Bernardo M. Villegas
Articles  >> more topics
People First in Business Education (Part 2)

          Having participated in the preparation of teaching materials for the first full-time MBA  offered by a European business school, I still remember that when the program opened its doors to students from all over the world in 1964, one of the first to enroll was a graduate of De La Salle University, Cecilio Reyes, now a leading real estate businessman in the Philippines.  In the second batch that started in 1965, there was another Filipino—also from De La Salle- who was admitted, Joseph Delano Bernardo who eventually became the Philippine Ambassador to Spain during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.  Since then, close to thirty people from the Philippines have participated in the various programs offered by IESE.  Today, it is one of the most globalized of business schools, having campuses in Barcelona, Madrid, Warsaw, Munich, New York  and Sao Paulo, Brazil; partner business schools in Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, Abidjan, Nairobi , Dubai, Shanghai, Tokyo and Manila.  Its faculty, staff and student body consist of more than 100 nationalities.  Although the school is an initiative of Opus Dei, the vast majority of the students have no affiliation with Opus Dei and hold a variety of beliefs and backgrounds.  IESE is regularly considered one of the most diverse business schools in the world.

         The appeal of IESE to a very wide audience all over the world stems from its emphasis on the social role of business.  As Monsignor Ocariz said in his speech during the 60th Anniversary celebration, “Right from  its beginning, the mission of this school saw business not just as seeking to generate return on capital, or a locale that provides employment for some people, nor even as a project that provides services to consumers and employees alike but above all as a community of persons.   This in some way anticipated the Second Vatican Council, which grounding all economic activity on the centrality of the human person, stated: ‘In economic enterprises it is persons who are joined together, that is, free and independent human beings created to the image of God’ (Gaudium et sees, 68).  A few years later, in the Encyclical Centesimus Annus, St. John Paul II stressed that the ‘purpose of a business firm is not simply to make a profit, but is to be found in its very existence as a community of persons, who in various ways are endeavoring to satisfy their basic needs, and who form a particular group at the service of the whole of society.’ “ 

         Before the phrase “impact investment” became in vogue, I already heard professors of IESE in the 1960s talking about their mission as “developing leaders who strive to have a deep, positive and lasting impact on people, companies and society through professional excellence, integrity and a spirit of service.”   Monsignor Ocariz elaborates on this mission, using the language of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church:  “The external mission of a business stems from its social and relational nature: meeting the needs of other people, first by producing goods and services, but also in many other ways including innovation and creativity, developing a future of work and service, the fulfilment of financial and social duties, the example of dedicated service, and many other things that show how business is a great transformer of society, for good or for bad…The social role of business, therefore, stems from the freedom and creative capacity of many people: owners and managers in the first place but also the men and women who come together to carry out the business as employees, suppliers, distributors and external collaborators.  This is reflected in all its daily activities:  in work that is cheerful and varied at times, but also monotonous and difficult, as well as in constant effort and the exercise of the virtues needed to bring it forward each day.”

         The IESE Business School, precisely because it is interested in all the possible persons who play a role in the community of which every business is made, offers an unparalleled choice of programs.  From modules and weekly learning experiences to short programs and custom-designed solutions for companies.  Every person in a business community can benefit from the educational programs of IESE.  The programs have a common aim, i.e. to optimize the knowledge, the integrative thinking, the global mindset of the participants.  Everyone is empowered to do better business and to deliver positive immediate and lasting impact wherever a person may be in his career and wherever he may be in the world.  To ensure that its programs are actually relevant to the changing circumstances of distinct societies all over the world, IESE created in 1989 the International Advisory Board (IAB) to help its management assess the evolving socioeconomic context in which business functions and the latest needs, tendencies and advancements in the fields of management and leadership education.  The IAB is composed of prominent business and civic leaders in Europe, the UK, Americas and Asia who are recognized for their contributions to the development of business and management.  Among the current members of IAB are Michel Camdessus, former IMF Executive Director and now Banque de France; Victor Fung, CEO of Li and Fung of Hong Kong; N.R. Narayana Murthy, CEO of Infosys Technologies; Martin Sorrel of WPP Group; Peter Sutherland of British Petroleum and George Yeo, former top government official of Singapore and now of the Kerry Group.  With outstanding people possessing  such backgrounds and experiences, the people of IESE will be well advised to attain the mission given to it by St. Josemaria:  “To help break down barriers that hinder mutual understanding between men, to diminish the fear of an uncertain future, and to foster—with love for the truth, justice and freedom—true peace and concord among hearts and nations.” For comments, my email address is