The students are part of the Political Union here at SPU. Watch the video.
Social Venture Plan Competition
Each spring, the Center for Applied Learning in Seattle Pacific University’s School of Business, Government, and Economics sponsors the Social Venture Plan Competition — a unique event designed to encourage SPU students from all majors to develop entrepreneurial projects that can make a difference in the world. Get a taste of the excitement from a little clip of last year’s event and see the winners from this year’s showcase.
SBGE Day of Calling with Chris Lowney, May 12
The SBGE faculty and staff are pleased to welcome Chris Lowney as our keynote speaker for this annual event. Mr. Lowney, a one-time Jesuit seminarian, served as a Managing Director of JP Morgan & Co. in Tokyo, Singapore, London, and New York until leaving the firm in 2001. Since then, he has authored four books, including the bestselling Heroic Leadership, which was a #1 ranked bestseller of the Catholic Book Publishers Association (CBPA) and has been translated into a dozen languages. His most recent book is Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads. He also serves as chair on the board of Catholic Health Initiatives, America’s second largest not-for-profit hospital/healthcare system.
You are warmly invited to attend an evening meeting with Mr. Lowney on May 12 from 6 to 7 p.m. in Upper Gwinn Commons. This is a no-cost event to our SBGE alums and friends, and is an amazing opportunity to hear a nationally recognized speaker. You can get a taste of his message here.
We are offering a free copy of Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads to the first 10 people who submit an “intent to attend” statement at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will let you know if you are among those such blessed, and you can pick up your book at the event.
Katya Drozdova Serving as Visiting Fellow at Stanford
SBGE Associate Professor Katya Drozdova will travel to Stanford University during her sabbatical as a visiting fellow to conduct research for her next book on counterterrorism strategies and American-Russian relations. Her previous book, Quantifying the Qualitative: Information Theory for Comparative Case Analysis, has recently been published by a leading academic press. This book introduced a new methodology capable of providing deeper insights into complex socio-political processes, even in situations of sparse or incomplete data coverage. It provides rigorous metrics for more effectively communicating findings to diverse audiences of scholars, policymakers, and business leaders.
Dr. Drozdova has successfully used her innovative research in policy-relevant applications that have engaged practitioners and dealt with issues ranging from U.S. national and global security to optimization of human and technological networks for improved success rate in complex and hostile environments. She is an affiliate with the Stanford-Princeton Empirical Studies of Conflict Project and a principal investigator for the Mining Afghan Lessons from Soviet Era research program, which has been funded by the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Prof. Drozdova is delighted to represent SPU at Stanford, where she has already established a productive track record of scholarly accomplishments and collaborations. She has been a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace as well as Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). At CISAC, she has also been a member of the Consortium for Research on Information Security and Policy, which brought together leading scholars as well as industry and government practitioners, including former directors of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. With a master’s in international policy studies and bachelor degree in international relations from Stanford, as well as PhD in information systems from New York University’s Stern School of Business, Dr. Drozdova’s work epitomizes our school’s commitment to advancing human flourishing through interdisciplinary approaches and service in business, government, and civil society. Her cutting-edge research not only helps address some of the most pressing global security challenges but also benefits our students in the classroom and community at large — advancing our distinguished tradition of world-class scholarship and teaching dedicated to our mission.
Professor of Geography Kathleen Braden and Clinical Instructor of Accounting William Kauppila will be retiring from SPU this June. We in SBGE are deeply grateful for their many years of dedicated service to our students, our School, and the University. Both careers are marked by above-and-beyond dedication to their students, including countless hours spent outside of the classroom tutoring, mentoring, sometimes counseling, and always encouraging. Their investment in the lives of hundreds of students is rich and enduring.
Dr. Braden grew up in the Boston area, received her bachelor’s in Russian from Boston University, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. Her master’s and doctoral degrees in Geography are from the University of Washington, where she also holds affiliate faculty status. She joined SPU in 1982. In addition to many years of teaching, she served as dean of student life for five years. She helped create the Global Development Studies major and is very proud of the students who have received degrees in the program. Her family includes a son, daughter, son-in-law, and a bevy of lazy cats who think she exists to serve them. She plans to spend her retirement not grading papers.
Mr. Kauppila attended Northern Michigan University and graduated with a double major in accounting and mathematics, then earned an MBA at Western Michigan University. In Seattle, he first worked for a Big 8 accounting firm and then served as a partner in a local accounting firm for 23 years. In 2003 he changed to part time with the firm and began teaching as an adjunct at SPU. He was soon invited to join the faculty and taught various accounting, taxation, and personal finance classes. This quarter marks 10 years as a faculty member.
His greatest joy as an instructor has been the opportunity to work with so many bright students and see their potential begin to come to fruition in the “real world.” Since his retirement as a partner in the CPA firm, he has continued to work as an active CPA, currently in a CPA firm started with his son. Mr. Kauppila and his wife, Carol, spend winters in Honolulu, where he teaches at Chaminade University, does consulting work, and enjoys a multitude of outdoor activities. Bill and Carol are very involved with their three married children and nine grandchildren.